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How to Make Smoked Swordfish Steaks

Learn how to make smoked swordfish on ANY grill or smoker!

Swordfish is a deliciously meaty fish that tastes GREAT when smoked.

It’s also incredibly easy to prepare and to smoke, whether you are using a pellet grill like a Traeger, Camp chef, or Pit Boss, a propane or electric smoker like a Masterbuilt, or just a conventional kettle grill like a Weber. 

Let’s go!

searing smoked swordfish steaks

 

Why Smoked Swordfish?

Swordfish is considered by many to be the steak of the sea.

Well at least we consider it to be that around Mad Backyard, much like smoked mahi mahi, smoked swordfish holds up well to stronger flavors compared to more delicate fillets like tilapia and halibut.

In fact, we are going to prepare it much like say a smoked ribeye steak, by first smoking it and then reverse searing it to get a nice chargrilled texture on the outside.

But it IS seafood after all, so we need to take some other steps with our smoked swordfish first we wouldn’t necessarily with a steak, like brining it overnight and then marinating it for maximum flavor before throwing it on the smoker.

Let’s get started!

 

Brining and Marinating your Swordfish Steaks for Smoking

Basic Seasonings

Now, below you will see that we are going to brine our swordfish overnight before then marinating and smoking it.

This is for maximum flavor and juiciness but is by no means 100% necessary, especially if you want to make your smoked swordfish tonight and not tomorrow..

You can go gentle and delicate with a simple blend of salt and pepper on smoked swordfish if that’s your thing.  You can also add in some smoked paprika for more color and depth of flavor.

Alternatively, if you want strong cajun blackening flavors, you can use a spicier like our current favorite blackened  rub Traeger Blackened Saskatchewan Dry Rub.  It holds up very well on smoked swordfish without overpowering it.

Just sprinkle some on the swordfish steak after brushing both sides with some olive oil.

 

Brining the Swordfish Steaks

For our recipe below though, we are going to brine the swordfish overnight before smoking it.  This is incredibly easy to do.

a swordfish steak brining before getting smoked

Simply mix together:

  • 4-6 cups cold water (enough to cover the swordfish steaks in whatever container you use).
  • 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Coarse Ground Black Pepper

You may need to double this if you are making more than 4 smoked swordfish steaks,

Plave the swordfish steaks in a sealable plastic or glass container with a lid amd make sure they are submerged in the well mixed brine solution.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

The next day, take the swordfish steaks out of the brine and rinse them well under cold running water and then pat dry.

Don’t worry, plenty of seasoning is still inside the swordfish.  If you dont rinse them, they will be overly salty.

 

Marinate the Swordfish Steaks Before Smoking

The brining will make the smoked swordfish juicy and somewhat seasoned, but to add maximum flavor, we need to marinate these swordfish steaks before smoking them as well.

For our smoked swordfish marinade we are going to use:

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Minced Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt or your favorite Seafood Rub
  • 1 Tbsp Coarse Black Pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lemon

Again, you may need to double this if you are smoking a lot of swordfish steaks.

You can place the ingredients with swordfish steaks in a ziploc bag and let them marinate for an hour or two in the refrigerator while you get your smoker set up.

 

Best Wood for Smoked Swordfish

Because we are only smoking the swordfish steaks for such a short period of time, you can really get away with any kind of smoking wood of your choosing.

wood chips and wood chunks for smoking

If you want to keep it simple and straightforward, choose a lighter smoking wood like alder, oak, apple, or peach.

Want more smokey wood flavor?  We also really like hickory, and especially cherry for smoking swordfish.

 

Best Times and Temperatures for Smoked Swordfish

What is the Best Temperature to Smoke Swordfish?

smoked swordfish steaks cooking in a smoker

We are going to set up the smoker or grill for indirect cooking at 225°F.

This will allow the swordfish to absorb plenty of smokey flavor for about an hour before we crank the heat and reverse sear our smoked swordfish steaks to a perfect finish.

 

Target Internal Temperature for Smoked Swordfish

You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked swordfish steaks, especially because they will cook relatively FAST!

We are particular fans of this one from Thermopro because of its durability and affordable price.

While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.

It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don’t need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.

It’s got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, current internal temperature.

It’s like a GPS for your meat!

Anyways, back to our smoked swordfish steaks…

We are targeting a final internal temperature of 145°F on the smoked swordfish to know that it is finished cooking. 

an instant read thermometer reading 145 degrees

 

How Long Does it Take to Smoke Swordfish?

At 225°F, the typical swordfish steak will take about 90 minutes to cook and come up to 145°F internally, if you don’t reverse sear it, depending on its thickness of course.

However, we are going to pull our smoked swordfish steaks off the grill or smoker when they reach 120°F, which should only take about 1 HOUR.

