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Wondering how to tell if salmon is bad? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

Fish and shellfish are an essential and valuable part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. As humans, the harvesting and consumption of fish is an ancient custom dating back thousands of years!

How To Tell If Salmon Is Bad

Eating fish and seafood can provide us with great proteins, omega 3, and vitamins to keep our bodies strong. The American Heart Association recommends that we eat fish at least twice a week to maintain a healthy balanced diet. 

Eating oily fish and shellfish frequently has been proven to lower your risk of heart disease, promote weight loss and offer vitamins and nutrients to arm your body from harmful bacteria. But what if fish becomes the harmful bacteria? 

Consuming fish that is bad or gone off can have catastrophic effects on your health. Fish such as salmon going bad means that there is a higher risk of pathogens in the food, and increases the risk of contracting a food-borne illness.

How To Tell If Salmon Is Bad

Salmon is one of the most popular and flavorful fish on the market, its nutritional value and delicious quality adds significant taste to any dish.

Any seasoned salmon chef will know all of the markers to tell if salmon has gone bad, and what to look out for.

In our experience, it is better to find out from us than learn the hard way if your salmon has gone off. 

A great tip for eating salmon is to keep in mind whenever you buy it that it is best to consume it within one or two days.

Aside from that, you should store it in a freezer if you plan on having it at a later date. Any longer, then we advise you to throw it in the trash!

Smell something fishy?

Firstly, the easiest way to spot if salmon is bad is to check the scent. Although it would quite naturally have a slight fishy smell, if the salmon is consumable then it should smell fresh with a slight aroma of the sea.

It is important to note that salmon should not have an ammonia scent either. If the ‘fishy’ smell is strong or sour, then it is most likely not safe for consumption, and best to throw it away.

Visual Eyes

The next sign of bad salmon to check is the ‘look’ of the salmon. Are there any signs of spoilage or residue? The main visual sign to look out for is whether the salmon is pink or not.

Salmon should have a light pinkish or orange hue if it is fresh and safe to consume.

If there is any dullness, grayness or discoloration, then you should assume that it has gone bad. Be wary of signs of mold or sticky residue and any other indicators that it may have spoiled, just to be sure.

If it is a fresh whole salmon, then the eyes should be clear and shiny, and its flesh should be firm. A good way to check this is to press your finger onto the flesh.

If it is fresh, then it should spring back, if not, your finger will leave an indentation in the fish, and it is definitely not safe to eat it. 

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A quick and easy way to check if salmon has gone bad is to examine its gills. Just a quick look at the color of the gills will inform you if it’s off or not.

If it is bright pink or red, then the salmon is fine, anything else like brown or gray is guilty of being bad.

Shellfish Shelf Life

When checking to see if salmon is bad, it is important to remember that cooked and raw salmon have a different shelflife.

Raw, fresh salmon must be stored in the refrigerator and cooked after one or two days. On the other hand, cooked salmon can be eaten for up to five or six days after, but you should always check for signs of spoilage.

Cooked salmon that has been stored for more than two days should be also checked for a slimy texture and a significant fishy scent. 

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Another way to check if your salmon is safe to eat, is to inspect the fine white lines within the flesh. This is the stored fat of the fish, which is very good for you!

These fine lines maintain the firmness of the fish. If they are flat or separated, then the salmon has spoiled.


To give your salmon the best chance of not going bad, it is best to store salmon in the fridge, as soon as you can after you purchase it. Leaving fresh salmon out of the refrigerator for extended periods of time will promote the growth of bacteria, increase its risk of going bad and probably give you food poisoning.

If kept in the fridge, then raw salmon can be used up to 2 days after. However, if left at room temperature, then bacteria can manifest in just one hour.

Cooked or canned salmon can last up to six days once opened, as long as it is kept in a refrigerator. It’s always best to use your own discretion and always check for signs of spoilage.

You should not ignore ‘best before’ dates on food packaging, but it’s best not to rely on them either. Gambling with your health is a dangerous game to play. Rely upon your own judgment.

Mistakes can be made in the labeling process, or they may have been left out of the fridge at the store or at home, so it is vital that you depend upon your own sense of smell and instinct. 

What do I do?

Okay, so you’ve checked the salmon, it’s not discolored or flaky or soft, but it has a slight fishy scent. You do not want to waste an expensive piece of salmon, but the scent is bothering you a little.

As a rule of thumb, we personally recommend that if you are ever in doubt or unsure, just throw it away.

It really isn’t worth the consequences of getting food poisoning, or bacterial contamination. It is definitely better to be safe than sorry.

Can You Still Eat It?

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