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How To Tell If Salmon Has Gone Bad

If you’re a fish fan, there’s nothing quite like fresh salmon for a seafood-oriented meal. However, this fish has a tendency to go bad quickly, which can be a real health danger if you don’t realize it and eat it, anyway. If you’re not sure if your salmon has gone bad yet, it is important to understand a few simple ways to tell if your salmon has gone bad. Doing so can ensure that your family doesn’t end up eating fish that might cause some serious gut problems.

You’ll know when your salmon has gone bad if it smells awful, the eyes look strange, or the flesh feels mushy and soft to the touch. However, there’s a lot more to this subject than these simple tests. Breaking down these ideas, including proper storage methods, can help you gauge your salmon’s freshness. So please read on to learn more about this subject and how it might affect you, including our short FAQ at the end.

Salmon fillets

Credits: Melanie Andersen

RELATED: How To Tell If Salmon Has Gone Bad

Tips for How to Tell if Salmon Has Gone Bad

There are three principal ways that you can tell if your salmon has gone bad:

· A rank odor

· Weird and misshapen eyes

· Mushy and unappealing texture

We recommend that you only perform these steps if you have a strong stomach. If you feel at all ill interacting with or handling rotten food, you may want someone else to do these steps for you. Thankfully, you will know pretty quickly if your salmon is going bad.

The Smell is Rank

When you take your salmon out of the refrigerator or freezer, open up the package and give it a good sniff. If it’s still good, you may notice a slight and tolerable fishy smell. That’s normal and your salmon is likely healthy to eat. However, you may notice a slightly sour or ammonia-rich smell. That’s a bad sign that your salmon has started to go bad on you and should be tossed.

The more intense the odor, the worse your salmon has gotten. It is important to note that your frozen salmon may develop these smells, even if you’ve got them properly wrapped and stored. That’s because freezing halts, but does not always prevent fish from going back. As a result, it is important to eat that frozen salmon eventually or you might end up having to waste your fish.

The Eyes Look Weird

If you have an uncut salmon or a salmon with its head, you can always check the eyes to see whether it is going bad. This tip is best for fresh salmon but can also be used with frozen full fish. Look at their eyes to gauge their overall shape and appearance.

A fresh salmon’s eyes should be:

· Round

· Clear

· Shiny eyes

· Free of bad odors

If they still look okay, your salmon is probably edible. However, if you notice the eyes are losing their shape or have become murky or unclear, you have a problem. As your fish rots, its eyes may lose shape and the insides might break down. You will probably also notice a little rotting smell coming from the eyes at this point. Don’t take the risk: just toss that fish, even if the flesh seems fairly firm.

RELATED: Should You Wash Salmon Before Cooking?

The Flesh Feels Mushy

When you take your fish out of the freezer or refrigerator, run your hand across its body. Do you notice any mushiness in the fish’s flesh?

There’s a quick test if you’re not sure: push your finger into the fish’s body and wait for the flesh to spring back. If it stays in place and doesn’t come back, your fish is rotting and should be thrown away right away.

While inspecting your fish, you can also check for signs of freezer burn, including:

Fresh salmon fillet

Credits: sunorwind

· Ice crystals

· Slimy skin surface

· Discoloration

· Darkening across its flesh

· Misshapen eyes and head

These symptoms indicate your salmon is going bad or has been a little freezer burned at the least. If the flesh isn’t mushy but you see obvious freezer burns, throw the fish away. Yes, it’s safe to eat but won’t taste very good at all.

Storing Your Salmon Properly

Always store fresh but uneaten salmon in either the refrigerator for no more than two days or store it for up to 6-9 months frozen. Follow these simple steps to help store your fish:

1. Wrap your fish in an appropriate food paper

2. Place it in a plastic bag

3. Seal the bag

4. Put it in a freezer.

You may want to use two bags to help lock out moisture and keep your fish tasty. You should store all fish at below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and try to eat your salmon in 2-3 months after freezer storage. If you don’t, the fish will start losing its taste on you.

