How To Tell If Tuna Steak Is Bad

Bluefin, Albacore, Bigeye, and Yellowfin tuna steaks are delicious and used all over the world.

Since this is a type of fish, it won’t be difficult to tell if it’s fresh or spoiled. This brings us to the discussion of how to tell if your tuna steak is spoiled and how long it lasts in certain conditions. 

You will know tuna steak has spoiled if it has a rotten lemon juice type of smell, smells sour, disintegrates when cut into after being cooked, tastes sour, mushy, or oily, and/or has mold present on it. 

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about tuna steak such as how long it lasts in certain environments, how to tell it’s spoiled, and how to properly preserve your tuna steak to make it last longer. 

Counter3-5 years2 hours2 hours60°F 
RefrigeratorN/A4-5 days1-2 days40°F 
FreezerN/A4 months3-6 months0°F 

How To Tell If Tuna Steak Is Bad

You can tell tuna steak is bad if it’s well past the expiration date, has changed from pink to brown with streaks of black, tastes sour, mushy, or oily, falls to pieces when cut into, has mold growth, and/or smells particularly fishy our sour.

It’s not hard to tell whether or not your tuna steak is bad. There are so many wany you can tell, so there’s really no chance of mistakenly consuming or cooking spoiled tuna steak. 

Expiration Date

 Canned tuna steak has a shelf life of around 3-5 years. This applies more to canned tuna. In most cases, canned tuna steak can be eaten after the best-by date has come and gone.

The expiration date is there to guarantee the quality of your tuna. The longer it’s preserved, the more likely it won’t taste the same. 

So it’s okay to eat expired canned tuna steak, but we suggest marking the date you actually purchased the tuna because this will give you a better indication of how long your tuna has been sitting on your pantry shelf.

If you open the can and it smells funky, we suggest throwing it away. 


Tuna meat can be light pink to bright red with a slight brown tinge. Bad tuna steak will be very dark with brown streaks running through it.

It may even look black. Tuna may even turn green. If this is the case, absolutely do not consume the tuna.

Good tuna steak may look dark in color, but as long as it contains a crimson tinge, it’s still good. 

In terms of cooked tuna steak, it should look like cooked chicken on the outside with a beautiful tender pink inside.

Many people make the mistake of cooking the tuna all the way through, which completely ruins the taste. 

Taste & Texture

As far as taste is concerned, it should taste clean, fresh, and kind of fishy. There should also be a tiny hint of seawater and it should feel clean in your mouth.

If at any time your tuna steak tastes sour, mushy, or oily, it’s probably spoiled and should be tossed. Absolutely do not swallow any tuna that tastes off. 

In terms of texture, fresh tuna steak should have a firm texture. Cooked tuna will vary depending on how it was prepared.

Fresh tuna steak should also be firm to the touch, sort of like beefsteak, and have a meaty consistency when you chew it.

If your tuna steak falls to pieces when you cut into it, it’s spoiled. When it comes to canned tuna, it will easily flake apart if it’s good but if it’s sticky or gooey, it’s bad. 


This is the absolute quickest identifier that your tuna steak has turned on you. The smell will instantly turn your nose.

It’s sour, almost like rotten lemon juice. If the tuna is cooked, the smell will be immediately noticed.

If the tuna is cooked, but cold, the smell will be dulled, but still there when sniffed. 

Canned tuna steak will certainly smell fishy, but if you open the can and it’s particularly pungent and slightly acidic, throw it away immediately and wash your hands to ensure you aren’t exposed to bacteria transfer. 


If any tuna steak, whether canned, cooked, frozen, or raw contains mold, it’s spoiled and should be discarded immediately.

Additionally, if there is any milky-white or other types of liquid oozing from the fish, this also means it’s spoiled. However, during cooking, juices will run out of the fish and this is normal. 

These are the signs of spoiled tuna steak, but the other concern is how long tuna steak lasts in certain environments before it spoils. 

