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How to Know if Salmon Is Bad

How to Know if Salmon Is Bad

Expert-backed tips for checking if salmon is safe to eat

Do you want to enjoy a delicious piece of salmon, but you’re worried it might go bad? Whether you’re cooking fresh filets or reheating some leftovers, it’s important to make sure your salmon is still good so you don’t get sick. Luckily, it’s really easy to check your salmon and notice signs of spoilage. Keep reading to learn when your salmon is still okay to eat and when it’s best to throw it away.

[Edit]things you should know

  • Raw salmon is spoiled if it has a strong ammonia odor, a white film on the flesh, a dull color and a mushy consistency.
  • Leftover cooked salmon goes bad after 2-3 days, or when it has a sour odor and a sticky texture.
  • Use salmon within 1-2 days of the “Sell By” date on the packaging or before the “Best Buy” date.



  1. Check for a strong, ammonia-like odor. Smell the raw salmon to see if there is no foul smell coming from it.[1] Fresh salmon will have a very mild odor, but salmon that has gone bad gives off a pungent, fishy or ammonia-like odor.[2]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 1 Version 3.jpg
  2. Look for the milky layer on the fish. Before cooking, inspect your salmon to make sure it doesn’t have a translucent white film on its surface.[3] If you see any slimy film developing on your salmon, toss it out.[4]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 2 Version 3.jpg
  3. Pierce the salmon to see if it falls apart easily. To test the consistency of raw salmon, poke your finger into the flesh. If the fish holds together and springs back to its original shape, the meat is okay to cook. However, if the meat crumbles easily or falls apart when you handle it, throw it away.[5]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 3 Version 3.jpg
  4. Inspect the salmon’s eyes for cloudy discoloration. If you buy salmon still on the head, then check the presence of its eyes. Fresh salmon should have bright, clear eyes with a dark pupil in the center. When the fish gets spoiled, the color of the eyes starts to fade.[6]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 4 Version 3.jpg
    • The eyes also appear slightly raised on fresh salmon. If the eyes are sunken, the fish is likely to be spoiled.
  5. Check whether the flesh has a dull, pale color. Fresh salmon should be bright pink or orange in color when it’s still good to eat. If your salmon is light gray or pink in color, it’s probably best to throw it away.[7]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 5 Version 3.jpg
    • Fresh salmon also has fine white lines, indicating freshness. If you don’t see any white lines, your salmon has gone bad.
  6. Look for “best before” and “sell by” dates. If you’re in doubt about the quality of your salmon, check the “best by” date on the packaging. This date is not a sure predictor of when your fish will go bad, but it gives you a good idea of ​​when it may go bad. Then, look at the “sell by” date on the packaging to see how much time has passed.[8]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 6 Version 3.jpg
    • As a general rule, refrigerated fresh salmon will keep for 1-2 days past its “sell by” date.[9]


  1. Check for a foul, sour smell. Give your salmon a sniff test to see if it has a foul or rotten odor. If the salmon is still good, it will have a mild, savory smell instead.[10]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 7 Version 3.jpg
  2. Feel whether the texture of the salmon is sticky. Feel the remaining cooked salmon for sliminess. If your salmon has lost its thick, flaky texture, it’s starting to spoil and could make you sick. If it’s thin, throw it away.[11]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 8 Version 3.jpg
  3. Avoid leaving cooked salmon at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If cooked salmon is left out at room temperature, bacteria will begin to grow on the flesh. Always keep track of the time you cook salmon or when you order it at a restaurant, and be sure you’re able to keep it in the fridge to make sure it’s still safe to eat.[12]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 9 Version 3.jpg
  4. Throw away leftovers that are older than 2-3 days. Even if the salmon has gone bad, throw it out after 3 days. Because bacteria and mold start to grow after a few days, eating salmon that’s been past that limit can make you really sick.[13]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 10 Version 3.jpg

[Edit]Cooking Salmon Safe

  1. Use your fork to see if the fish flexes. Gently scrape through a salmon steak or fillet with your fork to see how the meat reacts. When you cook salmon properly, it will easily break into flakes when nudged. If your fish feels firm or rubbery, it is not cooked properly.[14]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 11 Version 3.jpg
  2. Look for opaque flesh. Cut your piece of salmon at its thickest point and inspect its color. Fully cooked fish will be solid opaque in color. If the salmon appears translucent, allow it to cook longer.[15]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 12 Version 3.jpg
  3. Check that the fish is at least in the middle. Stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and let it sit for a minute to get an accurate reading. As long as the internal temperature remains at or above that, your salmon is fully cooked.[16]
    Know If Salmon Is Bad Step 13 Version 3.jpg
    • If you eat salmon before it reaches the proper temperature, it can make you sick.


  • Store salmon in its original store packaging or in a tightly sealed container to keep it fresh.
  • While wild salmon is sometimes touted as better for you than farmed salmon, neither is bad. All types of salmon are rich in vitamins and nutrients such as omega-3 fats and vitamin A.[17]
  • Placing raw salmon in the freezer can extend its shelf life to 2-3 months.[18]
  • Curing and smoking salmon are also good ways to extend its shelf life.


  • Eating spoiled salmon can result in food poisoning. If you have diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or fever, you may have food poisoning. See a doctor if you notice blood in your stools, have diarrhea that lasts longer than 3 days, or have difficulty keeping liquids down.[19]


[Edit]quick summary

  1. [v161947_b01], 31 August 2021.
  2. https://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm077331.htm
  3. [v161947_b01], 31 August 2021.
  4. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-tapeworms-in-salmon-potential-risk
  5. https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/selecting-and-serving-fresh-and-frozen-seafood-safely
  6. [v161947_b01], 31 August 2021.
  7. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-tapeworms-in-salmon-potential-risk
  8. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/food-product-dating
  9. https://www.fda.gov/media/101389/download
  10. http://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/18244
  11. [v161947_b01], 31 August 2021.
  12. http://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/18244
  13. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/leftovers-and-food-safety
  14. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-tell-if-salmon-is-cooked
  15. https://www.southernliving.com/food/seafood/fish/salmon/how-to-tell-when-salmon-is-done
  16. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe-temperature-chart
  17. https://doh.wa.gov/community-and-environment/food/fish/farmed-salmon
  18. https://www.fda.gov/media/101389/download
  19. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/symptoms.html


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