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Salmon: How Long It Lasts, How to Tell If It’s Gone Bad

Salmon: How Long It Lasts, How to Tell If It’s Gone Bad

Salmon is a delicious and healthy fish, and a popular choice among many a seafood lover. But how long can you keep salmon in the fridge before it goes bad?

In this article, we’ll explore how to tell if raw and cooked salmon has gone bad—and when it’s time to discard it for food safety reasons.

How Long Is Salmon Good for in the Fridge?

Raw, uncooked salmon can be kept in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. Leave the salmon in its original packaging and store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, where the temperature is the coldest. For best quality and flavor, cook the salmon the same day you bought it.

When you cook the salmon, eat it or chill and refrigerate it within 90 minutes of removing it from the heat.1Temperature control: Food safety tips. North Devon Council. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from https://www.northdevon.gov.uk/business/food-hygiene-and-safety/food-safety-tips/temperature-control/ Don’t let cooked salmon sit out for more than 1-2 hours at room temperature, or bacteria that cause food poisoning may proliferate to dangerous levels in it.2García, J. (2020, November 24). Leftovers: The Gift that Keeps on Giving. USDA. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2020/11/24/leftovers-gift-keeps-giving

Cooked salmon stays good for 3 to 4 days when stored in the fridge.3Leftovers and Food Safety. USDA. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from https://fsis-prod.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/leftovers-and-food-safety For optimal taste, flavor, and mouthfeel, eat the salmon as soon as possible after refrigerating it. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more it will lose its freshness and appeal.

How to Tell If Raw Salmon Has Gone Bad

To determine the freshness of the raw salmon in your fridge, rely on your senses of sight, smell, and touch.

Most importantly, use common sense. If anything about the salmon seems off, such as an off odor, a slimy texture, or a discolored appearance, discard the fish. While it may be disappointing to waste food, the risk of getting food poisoning from spoiled salmon isn’t worth taking a chance on.


Take a close look at the salmon. Does it look fresh or dated?

Fresh salmon should have a pinkish-orange hue, and the fillets should not exhibit any dulling or graying. The fillets should look wholesome and intact, without appearing like they are falling apart.


Give the salmon a good sniff. What do you smell?

A fresh and mild scent is what you should expect from fresh salmon. If the aroma is fishy, foul, or ammonia-like, it may indicate that the salmon is no longer in its prime and may have already gone bad.


Touch the salmon (remember to wash your hands after). Give it a light poke with your index finger. Does it feel lively or perished?

A fresh salmon fillet should feel slick and springy to the touch, and it should hold its shape well, like a muscle. If the salmon feels slimy and mushy and leaves permanent indentation after being poked, it may have gone bad and, for food safety reasons, should be discarded.

How to Tell If Cooked Salmon Has Gone Bad

Pathogenic bacteria, the type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, are invisible to the naked eye and do not produce any discernible changes to our food. Luckily, we can predict how quickly they multiply to harmful levels at controlled temperatures, like in the fridge.

If cooked salmon has been kept in the fridge for more than 4 days, it’s not safe to eat. Even if the salmon looks, smells, and tastes fine, it may still be harboring dangerous levels of bacteria that can make you sick. Since you have no way of ruling that out, err on the side of caution and discard it.

Pathogenic bacteria also grow alongside spoilage bacteria, which are generally harmless and cause food to smell bad, turn brown, and get slimy.4Jarvie, M. (2015, October 22). Food spoilage and food pathogens, what’s the difference? MSU Extension. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/food_spoilage_and_food_pathogens_whats_the_difference If leftover cooked salmon looks, smells, or feels bad, chances are high that it is also overgrown with pathogenic bacteria and should therefore be discarded.

Bottom Line

Raw salmon is good for 1 to 2 days in the fridge, and tastes its best when cooked shortly after purchase. Once the salmon is cooked, treat it as the perishable food item that it is to avoid foodborne illnesses.

Refrigerate or freeze salmon shortly after cooking—cooked salmon stays good for 3 to 4 days in the fridge and keeps its best quality for 3 to 4 months in the freezer—and don’t let it sit out at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours.

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Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.



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