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What temperature is swordfish medium-rare?

Determining the perfect cooking temperature for swordfish to achieve a medium-rare doneness can be tricky. As with any protein, there are several factors to consider when cooking swordfish to make sure it turns out moist and tender on the inside while still being lightly cooked on the outside.

What is Swordfish?

Swordfish is a popular variety of fish valued for its meaty texture and mild, sweet flavor. It is a firm, dense fish that is well-suited to grilling, broiling, baking, and pan searing. Swordfish steaks are cut from the fleshy part of the fish near the backbone. They typically range from 1 to 2 inches thick.

When cooked properly, swordfish steaks should be juicy and flaky in the center with a lightly cooked exterior. If overcooked, the fish can become tough and dry. That’s why paying attention to temperature is important when cooking swordfish to medium-rare doneness.

What is Considered Medium-Rare?

Medium-rare is a state of doneness for cooking meat and fish that results in a hot, pink center that is lightly cooked on the exterior. For steak and beef, the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 145°F for medium-rare doneness. But since fish cooks faster than beef, the target temperature for medium-rare fish is lower.

With swordfish, an internal temperature between 125-130°F is generally considered medium-rare. At this stage, the center of the fish will be lightly pink and warm with a touch of translucency. The flesh will begin to flake and separate when poked with a fork.

Recommended Cooking Temperatures for Medium-Rare Swordfish

There is some debate over the ideal temperature for medium-rare swordfish. Here are a few commonly recommended temperature ranges:


The lower end of the medium-rare spectrum results in fish that is warmest at the center without being fully cooked through. The interior will retain more moisture at this stage.


This is the most commonly cited temperature range for medium-rare swordfish. At 125°F, the center is lightly pink and warm while still being translucent in parts. By 130°F, the meat flakes easily while still appearing moist.


The upper end of medium-rare, this results in fish that is mostly opaque in the center with a hint of pinkness. The meat begins to take on a firmer texture.

Keep in mind that the temperatures listed above are for the thickest part of the fish. Carryover cooking will continue to raise the internal temperature by 5-10°F after the fish is removed from the heat source.

Factors that Affect Cooking Temperatures

Achieving the perfect medium-rare swordfish relies on more than just hitting a certain target temperature. Consider these factors that can impact cooking:


Thicker cuts of swordfish require more cooking time to heat the center while thinner pieces will cook faster. Aim for steaks around 1-1.5 inches thick for ideal medium-rare doneness.


How the fish is cooked affects the temperature needed. Grilling, broiling, and pan searing use high, direct heat that sears the outside while slowly penetrating inward. Gentler baking and poaching allow the heat to gradually raise the internal temperature.


The cooking temperature impacts the rate of heating and how long it takes for the center to reach medium-rare. Higher heat cooks the exterior faster while more moderate temperatures heat the steak through more gently.

Moisture Content

Dry cooking methods like grilling cause moisture loss from the fish’s surface. Extra humid environments from foil tenting or wet cooking techniques keep the swordfish steak moist.

Doneness Preference

Personal taste plays a role in the ideal doneness temperature. Some prefer swordfish at 120°F while others see 130°F as the minimum for medium-rare.

Target Temperatures for Cooking Methods

The best way to cook swordfish to medium-rare perfection is to use a digital instant-read thermometer. But you can also rely on various techniques and endpoints to gauge doneness based on the cooking method used.

Grilling and Broiling

Aim for 130°F when grilling or broiling swordfish over high, direct heat. Cook the first side for 3-4 minutes until lightly charred before flipping. Check for doneness after 6-8 minutes total cooking time. The fish should flake slightly when poked.

Pan Searing

Use a hot skillet to sear swordfish 2-3 minutes per side. Look for an interior temperature around 125°F when pan searing thinner cuts or up to 130°F for thicker steaks. The centers will be mostly pink.


Bake swordfish in a 375°F oven for about 8-10 minutes until reaching 125°F internally. Baking gently brings the fish to medium-rare doneness.


Poach swordfish by simmering in 120°F broth for 10-15 minutes before removing around 120°F. The low temperature poaching keeps the fish uniformly medium-rare.

Carryover Cooking and Resting

Once removed from the heat source, residual heat will continue to travel inward, raising the swordfish’s core temperature. To prevent overcooking, remove the fish from the heat a few degrees before the target temperature.

Allowing the swordfish to rest after cooking gives the heat time to distribute evenly throughout. Resting for 5-10 minutes leads to the most uniform medium-rare doneness.

Common Mistakes

It’s easy to over or undercook swordfish without paying attention to temperature. Here are some common mistakes that can lead to subpar results:

  • Not using a meat thermometer to check for doneness
  • Overcooking from too high heat or extended cooking time
  • Undercooking by removing from heat too early
  • Not accounting for carryover cooking
  • Neglecting to let swordfish rest before serving
  • Not considering the thickness when setting temperature and time

Tips for Cooking Medium-Rare Swordfish

Follow these tips to achieve perfectly medium-rare swordfish every time:

  • Thaw frozen swordfish overnight in the fridge before cooking.
  • Pat the fish dry thoroughly before cooking to help browning.
  • Brush with oil or rub with spices to add flavor.
  • Cook using a digital thermometer for precision.
  • Aim to pull the fish off heat around 125°F.
  • Allow at least 5 minutes rest time before serving.
  • Check for doneness by flaking the thickest portion.

The Best Methods for Medium-Rare Swordfish

While swordfish can be prepared using almost any cooking technique, these methods consistently produce exceptional medium-rare results:


The high, dry heat of the grill sears the exterior to lock in moisture while gradually cooking the interior. Grill over direct heat flipping once.


Broiling mimics grilling inside the oven. The direct top heat creates a nicely browned crust for enhanced flavor.

Pan Searing

A hot cast iron or nonstick skillet gives pan-seared swordfish a flavorful browned crust to contrast the tender medium-rare center.


Gently poaching keeps swordfish uniformly moist and tender without overcooking the delicate flesh.

Serving Recommendations

Medium-rare swordfish pairs nicely with bold flavors and sauces that highlight the fish’s mild sweetness. Consider serving with:

  • Lemon, parsley, garlic butter
  • Chimichurri or gremolata
  • Mango salsa
  • Pesto
  • Lime juice and cajun seasoning
  • Sautéed tomatoes and olives
  • Salsa verde

Roasted or grilled vegetables also make excellent accompaniments to balance the richness of swordfish.


Achieving medium-rare swordfish relies on closely monitoring internal temperatures between 120-135°F based on thickness and cooking method. Grilling, broiling, searing, and poaching are ideal techniques. Allow the fish to rest before serving for even cooking. When prepared properly, medium-rare swordfish is tender and moist on the inside with a lightly cooked exterior and luscious, buttery flavor.