When cooking frozen salmon after a lengthy storage period, let it thaw out in the refrigerator before cooking it to an interior temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Doing so should kill bacteria and other concerns. Don’t refreeze any prepared salmon if you already froze it once. Doing so is only likely to worsen its taste. Thankfully, understanding how long salmon lasts can help you better prepare for this situation.

RELATED: The 23 Best Salmon Recipes

How Long Does Salmon Last?

Like all fish, salmon does not last long in the fresh air and should be eaten as quickly as possible after being cooked. That said, you can also store your salmon in other ways and keep it fresher longer. The longer you store your salmon, though, the worse its taste. That obvious fact is something that you’ll discover quickly if you don’t follow the storage guidelines listed below:

· Out in the Open: You should only keep salmon out in the open for only two hours. This is true of both cooked and raw salmon. Keeping it out any longer than that practically welcomes salmonella and other serious bacteria to hang out with you.

· Refrigerated: You can typically store salmon, both raw and cooked, in your fridge for about three days. Make sure you wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and seal it in a heavy-duty freezer bag. This helps to minimize oxidation and may extend its overall shelf life a little.

· Canned: Canned salmon is an entirely different game entirely, as it typically has preservatives and an air-tight can that can keep it good for up to 12 months. It’s still best to eat the salmon sooner than that, though, as it may start breaking down in density in the can, even with the air-tight seal.

· Freezer: Typically, you want to eat your frozen only six months after storage. While we know it’s possible to store it longer in the freezer (as we note in our shelf-life chart below), the meat can start to get freezer burned and may lose some of its taste because of tissue loss.

It is important to store all of your salmon properly, using the methods we described. Any air, even in the freezer, can increase your salmon’s decay. Once you notice any symptoms of serious rotting, it’s time to just say goodbye to your formerly delicious fish. Read through our salmon shelf-life chart below to learn more about how different storage options can affect your salmon’s quality.

Raw salmon steak

Credits: Karyna Panchenko

RELATED: Defrosting Salmon in a Microwave Safely

Salmon Shelf-Life Chart

This simple shelf-life chart will help you understand how long your salmon is likely to last. This chart will examine your fresh salmon, smoked salmon, and cooked salmon stored in your pantry, fish, and freezer. If you see a “-” in the chart, that means that your salmon shouldn’t be stored in these areas or that they may last only a day or a few hours:

Salmon Type          Open Air      Fridge         Freezer

Fresh                           –               1-2 Days       6-9 Months

Smoked                 1-2 Weeks     5-7 Days       6-9 Months

Canned                  6-8 Months    6-8 Months    9-12 Months

Cooked                        –               5-6 Days       6-9 Months

Frozen                         –                4-5 Days       6-9 Months

Please note that when we discuss salmon life throughout the rest of this article, we’re only talking about fresh salmon. You can keep canned and frozen salmon almost indefinitely in the freezer, as you can see by this chart. That doesn’t mean that you’ll open your salmon and get that same fresh state you would have gotten right after opening it the first time. Your salmon will be edible: the quality may not be the highest. Consider that fact before storing salmon in this way.


Can You Save Any Salmon If It’s Gone Bad?

If you notice any part of your salmon has gone bad, it cannot be saved. Yes, there might be some flesh that isn’t rotted or mucky. But the bacteria that may spread through it may already be present here. It’s simply not worth taking the risk. Instead, you can either throw away or reuse your salmon.

Will Cooking the Salmon Destroy the Bacteria?

While cooking may destroy much of your rotting salmon’s bacteria, it won’t get rid of all of it. Furthermore, the flesh itself will still be rotted and likely taste rather bad. No, it isn’t a good idea to just try to cook your salmon if it’s gone bad. It will only lead to bad things.

What Can You Do With Bad Salmon?

Wrap your bad salmon in a paper towel or place it in a plastic bag and throw it away. There’s really nothing you can do to bring it back to its prime state. If you compost food, though, you may take your bad salmon and throw it in your heap. Doing so may produce some great material for your compost.


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