Is is swordfish skin safe to eat?

Quick Answer

Swordfish skin is generally considered safe to eat. The skin contains healthy fats and nutrients. As with any fish, proper storage and preparation of swordfish skin is important to avoid contamination. Cooking swordfish skin to an internal temperature of 145°F kills any potential parasites or bacteria. Many chefs recommend eating swordfish skin as it provides texture and flavor to dishes.

Is Raw Swordfish Skin Safe?

Eating raw swordfish skin is not recommended. Raw fish in general poses a higher risk of contamination from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. However, the risk from eating raw swordfish skin is low if handled properly. Sushi-grade swordfish for sashimi is considered safe to eat raw if it has been properly frozen to kill parasites and has not been cross-contaminated after thawing. Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should avoid raw seafood.

Nutritional Value of Swordfish Skin

Swordfish skin contains healthy fats and nutrients:

Omega-3 fatty acids

Swordfish skin is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These healthy unsaturated fats support heart health, brain function, eye development, reduce inflammation, and more. A 3-ounce serving of swordfish skin can provide over 50% of the recommended daily intake of omega-3s.


Swordfish skin is high in the mineral selenium. Selenium acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage. It supports a healthy immune system and thyroid function.

Vitamin E

The antioxidant vitamin E is found in the oils of swordfish skin. Vitamin E helps regulate cell signaling and is linked to healthy aging.


Swordfish skin provides protein like the flesh, although not as much. Still, the skin contains a good amount of quality protein to support muscle growth and development.

Nutrient Swordfish Skin (3 oz)
Calories 121
Fat 5.8 g
Saturated Fat 1.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.9 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 1.1 g
Protein 13.5 g
Selenium 39.2 mcg
Vitamin E 1.2 mg

Health Benefits of Eating Swordfish Skin

Here are some of the top health benefits offered by eating swordfish skin:

Heart health

The omega-3 fatty acids in swordfish skin help lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, prevent plaque buildup in arteries, and reduce inflammation – all supporting better heart health. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish high in omega-3s at least twice per week.

Brain function

The omega-3 DHA composes a major structural fat in the brain and eyes. Consuming swordfish skin helps supply DHA for optimal cognitive function, eyesight, and development. DHA may also delay Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Omega-3s in swordfish skin have natural anti-inflammatory properties in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders. Eating skin-on swordfish provides anti-inflammatory benefits.

Healthy pregnancy

Swordfish skin provides omega-3s for proper brain and eye development in babies during pregnancy. The DHA in swordfish skin helps support a full-term pregnancy. However, pregnant women should limit swordfish intake due to potential mercury exposure.

May support weight loss

The protein and healthy fats in swordfish skin help you feel fuller for longer compared to carbohydrate-rich foods. Adding swordfish skin to a diet supports losing body fat while maintaining muscle mass. More research is needed on the direct impacts on weight management.

Selecting and Storing Swordfish Skin

Follow these tips for safely selecting and storing swordfish skin:

– Choose swordfish with shiny, tight skin and no discoloration or dryness. Avoid swordfish with milky, slimy skin.

– If purchasing skin-on swordfish steaks or fillets, ensure the skin has scales on it rather than being skinned.

– Fresh swordfish has a sweet, mild odor. Discard any swordfish with an ammonia-like or fishy odor.

– Store fresh swordfish skin at 32-40°F for 2-3 days. Freeze for longer storage at 0°F.

– Wrap fish tightly and remove air pockets before freezing. Use freezer bags or airtight containers.

– Label frozen swordfish packages with the date for tracking shelf life. Frozen skin stays fresh 6-8 months.

– Never refreeze thawed swordfish skin or fillets. Prepare or cook within 1-2 days of thawing.

Cooking and Preparing Swordfish Skin

Swordfish skin holds up well to most cooking methods. Follow these tips for preparing and cooking skin-on swordfish:

– Wash swordfish under cold running water before cooking or marinating. Pat the skin dry.

– Leave skin on swordfish steaks or fillets for grilling, broiling, pan-searing, or baking.

– Score the skin before cooking to help render the fat and crisp the skin. Make diagonal slices across the skin.

– Brush swordfish skin lightly with oil or rub on spices to flavor while cooking.

– Grill swordfish skin-side down first to get it crispy. Then flip and finish cooking.

– Cook swordfish skin to an internal temperature of at least 145°F to kill bacteria and parasites.

– Saute sliced skin in a pan until crispy to use as a garnish or snack.

– Deep fry swordfish skin for fish chips. Use batter to make the skin extra crispy.

– Roast a whole dressed swordfish in the oven at 400°F for 25-30 minutes to serve the skin.

– Remove skin after cooking if not serving right away. Refrigerate swordfish meat within 2 hours of cooking.

Swordfish Skin Sushi

Swordfish skin is often used in sushi. The skin should be removed after cooking then sliced very thin for sushi rolls and nigiri. Here are some tips for preparing swordfish skin sushi:

– Cook fresh skin-on swordfish by grilling, broiling, or pan-searing until done. Chill the fish.

– Use a very sharp knife to slice the skin off the chilled fish. Cut long thin strips.

– Arrange the raw skin strips over sushi rice to make nigiri. Add wasabi and dipping sauce.

– Roll strips of skin into maki rolls with rice, fillings like avocado or cucumber, and nori seaweed.

– Fully freeze skin strips sliced for sushi to kill any parasites before serving raw.

– Marinate the skin strips briefly in vinegar, soy sauce, sake, or mirin to enhance flavor.

