How to tell if salmon has gone bad: A helpful guide

Salmon is undoubtedly one of the most nutritious seafood on earth; they possess many fantastic health benefits and have a relishing taste.

But salmons could go bad and become unhealthy if not properly preserved. In this condition, you should avoid eating them.

First, you need to be able to tell if your salmon has gone bad.

Not sure how to identify a spoilt salmon? This article will extensively discuss how to tell if your salmon has gone bad and what to do to preserve it from spoilage. Read on.

What are salmons, and why should you eat them more often?

Salmon is an excellent source of proteins and healthy fats. They contain omega-3 fatty acids that help build and maintain a healthy body. 

How to tell if salmon has gone bad

Amongst the many health benefits of salmon are the following:

  • Eating salmons can help to boost cardiovascular health.
  • It enhances eyesight.
  • It promotes brain function. 
  • It repairs damaged body tissues.
  • It enhances thyroid function. 
  • It can help you lose weight. 

Since salmon is rich in protein, which enhances satiety, you will get fuller quickly and thus consume fewer calories. 

You can eat raw salmon or have it cooked or smoked. 

How to tell if salmon has gone bad

Your salmon has gone bad if it gives off a rotten or uncomfortable smell. The presence of molds also indicates a bad salmon. And if your salmon breaks apart at the slightest pressure, you should avoid eating it.

See more signs that can help you tell if your salmon has gone bad:

The used-by or sell-by dates have passed

Raw and packaged salmons usually have a used-by date or sell-by date. If the used-by date is passed, the salmon is expired and not fit for consumption. Even though they may not be completely rotten, it is best to avoid them altogether.

White lines

Fresh salmons always have bright and wavy white lines in them, that is, after the skin is cut. If these lines are absent or greyish, you can be sure that your salmon has gone bad.

A rotten smell

If your salmon gives off an uncomfortable or rotten smell, it may be an indication that it has gone bad.

A fresh salmon should have a mild fishy smell; no more, no less.

A Curved or bent shape

If a salmon appears curved or bent, it is usually an indication that it’s close to spoilage. Go for straight salmons; they are fresher and tastier.

Presence of molds

The presence of molds is another sure way to tell if your salmon has gone bad. Molds are small bacteria coats that appear on the surface of spoilt foods. They are usually white or grey.

Fragile flesh

If your salmon breaks apart at the slightest pressure, it is an indication that it might have gone bad.

Fresh salmons have firm flesh and spring back to their original shape at a slight touch or pressure.

Pale and greyish color

Healthy salmons are usually bright pink, red, or orange. If your salmon looks pale and greyish, it is unsafe for consumption. 

Also, check the eye coloration. It should be clear and bright. If the fish’s eyes are cloudy or have some red dots, avoid them entirely; your salmon has gone sour.

Fishy or slimy taste

If you’re still unsure whether your salmon is fresh, bite a tiny portion and ascertain the taste. If your cooked salmon tastes fishy or slimy, then it’s bad.

How long does a salmon last before going bad?

Salmon can last for six months, depending on the preservation method and the fish type. 

Let’s examine salmon’s shelf life based on the type.

Raw salmon

  • At room temperature: 2 hours
  • Refrigerated: 1 – 2 days
  • Frozen: 2-3 months

Cooked salmon

  • At room temperature: 2 hours
  • Refrigerated: 3 – 4 days
  • Frozen: 2-3 months

Smoked salmon

  • At room temperature: 2 hours
  • Refrigerated: 4 – 5 days
  • Frozen: 6 months

Canned salmon (if unopened)

  • At room temperature: 3 years
  • Do not freeze.

Canned salmon (opened)

  • Room temperature: Not recommended 
  • Refrigerated: 3 – 4 days
  • Frozen: 9 – 12 months

How to best preserve salmons to stop them from spoiling

1. Clean and store in the fridge.

To ensure maximum freshness, fold your raw salmon with a thin layer of plastic wrap and another layer of aluminum foil before placing it in the fridge. 

In the case of cooked salmon, store it inside an airtight container and place it in the fridge.

2. Refrigerate any leftovers after eating.

3. Freeze. 

This is recommended if you want to preserve your salmon for a long time.

4. Always leave time for thawing before cooking salmon.

To get the best out of your frozen salmon, allow it to defrost before placing on heat.

To thaw your salmon, place it in a freezer bag and submerge it in a bowl of water.

Dangers of eating spoilt salmon 

As mentioned earlier, salmons develop molds when they go bad. These substances are harmful to health and can cause diseases and toxicity to the body.

Eating spoilt salmon can also cause ciguatera poisoning that causes numbness of the body.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between the sell-by and use-by date?

Like other packaged foods, the sell-by date and best before dates are also present on the salmon seal. 

The sell-by date refers to the ideal time for supermarkets to sell salmon, after which they can be refrigerated till the use-by time elapses.

The use-by date signifies the time salmon must be consumed before it degrades or become unhealthy

What does bad salmon taste like?

Spoilt salmons have a bitter and slimy taste. 

Can I refreeze thawed salmon?

Yes, you can. However, its quality may diminish if done repeatedly.

How many times can you defrost and refreeze salmon?

The maximum number of times to refreeze raw salmons is three times. On the other hand, smoked salmons must not be frozen more than twice to retain their taste and texture. 

Can I eat salmon with freezer burn?

If you notice that your salmon has lost moisture or is dehydrated, it may signify freezer burn.

Salmons with freezer burns are safe to eat. However, they may taste less tantalizing. 

What fish taste similar to salmon?

Mackerel, Bluefish, Milkfish, Ocean Trout, and Striped Bass are excellent substitutes for salmon. They all taste great.


Sour and unhealthy salmons are pretty easy to detect; you do not have to be a food expert to identify one. 

To decipher if your salmon is safe for consumption, check its smell, texture, and odor, amongst others.

Jude Uchella

Jude Uchella is a passionate research writer whose work has been published on many reputable platforms, including MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and more! He prioritizes research, writes comprehensively, and only shares factual and helpful content. He is a reader’s delight!

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