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How To Tell If Salmon Has Gone Bad

Salmon is a popular and nutritious seafood choice, known for its delicate flavor and health benefits. However, like any perishable food, salmon can spoil if not stored or handled properly.

To ensure that you’re consuming fresh and safe salmon, it’s essential to know how to identify signs of spoilage. In this guide, we will explore various indicators that can help you determine if salmon has gone bad.

By understanding these warning signs, you can confidently select and prepare high-quality salmon for a delicious and healthy dining experience.

Raw salmon steak on a plate

How To Tell If Salmon Has Gone Bad


Fresh salmon is bright pink and has a fresh, mild smell. If salmon is discolored, has a sour or off smell, or is mushy or slimy, it is bad and should be discarded.

Salmon is a delicious and nutritious fish that is a popular choice for many people. However, it is important to know how to tell if salmon is bad, as eating spoiled salmon can cause food poisoning.


raw salmon steaks

As soon as you open the package you will likely be able to tell if the salmon is bad by the way that it smells. Any scent of ammonia or muskiness and you should discard the salmon.

Fresh salmon won’t have much of a scent at all. A mild fish smell is ok but you do not want to cook salmon that has a bad smell to it.

It should smell fresh like the sea, not any form of a fish smell. Are you cooking salmon tonight? Check out my side dishes for salmon.


entire whole fish

Here are some things you can look for to tell if salmon is bad by looking at the fish:

  • Color: Fresh salmon is a bright pink color. If the salmon is discolored, it may be bad. The color of salmon can fade over time, but if it becomes a dull or gray color, it is likely bad.
  • Eyes: Fresh salmon has clear, bright eyes. If the eyes are cloudy or sunken, the salmon may be bad. The eyes of bad salmon will be cloudy or sunken, and may even have a milky film over them.
  • Bloodline: The bloodline is a thin, dark line that runs down the center of the salmon fillet. Fresh salmon has a clear or slightly pink bloodline. If the bloodline is dark or brown, it may be a sign that the salmon is old or has been stored improperly.
  • Bruising: Bruising can occur during the harvesting or processing of salmon. Fresh salmon may have some bruising, but it should be limited and not extensive. If the salmon is heavily bruised, it may be a sign that it is old or has been handled improperly.
  • Mold: Mold is a white, fuzzy growth that can appear on salmon. If you see mold on salmon, it is a sign that it is spoiled and should be discarded.

If you notice any of these signs, it is best to discard the salmon. Eating spoiled salmon can cause food poisoning, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms.


raw slices of salmon

The last thing will be to feel the salmon. This is important before you cook it because even if it doesn’t smell or look bad you want to be sure and check the texture as well.

This step is so important before you cook salmon or make a salmon dish that is your favorite.

Bad salmon will feel mushy, slimy, or flabby. It may also have a slightly sticky texture. Fresh salmon is firm and moist. If you press your finger into the salmon, it should spring back quickly. If the salmon does not spring back, it is likely bad.

It is a good idea to follow all of the ideas before your reheat salmon.

How long does salmon last

Salmon is a delicious and nutritious fish, but it’s important to know how to store it properly. Here’s a quick guide to the shelf life of salmon:

  • Fresh salmon: Fresh salmon should be consumed within 2-3 days of purchase. It should be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below. The fresher the salmon, the longer it will last.
  • Frozen salmon: Frozen salmon can be stored for up to 3-6 months at 0°F (-18°C) or below. However, for optimal taste and texture, it’s recommended to consume frozen salmon within 3 months. Learn how in my guide on how to freeze salmon.
  • Cooked salmon: Cooked salmon can be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days in an airtight container.

It’s always important to trust your senses when it comes to food safety. If salmon exhibits any signs of spoilage, such as a foul smell, slimy texture, or unusual color, it’s best to discard it to avoid any potential health risks.

Just be sure you follow all these suggestions before you cook your salmon, then make sure you know how to tell if your salmon is done cooking.

SalmonRoom TemperatureRefrigeratedFrozen
Raw Salmon1 hour1-2 days3 months
Cooked Salmon1 hour3-4 days6 months
Smoked Salmon1 hour4-5 days6 months
These times will vary depending on the environment

What happens if you eat spoiled salmon

Eating spoiled salmon can have adverse effects on your health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against consuming spoiled salmon due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria.

Consuming such contaminated fish can lead to food poisoning, resulting in symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.

In severe cases, food poisoning from spoiled salmon can even require hospitalization and, in rare instances, can be life-threatening.

It is crucial to prioritize food safety and discard any salmon that shows signs of spoilage to avoid the risks associated with consuming spoiled seafood.


If you’re ever in doubt, give your salmon a smell test. If it smells fishy, it’s probably not fresh.

You can also tell if salmon has gone bad by looking at it. If the flesh is discolored or the skin is dull, it’s time to toss it.

And finally, give your salmon a feel test. If it’s slimy or sticky, it’s not fresh. Now that you know how to tell if salmon has gone bad, you can cook with confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions for Salmon Going Bad

It’s not recommended to consume salmon past its expiration date. The expiration date serves as a guideline for freshness, and consuming expired salmon can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. Always prioritize safety and discard any salmon that shows signs of spoilage, regardless of the expiration date.

Sliminess is a common sign of spoilage in salmon. If the flesh feels slimy or sticky to the touch, it’s best to discard it to avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Fresh salmon has a vibrant pinkish-red color. If the flesh has turned brown or grayish, it’s likely an indication of spoilage, and the salmon should not be consumed.

Raw salmon should have a mild, ocean-like scent that is not overly fishy. It should not have a strong or unpleasant smell, like ammonia or sulfur, which is a sure sign of bad fish.

Fresh salmon should not have much of a scent at all and should remind you of the Atlantic Ocean, the East Coast seashore, or cold-running river water.

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