– Garnish skin sushi with masago, green onions, sesame seeds, pickled ginger, or spicy mayo.

– Only use high-quality fresh skin prepared under strict safety standards for raw preparations.

Is Swordfish Skin Fattier Than the Flesh?

Yes, swordfish skin does contain more fat compared to the flesh. The skin is layered with oils containing the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The flesh is still fatty compared to lean fish like tilapia or cod but lower in fat than the skin:

– A 3 oz. portion of swordfish skin provides 5.8g of fat, over half from omega-3s.

– A 3 oz. portion of cooked swordfish flesh contains 3.4g of fat, with 1.7g as omega-3s.

So while the skin is fattier, it’s primarily the heart-healthy unsaturated omega-3 fats. The skin provides over 60% more omega-3 content than the flesh. It’s a concentrated source of anti-inflammatory fats.

Fatty Acid Profile of Swordfish Parts:

Cut (3 oz) Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Monounsaturated Fat (g) Polyunsaturated Fat (g) Omega-3 Fatty Acids (g)
Skin 5.8 1.4 1.6 1.9 1.1
Flesh 3.4 1.0 1.3 0.7 0.7

Mercury Levels in Swordfish Skin

Like the flesh, swordfish skin does contain amounts of mercury. Swordfish tend to have higher mercury levels than many other fish due to their large size and longevity. The skin and red bloodline near the skin generally contain the highest mercury concentrations in swordfish:

– Total mercury levels are around 0.995 parts per million (ppm) in swordfish skin compared to 0.588 ppm in the flesh.

– The EPA recommends a maximum mercury intake of 0.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day. Higher amounts may impact brain development in fetuses and children.

– Adults should limit swordfish intake to under 6 ounces per week to avoid excessive mercury exposure from the skin and flesh.

– Pregnant women should have no more than 3 ounces of low-mercury fish per week, so they should avoid swordfish skin.

Cooking and removing the skin after cooking can reduce mercury levels in the remaining flesh. While the skin has more mercury than the flesh, both should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Parasites in Raw or Undercooked Swordfish Skin

Eating raw or undercooked swordfish skin poses a risk of parasitic infection. Swordfish skin may contain parasitic worms if not adequately frozen or cooked:

– Anisakis simplex is a nematode worm that can infect wild saltwater fish like swordfish. It’s destroyed by cooking to 145°F.

– Raw fish infected with Anisakis larvae can cause anisakiasis when ingested by humans. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and intestinal pain.

– The FDA requires raw fish served as sushi or sashimi to be frozen first to kill any parasites. Home freezing may not reach cold enough temperatures.

– Besides freezing, cooking swordfish skin to an internal temperature of at least 145°F will kill any potential parasites. Use a food thermometer to check doneness.

– Pregnant women, young children, elderly adults, and those with compromised immune systems have a higher risk of parasite infection and should not eat raw or undercooked swordfish.

So while raw swordfish skin from high-end sushi restaurants is likely safe, it’s best to cook swordfish skin at home thoroughly before eating to prevent any parasitic diseases.

How to Remove Swordfish Skin

To remove raw swordfish skin before cooking:

1. Place the fish skin-side down and hold the tail firmly. Make cuts horizontally under the skin, between the skin and flesh.

2. Grab the loosened skin and peel it away from the flesh. Use a sharp boning knife and cut as close to the skin as possible.

3. Trim off any remaining bits of skin or dark membrane. Rinse the fish under cold water when done removing skin.

To remove cooked swordfish skin:

1. Use a fork to peel back and lift the corner of the skin off the cooked flesh.

2. Hold the skin and carefully slice it away from the flesh with a knife.

3. Try to remove it in one large piece if serving the skin whole. Otherwise discard the skin.

4. Check the fish for any remaining skin or gelatinous membrane and cut those parts off.

5. Refrigerate the cooked fish within 2 hours if not serving immediately.

Do Chefs Recommend Eating Swordfish Skin?

Many professional chefs do recommend keeping and preparing the skin when cooking swordfish:

– They often cite enhanced flavor and texture as the reasons for utilizing the swordfish skin.

– When cooked until crispy, the skin adds a savory crunch contrasting the moist, tender flesh.

– The fattier skin also bastes the flesh during cooking, keeping it tender and preventing it from drying out.

– Chefs state the omega-3 rich skin offers additional nutritional value compared to simply discarding it.

– Swordfish skin’s high smoke point allows it to get crispy and golden brown before the flesh overcooks.

– The skin contains much of the fish’s flavor compounds that get infused into the flesh when cooked skin-on.

– Once separated after cooking, the skin and flesh can be enjoyed separately.

However, some diners dislike the texture of fish skin or want to avoid the higher mercury concentrations. In restaurants, chefs may provide options to have the swordfish prepared skin-on or skinless. At home cooks can decide whether to cook the skin based on their tastes and needs.


In conclusion, swordfish skin is generally safe to eat when properly handled and cooked. While raw skin Pose’s some risks, thoroughly cooked skin has nutritional benefits. The omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, selenium and other nutrients in swordfish skin offer health benefits for heart, brain, eye and immune health. However, swordfish skin comes with the same mercury exposure concerns as the flesh, so intake should be moderate. Pregnant women and young children are better off avoiding swordfish skin. For most people, the rich supply of omega-3s makes swordfish skin worth trying, especially when crispy-cooked to add texture and robust flavor. Swordfish skin can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a varied seafood-rich diet.

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