Skip to Content

How to Tell If Salmon is Bad

How to Tell If Salmon is Bad

Last Updated on 20th June 2023 by

Salmon is probably one of the most consumed fish in the world, right after tuna. It’s classy enough to go with just about any dinner but not so classy that you can’t fry it up and have it with some fries.

Of course, salmon is only tasty if it is fresh, and once it starts to turn rancid, you want to avoid it at all costs. I think most of us know what spoiled fish does to a delicate digestive system. It’s not pretty.

How to tell is salmon is bad? That’s the question I want to answer here, and I will talk about both the cooked and uncooked variety. You should know if salmon of any kind is about to go bad or if it already has. I want to to help you avoid any unnecessary trips to the bathroom to expel your food. We could all live without food poisoning, and this handy guide will help you do just that.

Salmon is one of those foods that is very healthy for you when it is fresh and well prepared. It is lean and full of nutrients that you need for a decent diet. It’s a good alternative to fatty meats, if you are looking to shed some pounds. You don’t want to shed pounds by vomiting up out of date salmon, though, so let’s talk about how to tell if cooked salmon is bad.

How to Tell if Salmon Is Bad after Cooking

Once you cook your salmon it should be okay to eat, right? Not if it was bad when you cooked it up and not if you let it sit in the fridge for too long or let it sit out uncovered too long. Salmon can go bad at any stage, and like any kind of food derived from animals, it can go bad quickly if not properly prepared and stored.

One of your first indicators will be the smell. If the fish smells rancid or unpleasant, then you should probably not risk eating it. Salmon that is spoiled will often changes colour as well. Look for signs that it is a different colour from what it was when you cooked it. If you seasoned and breaded the salmon, it might be harder to tell, but once your breading goes bad, the salmon is likely spoiled as well.

Once again, the smell is probably the best indicator. Salmon that has gone bad will usually stink a bit.

You can also taste it slightly. A tiny bite of questionable salmon probably won’t hurt you. Take a nibble and see if it tastes funny to you. If the taste is off at all, it is best to discard it and not to take any chances.

How to tell if smoked salmon is bad? It will probably start to look grey on the outside. Yuck, right? Well that grey discolouring is your number one visual indicator. Salmon turns from a soft, pinkish hue to a nasty, grey colour when it spoils, so look out for that one. It should be easy enough to spot. No need to sniff it and get some of that awful smell in your lungs if you can just look at the fish at a distance and tell that it has gone bad.

Slimy sticky fish is a no-no as well. Don’t eat any fish that is starting to produce a slimy substance. It has gone bad and needs to be dumped. You can touch the salmon and tell if it is going bad as well. Press down lightly on the surface of the salmon with your fingers. If the fish springs back to normal shape, then it is fine to eat. If not, and it stays depressed, then you need to toss it.

How to tell if canned salmon is bad? Just follow the same steps we told you and look for the same indicators as with cooked salmon.

How to Tell if Raw Salmon Is Bad

So, what about raw salmon that hasn’t been cooked. How do you tell if frozen salmon is bad or fresh salmon is unsafe to eat? Raw fish should have a very fishy smell. Of course, fish should smell like fish, but raw salmon that has gone bad will be incredibly fishy. The smell should penetrate everything around it, and there will be no mistaking that the fish has gone bad. The longer the salmon stays in your fridge, the worse the smell will become. If you aren’t sure if the raw fish is bad yet and if the fishy smell is only as strong as it is supposed to be, then you can cook it up and then give it a taste or smell.

You could also use the texture test from up above. That works just as well on fresh salmon as it does cooked salmon.

For frozen fish, you can’t really do the texture test, and the smell might not be as apparent if the fish has gone bad. How to tell if frozen salmon has gone bad? We suggest sniffing it very closely. The smell will still be there. It may just be muffled under the iciness.

You can also thaw the frozen fish out and do a texture touch test on it.

How to Store Your Salmon

I have talked about how to tell if salmon fillet is bad, and now I need to tell you about how to store your salmon safely. You want to make sure it lasts as long as possible, and that means storing it properly and in an airtight container at all times. If any air gets into the salmon, it will cause it to age prematurely, and the salmon will not last as long. It will go bad quickly and will be inedible.

How long does salmon last in the fridge? Raw or cooked salmon is good in the fridge for about two days. Don’t try to eat it after the third day, as it probably won’t be safe. You can store it in any airtight container or a resealable plastic bag.

Do not leave raw salmon out on the countertop at room temperature for any length of time. Leaving it there for just a few minutes can expose it to bacteria and cause food poisoning, so be careful.

How about frozen salmon? How long can you store that? Once again, use an airtight container and ensure that it is something designed for freezer storage. If you keep the salmon stored at a consistent temperature in your freezer, it can stay good there for up to two months. Be sure to sniff it before you eat it, though.

Always check your salmon to ensure that it is safe to eat. I have given you a number of ways to do that, and now there should be no doubt when you think a piece of salmon is suspect. You should be able to tell if the salmon has gone bad or not.


How can I tell if raw salmon has gone off?

Raw salmon that has spoiled will typically have a fishy, sour, or ammonia-like smell that’s much stronger than normal. Its surface might also feel sticky or slimy to the touch, and you may notice a change in colour to a dull, greyish hue.

What about cooked salmon, how do I tell if that’s gone bad?

Cooked salmon usually has a pleasant, light aroma when it’s fresh. If it’s begun to spoil, it will emit a pungent, off-putting smell. The texture may also become excessively dry or mushy. Discoloration is also an indicator of spoilage.

Can I still eat salmon if it smells fishy?

Fresh salmon shouldn’t smell overly ‘fishy’. If your salmon has a strong, unpleasant fishy odour, it’s likely spoiled and should be discarded to avoid any risk of food poisoning.

How long can I keep salmon in the refrigerator?

Fresh, raw salmon should be consumed within two days of purchase, assuming it was fresh when you bought it. Cooked salmon can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you don’t plan on eating the salmon within these time frames, it’s best to freeze it.

Does the ‘use by’ date on packaged salmon always indicate if it’s bad?

While the ‘use by’ date is a good guide, it’s not infallible. If the salmon smells bad, feels slimy, or has changed colour even before this date, it’s best not to consume it.

If I freeze salmon, will it last indefinitely?

While freezing can greatly extend the life of salmon, it won’t last forever. For the best quality, try to consume frozen salmon within 2-3 months. Be sure to thaw it properly in the refrigerator before using.

What happens if I eat bad salmon?

Consuming spoiled salmon can result in food poisoning, which can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, and fever. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and discard any salmon that you suspect has gone bad.

How do I store salmon to keep it fresh for as long as possible?

Store fresh salmon in the refrigerator, in its original packaging, and consume within two days. If you plan to store it for longer, it’s best to freeze it. Wrap it tightly in cling film or place it in an airtight container before freezing to prevent freezer burn.

More Food Safety Guides

4.4/5 - (59 votes)

I'm Pauline, a mother of four grown children, my passion for cooking stemmed from the joy i get cooking for my family. I love to try new dishes, especially when dining out but creating and sharing my own recipes is my favourite thing to do!


moon man

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

pauline i find that if salmon is really fresh it should smell like watermelon.