How To Tell If Salmon Is Bad After Cooking? [Safe vs Spoiled Salmon]

One of the most delicious and nutritious kinds of fish is salmon. It is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. When you increase the amount of salmon and other fatty fish in your diet, your likelihood of cardiovascular disease and the adverse side effects from obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol decrease.

However, if you eat salmon that has gone bad, it can make you extremely ill. As you begin cooking salmon more often, you should learn to tell when it is good and when it has spoiled. 

You can store leftover cooked salmon in the refrigerator for two or three days after cooking. If you want to eat those delicious leftover salmon fillets, check them out first to make sure they are safe to eat.

Properly cooked salmon will have a mild scent, a flaky texture, and be light pink. When it begins to spoil, it will smell bad and feel slimy because of bacterial growth. It will also lose the flaky texture and beautiful pink color becoming dull and gray.

Keep reading to learn the specifics of storing and eating salmon and the dangers of eating spoiled salmon. 

The Benefits of Adding Salmon to Your Diet

This tender and mild fish is a popular choice for diners around the world. Due to its mild flavor, you can use it in a multitude of amazing dishes. Increasing the variety of foods you eat and learning to prepare new meals is a reward all on its own. 

Salmon and other fatty fishes high in omega-3s can help with numerous health conditions. In addition to your healthy diet, eating salmon twice a week can help support a healthy cholesterol balance and reduce your risk of developing obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and heart disease. 

Wild-caught salmon is especially high in nutrients, including almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12 as well as high levels of Vitamin D, calcium, selenium, and niacin. Farmed salmon also has these nutrients but at a somewhat lower level. 

StarKist Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon

The Effects of Eating Salmon that has Spoiled

Contaminated or spoiled salmon and other fatty fish may lead to scombroid poisoning. Certain bacteria produce the scombroid toxin. Cooking the fish to a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the bacteria, but the toxin can remain in the tissues of the fish. 

When a person consumes the toxin, it behaves like histamine and causes allergy-like symptoms, such as itching, hives, or a burning sensation in the mouth. Gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, are also common.

Some people experience a flushed feeling, fever, and feel their hearts pounding. This food-poisoning illness can be treated by induced vomiting, activated charcoal, and anti-histamine medications. A doctor should treat severe reactions at an urgent care facility.

Raw Salmon May Contain Parasites

Another concern from eating raw or undercooked salmon and other fish is the possibility of ingesting a parasite. A common parasite, the anisakid nematode, is estimated to be in up to 75% of wild Pacific salmon.

The parasite can cause an infection if it attaches to a person’s gastrointestinal tract. However, we should note that cooking the salmon properly kills the parasites and makes salmon safe to eat.

Identifying Safe vs. Spoiled Salmon

Since we want only to experience the benefits salmon has to offer, we need to be sure that we can accurately identify spoiling salmon.

How to Tell if Cooked Salmon is Good or Bad

Properly cooked salmon is a lighter shade of pinkish-orange . . . in fact, you might say it is salmon-colored. Salmon should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The flesh will be tender and will flake easily when touched with a fork. 

Bacteria will begin to grow in salmon just one hour after cooking. Therefore, be sure to refrigerate any leftover salmon pieces within two hours. It will be good to eat for 2-3 days after cooking when appropriately stored in the refrigerator.

Cooked salmon that has spoiled will lose its flakey texture, have a grayish tint to the flesh, and will develop a foul smell.

How to Properly Store Cooked Salmon

So, what is the best way to store cooked salmon? Let the salmon come to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator. You can keep it in an airtight container, a zip-top bag, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil. 

Make a note of the date you cooked the fish. You should not keep it for longer than 3 days because it will grow bacteria that can make you ill. If you are bringing home leftovers from a restaurant, you should only save them for two days. You don’t know how fresh the salmon was before the restaurant cooked it.

Another option is to freeze the cooked salmon. The best process for freezing is to wrap small pieces of salmon in parchment paper, then place them in a zip-top freezer bag or airtight container.

When stored in this manner, it will last up to two months in the freezer. However, the longer it is in the freezer, the lower the quality of the salmon will be. It will have a soggy, mushy texture, so try to eat it as soon as possible.

