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How To Tell If Frozen Salmon Is Bad

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Salmon, and seafood in general, don’t last that long if not stored properly and if you were to freeze improperly handled salmon then there is a good chance that it will turn out to be bad when thawed!

How do you tell if frozen salmon is bad? If you notice graying on the surface of the meat or any foul odor, growth, discoloration, and slime, then all of these signs would indicate that the salmon has gone bad and that you should just discard it. 

Read below to learn the right way to store salmon, some key signs to look out for, and what happens when you eat bad salmon.

Purchasing Fresh Salmon

Seafood is known to go bad within hours at room temperature (even in the fridge the seafood can become compromised within just 2 days) and salmon is no exception!

Salmon meat has an orange to ivory-pink color and a smooth surface. Fresh salmon is known to be firm and the flesh has a neutral scent and absolutely no slime, but if it is mishandled, then things can go bad very quickly! 

Let’s discuss a few best practices for storing raw salmon first.

If you browse through the seafood section of your local superstore, you will find salmon to be kept in a temperature control environment over ice (AKA: cold chest). 

If you think that this is super fresh fish, then you would be wrong!

The fish that you see in the cold chest or fridge area is thawed meat that has been put on display for customers. Some stores may even label the meat as “previously frozen”. Others might not use any indication at all. 

Raw salmon arrives at the store frozen and is kept in a precise manner to avoid any bacterial growth. The trick here is that the salmon is only thawed once and never refrozen

Refreezing thawed salmon not only compromises the quality of the meat but can also ruin its texture.

So, the next time you go to the market, buy frozen salmon and check the date of the packaging for the best experience as it may just turn out to be a fresher alternative than what you see on display. 

Cleaning And Storing The Salmon

Once you purchase the meat try to bring it home as soon as possible. If you wait around or run errands before storing the meat, then you would just be encouraging bacterial growth. 

Try to bring the salmon home within 30 minutes of purchasing it, which is why it is also important that you buy it just before going to the checkout counter.

Once the salmon is home, rinse it under clean water and then pat it dry. Do not forget to properly dry out the fish! 

Ironically, water is the enemy when it comes to seafood because if you were to store a “wet” salmon then there is a good chance that you would end up with freezer burn on the meat.

Place the salmon on a paper towel and pat it dry. Then put a clean paper towel over the fish with some lightweight on it and leave it for about 5 minutes. 

Then cover the fish with a plastic wrap and then place it in a freezer-safe and airtight bag. Store the fish in the freezer and consume it within 2-3 months for the best flavor and texture

You can keep the salmon for up to 6 months but the quality of the meat will start to go down after around 120 days. 

On the other hand, raw salmon can be stored in the fridge for no more than 2-3 days. Make sure that you keep the fish at the back of the fridge and that the internal temperature of your fridge is at a constant 40F for the entire duration.

Signs of Spoilage

Salmon can go bad in certain circumstances. For example, if you purchase thawed meat from the store, keep it around at room temperature for 1-2 hours and then freeze it, then you are likely also preserving the bacteria and encouraging rot. 

Keep in mind, some harmful bacteria don’t die in freezing temperatures, they instead go into a dormant state where they are inactive.

However, once you thaw the meat, they will fully compromise the fish and multiply exponentially every 20 minutes.

This is why we highly recommend going for the fresh frozen variety that has never been thawed before, especially if you don’t plan on making salmon for lunch or dinner the same day.

This way, you can be sure of the quality of the meat. 

But if you do end up with bad salmon, here are some signs to confirm:


This is one of the first signs to look out for. Fresh and healthy salmon meat will retain its original color and will have no color discrepancies around the flesh.

In other words, if you notice any dullness or graying on the surface, then that would indicate that the salmon has gone bad

If this happens, then there is no way to salvage the meat and it’s just best if you throw it all away.


Molding is a telltale sign that indicates that the fish has gone bad.

Any type of green, brown, gray, or white growth on the surface of the meat or even around the packaging would mean that the fish has been compromised beyond saving

You should be able to see mold even when the meat is frozen but if you can’t confirm then just let the meat thaw in the fridge and then reconfirm when semi or fully thawed.

Slime And Odor

These two signs are probably the most off-putting and obvious. 

If the salmon has a distinct foul odor or a slime on the surface, then this would indicate that the meat has gone bad. Remember, fresh salmon will either smell like nothing or will have a very subtle scent of the sea. 

Avoid anything beyond these natural aromatic notes. Also, if the fish has slime on it, even in one part of the meat, then it would be better if you just discarded the entire piece instead of trying to cook it

What Happens If You Eat Bad Salmon?

Eating raw salmon can result in an upset tummy with mild diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.

It can also cause severe food poisoning that may require immediate medical attention. In most cases, you might just end up with an upset tummy with a few cramps

Related Questions

Storing salmon meat can be a little tricky but fortunately, you can easily detect spoilage using a few key signs.

Now that you know what to look out for and how to properly store salmon for the best flavor and texture, here are a few related questions!

How long does cooked salmon last?

Ideally, you should try to consume any leftover salmon within 24 hours of storing it in the fridge.

Make sure that the fish is stored in an airtight container and is kept in either the fridge or the freezer for the best experience. 

Can you thaw frozen salmon in the microwave?

Yes. You can thaw salmon in the microwave but we wouldn’t recommend doing this because it may adversely affect the texture of the meat.

The best way to thaw frozen salmon is to leave it in the fridge for about 8-12 hours or until it is completely thawed. 

Never leave the meat outside at room temperature and try to avoid thawing it using hot water as it may also negatively impact the quality of the salmon.

How many times can you freeze salmon?

Raw salmon should be defrosted only once. If you bought thawed salmon from the market then you should just cook it the same day for the best quality.

Similarly, cooked salmon should also only be frozen and thawed once. Avoid refreezing salmon, or seafood in general, to minimize bacterial growth. 

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