This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Swordfish facts: how to know if the swordfish is fresh and what cut(s) to buy?
it is a large meaty fish with a very delicate flavour.
It is an oily fish similar to tuna, without bones.
It is a very popular dish worldwide, often sold in the form of steaks, usually grilled.
Unfortunately, like tuna, it has been overfished with illegal mesh nets, resulting in several restrictions being put in place over the past number of years to preserve the fish stocks worldwide.
It has been fished since ancient times with a harpoon, a method mentioned by Homer in the XII Book of the Odyssey.
In the straits of Messina, they are fished with a special boat called Feluca, which has been used for more than 500 years.
A high tower is used to locate the fish, and when a swordfish is spotted, a fisherman with a harpoon stretches at the end of the bridge to harpoon the fish before it is warned off by the noise of the boat, and swims away.
However, this method has also raised numerous concerns as the fish caught in this manner suffer a long and exhausting death.
Although, it is claimed by some that it is better for marine life since it does not involve any bycatch
By and large they are now mostly caught using hand-lines which are left in the sea by the fishermen with a transmitter attached, so it can be easily recovered.
They are positioned in the sea by the fishermen with bate attached, and left there for about 2 days.
However, even this method has its downside.
If the fish is caught soon after the lines have been put in place – it will be trapped on the line for 2 days putting up a fierce struggle, eventually dying.
So, if you want to buy swordfish to eat there are many elements to consider, I would recommend the following:
- Make sure that it has been caught by professional and responsible fishermen.
- Buy it in moderation, buy it fresh.
- Make the most of its meat using all parts.
You can find different recipes below.
How do you know if it is fresh and what cut(s) to buy?….
How to know if the Swordfish is fresh
I grew up spending my summers in the South of Italy where swordfish are caught locally, so I am used to eating it fresh.
Being conscious of the endangerment of this species, I only buy it when I know it has been caught locally by professional fishermen.
I can fully appreciate its freshness and make the most of its meat.
I will not buy it if it has been frozen, and only choose species which are not endangered.
There are 4 signs to recognise if it is fresh:
Look at the eye, you will see a white ball fallen deep inside the eye?
This is a sign that it is fresh.
When frozen, the white ball surfaces to the top
They should be light pink in colour.
If not, it means that the fish has been struggling and suffered, for example if caught using hand-lines, and left there for 2 days
If fresh, the skin will discolour when in contact with the metal of the table.
Once the fish has been cleaned and cut into pieces, there will be fresh blood left on the table.
What cut(s) to buy?
The swordfish is usually cut into 3 main parts:
- The tail
- The stomach
- Neck and top fin
Here is how to cook the 3 parts of the fish;
The tail is cut into wheels; they will weigh about 2 kg each.
I prefer to cook it in the oven, it is easy to prepare and very practical for dinner parties – each wheel feed at least 8 people!
The neck and top fin are not clean cuts therefore contain many cartilages, however the meat is full of flavour as it has more fat in between.
It is half the cost of the steak, and perfect for making a swordfish ragu.
I gently stir fry it until the meat separates easily from the bones, and use it to make: