Can You Freeze Salmon After Cooking? [We Have The Answer]

Rich, flavorful, and a popular superfood. Salmon is a fantastic dish that should never go to waste! Those who love to bake, pan-fry, and grill this healthy protein source may be wondering “can you freeze salmon after cooking”?  We have the details to keep you from floundering with your cooked salmon leftovers!

Storage guidelines for fatty fish, like salmon, dictate that it should only be frozen for a maximum of three months. Otherwise, the meat will experience drastic changes in color, texture, flavor, and smell.

The optimal method for packaging is to vacuum seal individual portions of the cooked salmon. This allows for rapid freeze times and it removes instances of oxygen and moisture, which can both cause the product to spoil.

However, you can also apply a tight layer of freezer plastic wrap, followed by a tight layer of aluminum foil to the portions of the leftover cooked salmon. Place them in a freezer-safe ziplock bag and remove the excess air. Finally, always thaw the fish in the refrigerator and NEVER reheat the cooked salmon in the microwave. 

Fridge And Freezer Storage Recommendations For Cooked Salmon

Refrigerator Storage

Cooked salmon will only last three to four days in the refrigerator. If you do not intend to eat it in this time frame, then it is imperative that you freeze the salmon after cooking and before surpassing this time frame. 

Freezer Storage

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “any frozen fish or shellfish will be safe indefinitely; however, the flavor and texture will lessen after lengthy storage.” Therefore, it is recommended that you keep your cooked salmon in cold storage for no longer than three months. This same rule applies to raw salmon as well.

However, if you choose to purchase smoked salmon, this will not last quite as long. It is only recommended to be kept in cold storage for two months. Similarly, salmon cakes and salmon patties include a plethora of other ingredients so these will also not be far as long, lasting one to two months in the freezer.

Salmon en croute and salmon wellington will also only last for a month in cold storage. Lastly, salmon pasta is not recommended for freezing. 

Limit Cold Storage Time For Fatty Fish

While other sources will tell you that fish can span up to six months in the freezer, this advice only applies to lean species of fish. Salmon, on the other hand, is known for being rich in heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations notes that “the fat of fish may become unpleasantly altered during cold storage. Fish oils readily combine with oxygen, and some of the enzymes normally present in fish muscle, particularly those in the red strip of muscle just under the skin of fatty fish, assist this reaction.”

This causes unpleasant odors and flavors, gooey textures, and undesirable changes in the color of this normally vibrant fish. Clearly, you want to avoid this, so make sure to follow these guidelines when you freeze salmon after cooking!

Steps For Freezing Cooked Salmon

Step 1: Allow The Salmon To FULLY Cool After Cooking

When it comes to freezing any type of cooked food, the most imperative step is to allow the dish to cool. If you were to place a hot piece of salmon in the freezer, the exterior of the fish would freeze more rapidly than the interior.

This can lead to the formation of large ice crystals on the fish. Why does this matter?

This would cause two issues — changes in the meat’s texture and a higher risk of freezer burn, which would alter the color, flavor, and consistency of the meat. Thus, after cooking the salmon, allow your leftovers to cool before you freeze them.

This can be done on the counter at room temperature, as long as the fish does not sit out for more than two hours. If the fish needs more time, simply transfer it to the refrigerator. Salmon

Step 2: Portion Out Your Salmon After Cooking To Freeze

The best way to store leftover cooked salmon is to slice up the remainder of the fish into individual portions. This will limit food waste and diminish the time it takes to defrost the meat at a later date.

Step 3: Package And Freeze Your Salmon After Cooking

Vacuum Packing

The optimal method of packaging cooked salmon for freezer storage involves using a vacuum seal machine. This will remove the instance of oxygen and moisture that can quickly cause the fish to spoil. It also prevents freezer burn!

For that reason, individually seal each slice of salmon after cooking, label it with the date, and freeze. Lastly, keep the meat at a consistent zero degrees Fahrenheit. 

Plastic Wrap & Freezer Safe Plastic Bags

Alternatively, if you do not have access to this convenient food storage machine, then wrap each individual slice of cooked salmon fillets in a tight layer of freezer-safe plastic wrap. While aluminum foil seems like a great alternative, this product is not recommended for freezing fish.

This is due to the fact that this flaky fish will break apart more readily if the fish is not fully defrosted when you unwrap the meat. Moreover, the flesh of fish is more likely to absorb some of the favors of this metal wrap. 

However, if you want to limit the cooked salmon’s exposure to light, consider applying a second tight layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the plastic freezer wrap. Finally, place the wrapped salmon in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. Remove as much of the air as possible and seal and then label with the date and freeze. Plastic Wrap & Freezer Safe Plastic Bags

How To Prepare Your Frozen Cooked Salmon

Step 1: Thaw The Cooked Salmon In The Fridge

In order to thaw your main dish, simply pull out the number of portions that you want to serve and place them in the refrigerator the day before you intend to reheat the fish. If you did not vacuum seal the salmon, make sure to place the wrapped sections of fish on a plate to prevent any messes from occurring. 

If you are in a hurry, the alternative is to leave the salmon in the vacuum-sealed bag or the sealed plastic freezer bag and place the salmon in a cold water bath. Switch out the water every 30 minutes until the fish has thawed.Salmon

Step 2: Reheat The Cooked Salmon

In order to revive this delectable dish, you have two options for reheating it. The first is to pour a small amount of olive oil into a skillet and saute the salmon over medium heat. However, for larger amounts of meat, you can always bake the salmon.

If you choose the latter method, preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, place the slices of fish in a baking dish.

Your main concern is going to be retaining the moisture of the salmon. When you freeze salmon after cooking it will have gone through two rounds of extreme temperatures — first the baking and then the freezing.

Both of those processes will have an effect on the moisture in the meat. Therefore, depending on your initial method of preparation, add a dash of olive oil to the bottom of the tray, a splash of lemon, or reapply your signature sauce.

Finally, cover the baking dish in a layer of aluminum foil. This will further help to keep the fish juicy! Bake for approximately 15 minutes, checking on the fish about halfway through the cooking time. Remember that patience is a virtue. Low and slow is always the best way to reheat any dish!

IMPORTANT NOTE: NEVER use the microwave. Unless you want dried out fish and a colossal mess! In case you didn’t know, salmon is 69% water. This means that this portion of the flesh will heat rapidly, creating steam. Due to the flaky consistency of the meat, this combination of factors will cause the food to burst in this type of environment.

Health Benefits Of Salmon

We already mentioned the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that bring fantastic cardiovascular benefits to consumers, but did you know that it is also high in folate, potassium, and B vitamins! That means it is perfect for expectant moms and those watching their figures. 

Moreover, it is high in protein and it can actually improve your memory and brain health. Talk about a superfood!

Health experts recommend consuming two to three servings of low mercury fish, like salmon, each week. This makes freezing salmon after cooking a convenient and healthy meal solution. 

Final Thoughts

The last part of ensuring that your cooked salmon bodes well in the freezer is selecting a superior cut of fish before you cook it! The term ‘fresh salmon’ implies that it has never been frozen, but that is not always the case. Moreover, there is a major improvement in the quality of the meat when you purchase wild salmon and this means that the fish were not raised on a farm.

Instead, they are leaner, and therefore, have fewer calories and fat. Additionally, they are higher in minerals like iron and calcium. Finally, always check the date before preparing your food. Cook raw salmon within two days of purchase. Otherwise, spoilage may occur.

Then, after cooking, it is a simple process to freeze salmon and have a meal on hand for a later date. Finally, remember to always look for changes in your food prior to consumption. When in doubt, always throw it out!

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