We will then reverse sear the smoked swordfish over high heat, either in a hot cast iron pan, on a Grill Grate if using a pellet grill, or over the hot side of a gas or charcoal grill, resulting in a good maillard reaction and giving us the best texture and flavor!

 

 

Smoking Swordfish with Cedar Planks, Grill Baskets, or Phat Mats

Option 1: Cedar Planks

You can also experiment with smoking your swordfish steaks on cedar planks for some added woods-ey flavor.

Check out our complete guide on how to grill with cedar planks HERE.

Make sure to soak the cedar planks in water for at least an hour before putting them on your grill or smoker so that they don’t char and burn.

This also helps release steam and flavor the mahi mahi while they are smoking.

 

Option 2: Use a Grill Basket or Grill Mat

While swordfish is a heartier and meatier piece of fish, it is still seafood, and may need to be handled a little more delicately than say a big new york strip or ribeye.

You may be more successful if you place the smoked swordfish steaks in a grill basket rather than directly on the grill grates.

We are particular fans of the ORDORA Portable Grill Basket because it comes with its own handle, making it much easier to manage and move lots of delicate food around with one quick motion.

Another option is to use a grill mat, which are becoming increasingly popular in many BBQ circles, especially for delicate veggies and small seafood like shrimp and scallops.

Our personal favorite is the PhatMat Non Stick Grill Mat.

Just throw it down on your grill to keep your fish (or any other food) from falling through. It keeps your grates really clean, and when you are done, you just throw it right in the dishwasher!

 

Setting up your Smoker for Swordfish

Vertical or Offset Charcoal Smoker

Char-Broil 12201570-A1 American Gourmet Offset Smoker, Black,Standard
The entry level Char-Broil Offset Barrel Smoker.
Read Char-Broil Reviews on Amazon

Fill your firebox or lower charcoal basin with a few handfuls of unlit charcoal and create a small hollowed out depression in the center where you can add your lit briquets.

If your smoker comes with a water pan, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, fill the water pan as well to help stabilize the temperature and add moisture to the cooking chamber.

Light a charcoal chimney about 1/4 way with charcoal and wait about 15 minutes for it to fully ignite.

You will not need too many briquets here because we are only smoking the swordfish for about an hour at the most.

Fill your water pan first, then add the lit briquets to the center depression you created.

Keep the dampers about 1/2 way to 3/4 open until the cooking chamber temperature reaches about 225°F.  Then slowly close them down until they are just barely open and you are maintaining a temperature of 225° F.

Place 1 chunk of your chosen smoking wood on top of your lit charcoal once the smoker is up to temperature and put your swordfish on once the smoker is actively producing smoke.

Place your oiled and seasoned mahi mahi fillets either directly on the rack, or on your soaked cedar planks, in a grill basket, or on a Phat Mat, and close the door.

Want to see a list of our FAVORITE Vertical Smokers for 2021?  Check it out here!

 

Propane or Electric Smoker

Masterbuilt MB20073519 Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker with Broiler, 30 inch, Black
The Classic Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
See Masterbuilt Reviews on Amazon

Propane and electric options are some of the easiest smokers for beginners to start with.

For Propane: Open your gas valve and light the bottom burner. Adjust it to keep the temperature constant at 225° F.

Need a refresher? Check our our Complete Guide to How to Use a Propane Smoker HERE.

For Electric: Plug your electric smoker in, open the vents, and turn the temperature to 225° F.

While it comes up to temperature, add smoking wood chips, not pellets, to the smoking wood tray.

Fill the water tray if there is one.

Place your oiled and seasoned mahi mahi fillets either directly on the rack, or on your soaked cedar planks, in a grill basket, or on a Phat Mat, and close the door.

Debating whether to buy a propane or electric smoker?  Check out our COMPLETE Comparison Guide HERE.

 

Pellet Grill

Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2020 Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker 6 in 1 BBQ Grill Auto Temperature Control, 450 Sq in Bronze

Check out this Z Grills Pellet Grill on Amazon

Pellet grills like the ones from Traeger and Camp Chef are great for smoking swordfish.

Fill the pellet hopper with your choice of smoking wood pellets.

Plug in the pellet grill, turn it on and let it run through its start up process.

Then turn the temperature to 225°F.

setting the traeger pellet grill to 225 degrees F

When the pellet grill has come up to temperature, place your marinated swordfish steaks in the pellet grill set up for indirect heat.

Place your oiled and seasoned mahi mahi fillets either directly on the rack, or on your soaked cedar planks, in a grill basket, or on a Phat Mat, and close the door.

Never used a pellet grill like a Traeger or a Camp Chef before? 

Read our ultimate guide to pellet grills to learn why they are so easy to use and how to set one up for success every time.

Here is also a list of our Favorite Pellet Grills for 2021 priced under $500!