The Longevity of Tuna Steak

In certain environments, tuna steak can last anywhere from 2 hours to 3 months depending on how and where you store it. Let’s dig into that. 

Fresh Tuna Steak


Fresh tuna steak will last 1-2 days in the refrigerator at 40°F or below. Any longer than that and you can expect your tuna steak to spoil.

If the tuna has been cooked, it’s good for 3-4 days when placed in an airtight container. If you’re reaching the 4-day mark, carefully inspect your tuna for signs of spoilage.

To ensure freshness, place the tuna in the back of the fridge where it stays the coolest. 


The countertop is the worst place to leave your tuna. When fish is exposed to warm temperatures, it can spoil quickly.

Tuna steak only has a lifespan of 2 hours when left on the counter at room temperature. You can leave your tuna steak out before cooking to get it up to room temperature, which should only take 10-20 minutes depending on thickness.

If you’re serving your tuna steak raw in sashimi, ceviche, or carpaccio, the tuna steak the tuna steaks should be just below room temperature, which should be about 59°F. 


If you choose to freeze your tuna steak, you can do so very easily. You first have to ensure your tuna steak is fresh and packed carefully.

Tuna steak is good for 2-3 months at 0°F. Don’t place the fish directly on ice, though. If you do this, it is likely to be affected by freezer burn and it will cause the tuna to spoil quickly. 

When storing tuna steak in the freezer, wrap them in layers of greaseproof paper 2 or 3 times and place them in either thick plastic bags or vacuum-sealed bags.

Place the fish deep into your freezer where they won’t be exposed to warm air when the door is opened. 

If you’ve accidentally consumed spoiled fish, you may be in for a few very bad days. 

Can You Eat Spoiled Tuna Steak?

Never eat spoiled tuna steak or any other fish for that matter. If you eat spoiled tuna steak, the FDA says that you could feel a burning sensation in the mouth, have facial swelling, rash, hives, itchy skin, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

These are all signs of scombroid fish poisoning. However, you could also be introduced to ciguatera poisoning, which is the most common type of food poisoning from spoiled fish.

This can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness, and weakness. 

Checking the color of your fresh and canned tuna before eating it can ensure that it’s still safe for human consumption.

If you see dark brown, green, or black patches on your tuna steak, throw it away immediately. You can’t trim the gross parts off because the bacteria is already spread through the fish. 

With that being said, to keep your tuna steak from spoiling quickly, there are a few ways you can keep it fresh for longer. 

Storing Tuna Steak

Ideally, you’ll want to purchase and eat your tuna steak on the same day, but it may not be possible sometimes. So, here’s how you should properly store your tuna steak. 


This is where we like to store our tuna steaks if we can’t cook them the same day. To get the maximum time out of your tuna lifespan, keep it in an airtight container, with tight wrappings, and store it at the back of the fridge.

This is where the temperature is more stable and less likely to be affected by the opening and closing of the door. When food is exposed to changing temperatures, it will promote oxidization and cause it to spoil quicker. 


Storing your tuna steak in the freezer takes a little more time to prepare. Fish that isn’t properly packaged can be affected by freezer burn, as we’ve already stated.

Frozen Tuna Steak

It will cause the fish to spoil while being in the freezer. Layer it in greaseproof paper 2 or 3 times and we suggest vacuum-sealing it.

Remove as much air as you can and put it in the back of the freezer. 

To Sum it Up

Fish is always a finicky product to work with. One little mistake and your fish can be ruined.

When it comes to tuna steak, it’s easy to tell the bad from the good. When your tuna steak is spoiled, you’ll know right away. It’s not subtle at all.

We don’t like to store our tuna for more than 2 days in the refrigerator even though 4-5 days is safe.

It’s important to remember that you should never leave tuna out on the counter, only to bring it to room temperature before cooking. Overall, the best way to enjoy your tuna steak is to eat it fresh. 

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