How To Tell If Salmon Is Bad: A Quick Guide To Save You Time

Since the beginning of recorded history, fish and shellfish have been important sources of food for humans and have also served as powerful economic forces.

Globally, the amount of fish consumed per person has increased recently.

Speaking of fish, salmon is one of the richest and healthiest seafood alternatives available. It’s also rather simple and quick to prepare.

Salmon is popular cooked or tinned, but many people prefer to eat it raw.

What is there to dislike, then?

Well, salmon’s wonderful qualities can be ruined by poor storage.

How To Tell If Salmon Is Bad?

Bad salmon means a higher risk of being exposed to pathogens.

So, I advise you to be aware of several identifying factors that can help you avoid spoiled salmon and minimize the chances of contracting a foodborne illness.

Is it fish or fishy?

When it comes to food spoilage, the first thing I advise you to check is the scent.

However, this approach is very tricky when it comes to fish. You are probably wondering, “how can I tell if it is the natural scent of fish or if it is fishy”?

Safe and edible salmon smells fresh. They almost remind you of the salt and sea because of their delicate and mild scent. Salmon should not smell ‘fishy.’

The ones which you need to throw away are the ones that smell sour. They will remind you of the smell of ammonia, and by instinct, you will know it is no longer good.

The canned and cooked variety of salmon also has the same and mild scent. Smoked salmon has a nice smoky aroma, and canned one sometimes looks right even if it has expired.

That’s why it’s always important to check to see if the scent is off. That shouldn’t be too hard.

Visual signs of spoilage



The visual signs of spoilage can sometimes take a long time to manifest. And that is why you should not take it lightly when the smell is bad, even when the fish looks passable.

I always look for that pinkish color, as it is an almost sure indicator of fresh and safe salmon. It shouldn’t have any signs of dryness or discoloration.

Be cautious for signs like the growth of mold on the fish’s skin or slimy residue. Always take notice of milky-white, sticky residue, particularly around the gills. Check for any sign of cloudiness of the eyes, as fresh salmon should have bright eyes.

Another way of knowing if your salmon is bad is to press the flesh of the fish gently. If it is firm and springs back just after you press it, it is still good for cooking or eating. However, if it leaves a mark or a dimple where you touched it, I’ll tell you – it is a very indication of spoilage.

Keeping raw salmon fresh by storing it

To prevent bacteria growth, you have to store salmon in the fridge within two hours from the time you purchased it. That will slow bacteria from growing, preventing the quick spoilage of the fish. If you store raw salmon in the refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it remains good for up to two days. You can also wrap it in aluminum or plastic foil and expect it to last for up to nine months.

The crucial thing to remember – know that salmon, which was left at a room temperature between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit develops bacteria in just one hour. It will remain spoiled even if you freeze or refrigerate it afterward.

Related: Learn more about storage times of fish and meats


Storing canned and cooked salmon


Once opened, cooked or canned salmon can last up to six days in the fridge. Cooked salmon shouldn’t last more than three days, and it is best to throw it away right after this amount of time as it is very likely unsafe to eat.

If you have taken salmon home from the restaurant, you may have no idea just how fresh it was prior to cooking. And at the same time, you don’t know how long the salmon has been left out or stored before being served.

Well, if that’s the case, I highly advise you to consume the food within two days. If you allow it to stay any longer, it may not be a safe choice.

There is another option – you can freeze cooked salmon in case there are too many leftovers.

When cooked, salmon can last up to two months in the freezer. Just make sure to pack it well, since not doing so will probably affect the fish’s taste.

The right way to do this is to cut the leftover salmon into smaller pieces right before putting them in the freezer because they will be easier to thaw. By doing this, you don’t have to take out the entire leftover if you don’t intend to eat all of it at once.

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Wrap the smaller pieces in parchment paper
  2. After that, place them in a sealed freezer bag or an airtight container.
  3. Finally, make sure that you write down the date when you started freezing the leftover salmon. That would be helpful since you are most likely going to forget when you packed it.

Keep in mind that the longer you keep the frozen salmon, the soggier it’ll be once you thaw it, so try to consume the leftovers as soon as possible.

Learn More: Top-Rated Canned Salmon and Favorite Recipes For Canned Salmon

Signs it is time to throw cooked salmon.

If cooked salmon (which has been stored for mere than two days) begins to smell sour, you’ll have to throw it away.

You should not take slimy texture for granted as this is a significant indicator of spoilage.

Please remember that eating spoiled salmon may result in food poisoning.

Illnesses due to eating bad salmon



While the expiration date is written on the can or package, it is still a good idea to rely on your instincts to tell whether a fish is safe to eat or not.

Sometimes, due to errors in the packaging process, the food can expire sooner than the date indicated on the package. Remember that spoiled salmon develop mold and bacteria, which could have terrible effects on your health.

Scombroid poisoning is just one of the health dangers that can happen due to fresh salmon not being frozen or appropriately refrigerated after it was caught. Because of this, bacteria and toxins build up in the fish.

I highly advise you to keep in mind that toxins do not die with the heat. That’s why you need to make sure the raw fish is still good before you cook it. Make sure to cook your food to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, as this will kill most, if not all, harmful microorganisms.

Some final thoughts

Spoiled salmon has a grey tint or even dark spots instead of the fresh bright pink color of a quality one. If you touch the salmon and it has a milky residue, this is a sure sign that you shouldn’t buy or eat this fish. Another sure sign of spoilage is the “fishy” or even worse – ammonia smell.

Salmon is arguably the best fish on the market today.

However, as with other seafood, it’s a bit complicated to be stored and kept fresh. You make sure you buy only from markets that serve well-stored and fresh fish.

Nonetheless, be cautious with the fish you cook or eat, as your health is within your control.

I hope this article will help you remember and be informed on how to tell if salmon is spoiled.

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