 

Gas or Charcoal Grill

Weber 45010001 Spirit II E-310 3-Burner Liquid Propane Grill, Black

Check out the Weber Spirit on Amazon

On a gas or charcoal grill you will likely need to use a smoker box filled with wood chips, or a pellet tube smoker filled with wood pellets.

Think you need a fancy smoker to smoke food at home? Think again. Great smoked food can be made right on your current gas or charcoal grill!

Check out this Step by Step Guide to Smoking on a Gas Grill HERE.

If you are unfamiliar with these gas grill smoking devices mentioned above, no worries, we have you covered!

You can read all about smoker boxes here, and see a selection of our favorite pellet tube smokers here.

Not sure which is best to use?

Check out this guide comparing smoker boxes to pellet smoker tubes.

In the case of swordfish, we would opt for just using the smoker box filled with some wood chips since we will be cooking for probably no longer than about 60 minutes

Set up your gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking with the burners or a small amount of lit briquets on one side and plan for your swordfish steaks to be on the other side.

 

charcoal grill set up for indirect heat

 

Once the temperature of your grill is around 225°F on the INDIRECT side, place your smoker box or pellet tube smoker over the coals or lit burners and once smoke begins coming out, place your swordfish steaks on the opposite side of the heat.

Make sure to oil the grates on the indirect side well so that the smoked swordfish does not stick.

Again, you can also use soaked cedar planks, i a grill basket, or a Phat Mat, to make managing the swordfish easier, and close the door.

 

Monitor your Grill Temperature

Almost every grill and smoker will have some sort of temperature gauge on them.

Now, if you are using a pellet grill or electric smoker, you should be able to pretty accurately dial in your desired temperature of 225°F with the turn of a dial.

This is what makes them so convenient!

If, however, you are using a charcoal or propane grill/smoker, you can’t rely on the cheap lid mounted temperature gauge that come installed on them.

We have found these can sometimes be up to 30°F off from what the true actual temperature at the grill grate level.

This is unacceptable.

This is why you will always see competition cooks, and backyard chefs who know their stuff, using wireless digital probe thermometers to keep track of both their meat AND their cooking chamber.

And even if you have a fancy pellet grill like a Traeger or even an electric smoker, it can’t hurt to double check how accurate your temperature settings are to the true temperatures you are getting.

We are big fans of the ThermoPro Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer series.

 

Reverse Searing the Smoked Swordfish

“Reverse Searing” is just a fancy term for searing your food at the very end, once it is pretty much all the way cooked through, in order to get a nice crispy exterior crust that you just can’t get from low and slow smoking alone.

the grill grates getting hot on a pellet grill
Grill Grates are an easy way to create a searing station on a pellet grill

We’ve previously shown how reverse searing works great on lamb chops, as well as a whole smoked rack of lamb reverse seared with a blow torch!

This also works great for thick cuts of meat like london broil that need time to slow cook and absorb smokey flavor but then benefit from a nice outside sear.

With larger cuts of meat like hams and pork butts, they will develop a nice exterior crust naturally just due to the long length of time they spend in the smoker.

Technically you can reverse sear in a hot pan with butter, a flat top grill with oil, or over a hot propane burner or searing hot batch of charcoal on any grill.

If you are using a pellet grill and finding it hard to get that high direct heat for searing, try laying a couple of Grill Grates over a section of the grill.  These work great for creating a hot searing stations on a pellet grill suing the ambient heat the pellet grill is already creating.  See the pellet grill section below for more details.

For our purposes today, we are just going to reverse sear our smoked swordfish steaks for about 2-3 minutes per side after they reach 120°F internally to finish bringing them up to 145°F.

Make sure to watch your internal temperature closely using a good thermometer.

If you are using Grill Grates on a pellet grill or a hot cast iron pan, get it preheating with some high heat point oil like avocado oil while the swordfish steaks are smoking.

Once they hit 120°F either move them over to the hot side of a gas or charcoal grill or place them on the Grill Gartes or into the hot cast iron pan.

Let them sear for about 2 minutes per side and continue to watch the internal temperature using an instant read thermometer.

Continue searing 1 minute in each side until they reach 145°F internally, then remove them from the heat and put on a plate.

There is no need to rest your smoked swordfish steaks, so make sure everyone is ready to eat!

 

Best Ways to Serve Smoked Swordfish

Your smoked swordfish steaks should be served immediately after removing them from the smoker.

smoked swordfish on a plate

You can brush at the end with a BBQ or mustard glaze or just have them simply seasoned right off the grill!

No need to rest or wait to eat!

You can also slice up that swordfish to make delicious smoked swordfish fish tacos, or incorporate it into a salad or serve simply alongside some smoked cauliflower or asparagus!

 

What Other Food Can I Smoke on a Grill or Smoker?

