How Long Can Salmon Sit Out? [Smoked, Cooked & Raw]

Food waste is the worst. I’m convinced that it’s all just a part of being a mom… we’re currently loving salmon for dinner, and I personally love the nutrition that it provides.

The problem? Salmon doesn’t fit into my schedule – I have too much on my plate.

After I got home from the grocery store, I left my frozen salmon filet on the counter to sit out a bit to defrost.

In seemingly seconds, the baby and other children needed help all at once settling their arguments.

As you may guess, it was soon 7 pm and my salmon was still untouched on a plate. Worried about food poisoning, I realized quickly that it must be thrown out. 

Does this situation sound familiar? Fresh salmon doesn’t last very long without being in the refrigerator.

Cooked salmon, like all perishable foods, should not be left out at room temperature for extended periods to ensure food safety. The general guideline is that cooked salmon should not be left out for more than 2 hours, as bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. In warmer environments, where temperatures exceed 90°F, this time reduces to just 1 hour. If cooked salmon has been left out for longer than these recommended times, it’s best to discard it to avoid the risk of foodborne illness.

The amount of time salmon lasts depends on the temperature fluctuation that the meat is subjected to includes if it’s left at room temperature, frozen, or refrigerated. 

How Long Can Cooked Salmon Sit Out?

Your salmon’s freshness is completely dependent on how you cook and keep it. Cooked salmon in a refrigerator is good for 3-4 days.

Conversely, at room temperature, it is only good for up to two hours. The freezer is the best way to store your salmon, it can still be fresh for up to six months!

The length of time that salmon is safe to eat depends on many factors – like how it was prepared or how it is being stored. Salmon is delicious, nutritious, and fills you up quickly.

When cooking for multiple people, it can be easy to overestimate what you need and end up with leftovers.

This delicious problem can be easily used in recipes for the future if you store it correctly. 

It is important to note that it is very dangerous to consume spoiled fish, especially if it’s previously been cooked.

This can enhance your risk for the fish containing bacteria that will cause food poisoning.

No matter where you are, whether it is at a restaurant or at home, you should ensure you store your cooked fish properly so it will last longer.

At Room Temperature

Cooked salmon can last at room temperature up to 2 hours. However, it should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 3 hours at a time.

If this happens, please note that it shouldn’t be consumed. It’s important to be very careful about the timeframe you leave salmon out as it can be harmful to your health – even fatal.

In A Refrigerator

Cooked salmon can last in the refrigerator up to 4 days, assuming you stored it properly. 

How Long Can Smoked Salmon Sit out?

A good rule of thumb is to never leave salmon out for more than two hours.

Raw smoked salmon is different from other fish because it will stay safe to eat longer as long as it’s in good condition.

The reason being is smoking salmon will keep it safe to eat for a longer time frame in good conditions.

Some of these conditions include: cooler weather, proper adequate smoking techniques as well as wild vs. farm grown salmon. 

How Long Can Salmon Sit Out Raw?

Raw salmon from the grocery store should only be stored for approximately one to two days after you purchase it.

There is a very long supply chain in the seafood business that takes quite a bit of time to process before it actually reaches the store. Your fish can take anywhere from 20-30 days to arrive at the supermarkets. 

Once you purchase your salmon at the store, be sure to take it home and refrigerate it promptly to ensure that it lasts until you are ready to prepare it.

If you place your raw salmon in the freezer and make sure that it is wrapped properly, it will last up to three months. 

Raw Salmon

If you don’t plan on cooking it within a few days, freezing it will probably be your best option so it doesn’t spoil.

Freezing it can also help ensure it’s quality so you get the best taste.

How Long Can Salmon Sit Out To Defrost

The easiest solution to defrosting salmon is to place it in your refrigerator overnight and let it thaw out.

It is possible to defrost it in the microwave but you have to be very accurate about the weight of the salmon you are thawing out.

The risk of thawing fish in the microwave is that it’s easy to accidentally cook it when trying to defrost it. The salmon should still be very cold after it is thawed, not warm. 

After you thaw the uncooked fish it is only good for up to two days in the refrigerator. Be sure to never let the fish reach room temperature or it will not be any good to use and could be harmful. 

How Long Can Salmon Sit Out In Water

If you prefer to defrost it overnight and in water then this should be done in the refrigerator.  You should place it in a bowl of cold water.