New York's Delicacy, Sashimi Grade Fresh Atlantic Salmon Fillets - 5.0 Lb. (2 Fillet) - Skin On, 100% Natural, Fully Trimmed, Ready to Cook or Sliced for Sashimi and Sushi - From the Pristine Waters of the Chilean Patagonia - Vacuum Packed and Flash Frozen to maintain freshness.

How to Tell if Raw Salmon is Good or Bad?

Good fresh salmon has a mild, delicate scent that is reminiscent of the ocean and salt. The flesh of fresh salmon ranges from vibrant deep pink to orange in color depending on the variety.

It will also have fine white lines of fat running through the meat. Farmed salmon tends to have more fat with thicker lines than wild-caught salmon.

When you press gently on the flesh, it should feel firm and spring back when you let go.On the other hand, spoiled raw salmon will have a strong odor of ammonia or will smell “fishy.” If the smell is off, you should discard the fish because the odor is the first sign of spoilage.

The visible changes to the fish follow later. It may be covered in a milky-white sticky or slimy film. The color of the meat will also change. It may appear pale or grayish instead of vibrantly pink.

Furthermore, the flesh will not hold together. When you pick it up, it will break apart. If you have the salmon’s head, you can also check out the eyes. If they are cloudy and discolored, then the fish may be spoiling.

Indications that Salmon is Bad During the Cooking Process

You may have started cooking your salmon before you begin having doubts about its safety. As it cooks, it should turn to a light opaque pink color, and the scent should be mild and oceany.

If the color of the flesh is grayish or the scent is strongly fishy or smells like ammonia, then the salmon is bad and you should not eat it.In fact, you should wash the pan or grill you are using before you cook other pieces of fish on it to reduce the possibility of transferring bacteria.

How to Store Raw Salmon?

When you buy salmon, get it into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible, definitely within two hours, to slow bacterial growth. You can safely keep the raw salmon wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.

 If you want to store the salmon for a longer time, you can wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap or parchment paper and freeze them in a zip-top bag or airtight container. Keep it in the coldest part of your freezer, near the back wall, for up to 9 months. However, to maintain the best quality salmon, use it within three months of freezing.

If you need salmon to last more than 2 days in the refrigerator, you can cure it before refrigeration. Curing is a simple process that will add 1-2 more days to the life of your thawed fresh salmon. This recipe makes enough brine for 1 pound of salmon filets. Create a burning solution by combining 2 and ½ cups of water, ½ cup of sugar, and a ½ cut of salt.

Remove the skin from the salmon and cut into ¼ think strips. Then soak the salmon strips in the brining solution for 3-5 minutes. Remove salmon from the brine, pour it out, and pat the salmon dry.

Place the cured salmon on a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. This curing process will add 1-2 days to the refrigerated life of your salmon.

How Long is Canned Salmon Safe to Eat?

Canned salmon has been processed at a high temperature to make it shelf-stable and safe to eat for a long time. Canned salmon will have a “Best by” or “Best if Used By” date on the can.

As long as the can is unopened, undamaged, and stored at room temperature, the food inside will likely remain safe to eat for up to 3 years. That may be beyond the date stamped on the can.

If the can is rusty, dented, or bulging, it should be discarded as the food inside is not safe to eat. Canned salmon is likely to look good regardless of the safety of the fish. You will have to rely on the smell of the product. If it smells rancid or like ammonia, you should discard it immediately.  

StarKist Wild Pink Salmon - Skinless, Boneless - 5 oz Can (Pack of 12)

Final Thoughts

Salmon adds healthy and delicious nutrients to your diet. The omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, B vitamins, and calcium naturally found in salmon can help you reduce the effects of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

However, this delicious fish can spoil quickly, so you should be prepared to use it or freeze it soon after you buy it. Fresh salmon’s bright pink to orange flesh will feel springy to the touch and will have a delicate oceany scent.

Spoiled salmon will be duller to gray in color, have a milky-white sticky film coating it, and have a strong fishy or ammonia smell. Cooked salmon is good to eat when it is light pink, flakey, and lightly scented. After storing it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, you should discard it when it loses the flakey texture or develops a strong odor.

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