Looking for some more smoky inspiration?

So glad you asked.

Check out some of our other great recipes of smoked and grilled food to try out at your next outdoor BBQ!

More Smoked Seafood

 

Smoked Beef

 

Smoked Lamb

 

Smoked Pork, Turkey, and Chicken

 

Other Odds and Ends

Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours! 

You’ve got to check it out!

searing smoked swordfish steaks

Smoked Swordfish with Lemon and Garlic

Swordfish is a deliciously meaty fish that tastes GREAT when smoked.
It’s also incredibly easy to prepare and to smoke, whether you are using a pellet grill like a Traeger, Camp Chef, or Pit Boss, a propane or electric smoker like a Masterbuilt, or just a conventional kettle or propane grill like a Weber. 
First we brine overnight and marinate the swordfish steaks in garlic and lemon before smoking over indirect heat and finishing with a high heat reverse sear.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 10 mins
Course Main Course, Seafood
Cuisine American, Australian, barbecue, BBQ, Mediterranean, Seafood, Smoked
Servings 4 Servings
Calories 300 kcal

Equipment

  • Large Baking Dish with Lid
  • Mixing Bowl and whisk
  • Grill, Pellet Grill, or Smoker
  • Wood chunks or a pellet tube smoker with pellets or a smoker box with wood chips
  • Grill Tongs or Spatula
  • Instant Read Thermometer and/or Leave in Temperature Probe
  • Ziploc Bag
  • Filet Knife
  • Cutting Board

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs Swordfish Steaks cut into (4) ½ lb portions

Overnight Brine

  • 4 cups Cold Water
  • ½ cup Kosher Salt
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Coarse Black Pepper

Lemon Garlic Marinade

  • 6 Tbsp Olive Oil enough to coat all the swordfish steaks
  • 4 Tbsp Minced and crushed fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Coarse Black Pepper
  • ½ Juice of a Lemon save the other half to squeeze on fresh at the end.

Instructions
 

Brine the Swordfish

  • Mix together the brine ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl
  • Place the swordfish steaks in a sealable plastic or glass container or baking dish with a lid and make sure they are submerged in the brine solution.
    a swordfish steak brining before getting smoked
  • Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
  • The next day, take the swordfish steaks out of the brine and rinse them well under cold running water and then pat dry.

Prepare and Marinate the Swordfish

  • Mix the marinade ingredients with the swordfish steaks in a ziploc bag and let them marinate for an hour or two in the refrigerator while you get your smoker set up.

Prepare the Grill or Smoker

  • Light or turn on your smoker or pellet grill and set up the temperature to 225°F. If using a grill, set up the burners or charcoal on only one side for indirect cooking.
    setting the traeger pellet grill to 225 degrees F
  • Brush the grill grates with oil to keep the smoked swordfish steaks from sticking or use cedar planks that have soaked in water for at least 1 hour to hold the steaks.
  • Add your wood chunk(s) directly to the firebox or on top of the charcoal of a smoker, or use chips in a smoker box, or pellets in a tube smoker on a gas grill.
    smoking wood on lit charcoal

Smoking the Swordfish Steaks

  • Once smoke is being produced, put your swordfish steaks in the smoker, or on the grill AWAY from the direct heat, even if using cedar planks.
    placinf swordfish in a smoker to smoke
  • While the swordfish is smoking for about the next hour, plan how you will reverse sear them to finish. You can move them to the hot side of a grill or use a hot pan with oil, or place them under a preheated broiler on a foil lined pan.

Reverse Searing the Smoked Swordfish Steaks

  • Smoke the swordfish steaks continuously at 225°F, without flipping, until they reach an internal temperature of 120°F. This should take about 45-60 minutes.
  • Once the smoked swordfish steaks reach 120°F internally, either move them over to the HIGH direct heat side of the grill, a hot pan on the stove with oil or, place them on a foil lined baking sheet and position it under the preheated broiler.
    smoked swordfish steaks cooking in a smoker
  • Once the internal temperature of the swordfish steaks reaches 145°F, remove them from the heat and place on a platter optionally squeeze some additional fresh lemon juice over the swordfish, and serve immediately while hot.
    an instant read thermometer reading 145 degrees

Video

Notes

Video courtesy of and recipe inspired by Meaty Mike.
Keyword barbecue, bbq, BBQ fish, Camp Chef, electric smoker, Garlic, garlic marinade, Lemon, Masterbuilt, pellet grill, Pit Boss, Propane, propane smoker, seafood, smoked fish, smoked swordfish, smoked swordfish steaks, smoking on gas grill, swordfish, traeger, Weber, Wood chips

 

2 Comments

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  1. 5 stars
    Made these on the Pit Boss and came out well. I skipped the brining but may try that next time to see if they are a little juicier.

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