Make sure the fish stays cold even after it’s thawed. Never use hot water to thaw the salmon as it is a huge risk of foodborne illness.

If you want to use water when thawing choose cold water instead.

How To Tell If Salmon Is Bad

You would think that once you cook your salmon it should be just fine to eat, right? If you let it sit in the fridge for too long or leave it out uncovered, then it will no longer be safe to eat.

Temperature fluctuation and air exposure can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens. 

One of the easiest ways to determine if your salmon is bad is the smell. If it smells really fishy or unpleasant, that is a sign you probably shouldn’t eat it.

Salmon will also have discoloration to it, such as grey spots, if it is spoiled. 

You can tell by the taste of the salmon if it is bad. If it has even a slightly bad taste then it is best if you throw it out instead of taking a chance. 

The Importance Of Fresh Salmon & How To Buy It

Salmon is a high-protein food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This is a favorite food that is good for you and absolutely delicious all at the same time.

While salmon can be sort of pricey it is important to know how to buy it at the store to ensure you get the most enjoyment out of each delicious bite. 

While at the store, always consider how the salmon looks. It should always be a light pink color if it is wild-caught salmon.

It should never have any type of grey or brown areas on it, and it should remain moist but firm.

Always trust your instincts and if you think it looks bad it more than likely is. Take that tip from experience, because your instincts are usually right!

After choosing the salmon, take a smell before purchasing it. The salmon should never smell “fishy”.

It should have a mild scent but if it ever smells strongly or has a bad scent, it is more than likely no good. 

Most grocery stores receive the fish frozen and then thaw it when putting it out on display.

This is okay to do but it is important to pay attention to the product when picking it out to buy. You want to ensure it doesn’t look dried out or wilted.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Salmon?

If you accidentally consume bad fish you will more than likely get food poisoning. There are two types that can occur when eating fish and they are ciguatera and scombroid poisoning. 

Ciguatera poisoning can have a variety of symptoms but the most common ones include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and oftentimes diarrhea. 

Scombroid poisoning usually develops symptoms almost immediately or within 20-30 minutes of consuming the fish. 

Another big risk of consuming bad salmon is salmonella poisoning. This is the worst type of poisoning to get, especially from fish.

The reasoning salmonella occurs is because of potentially harmful bacteria that is detected in raw fish like salmon.

These bacterias include Listeria, Vibrio, Clostridium and Salmonella. It has been found from a US study that approximately 10% of imported raw seafood test positive for salmonella. 

Dangers Of Leaving Salmon Out

Whenever you cook salmon it is best to follow the USDA’s recommendation for food safety.

Salmon is safest when cooked at a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. When it reaches this temperature you’ve killed or damaged any type of pathogen that may be in the fish. 


When you cook your salmon to the USDA’s recommended food-safe internal temperature of 145 F, you’ve killed or seriously damaged any pathogens that might have been in the fish to begin with.

However, the longer it sits out, the greater the opportunity there is for new pathogens to infect it.

Once you leave salmon out too long it will start to break down. Unfortunately salmon doesn’t keep long before it spoils, but the enjoyment you get from eating it, makes up for the precautions you have to take when purchasing and storing it.

It’s especially dangerous to leave fish out because of the potentially harmful side effects it can cause. 

If you’ve never experienced food poisoning or salmonella, it’s certainly something you want to avoid at all cost.

Once it reaches the “Danger Zone” as the USDA calls it, that is when you have to be mindful about these things occurring.

Cooked Salmon

It is very dangerous if you leave the salmon out and it spoils. You should always throw it away instead of consuming it if it isn’t stored properly or accidentally gets left out. 

Leaving Salmon Unrefrigerated

Bacteria can grow quickly and can make the food become unsafe to consume. It’s always extremely important to be aware of how long your salmon has been out of the refrigerator.

Since fish is a type of meat, whether it is cooked or raw it should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours. 

The Food and Drug Administration recommends following this rule for all meats. The warmer the room is, the less time the fish should be left out.

If you ever leave salmon out longer than the allotted time frame you should immediately throw it away as it won’t be safe to eat. 

Final Considerations

While salmon is extremely yummy it is very important to take all the right precautions from purchasing it at the store, to the proper storage of it once it’s cooked.

Be sure to follow the tips of storing your fish safely so your entire family can enjoy the deliciousness of every bite.

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