3 Ways to Find Out if the Fish is Spoiled

Table of contents:

3 Ways to Find Out if the Fish is Spoiled
3 Ways to Find Out if the Fish is Spoiled

Fish tends to keep well both in the freezer and in the refrigerator and can be stored in any one before being eaten. However, the meat will spoil at some point and it is no longer safe or healthy to use it for cooking. To find out if the fish has spoiled, consider the expiration date printed on the package, where the fish was stored, and the texture and smell of the food. To avoid food poisoning, it is best to discard the fish if it shows signs of spoiling.


Method 1 of 3: Reading the Expiration Date

Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 1

Step 1. Throw away refrigerated raw fish if it is two days past the date it was sold

Raw fish doesn't usually last long in the fridge and starts to spoil right after the purchase date. Look for the purchase date on the package. If more than a day or two has passed since then, throw the fish in the trash.

  • If you want to delay the expiration of a chilled fish, place it in the freezer.
  • If the fish has an expiration date instead of a sale date, avoid keeping the fish beyond that date. The expiration date indicates that the fish will start to spoil if it is not consumed by the indicated day.
Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 2

Step 2. Keep cooked fish in your fridge for 5 or 6 days after the sale date

If you bought cooked fish or cooked your own fish and then store it in the fridge in a sealed container, it will last longer than raw fish. But if you haven't eaten the fish after 5 or 6 days after the sale date, it will need to be discarded.

  • If you know in advance that you are not going to use all the cooked fish before it goes bad, put it in the freezer to delay spoiling.
  • If you plan to discard the fish's original packaging after it's cooked and then refrigerate it, write the date of sale so you don't forget about it after throwing the packaging in the trash.
  • You can write the date of sale on a post-it and then put it in the Tupperware where the fish is stored. Alternatively, write the date on a notepad that you can put on your refrigerator door.
Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 3

Step 3. Keep fish frozen for 6 to 9 months after sale date

Whether raw or cooked, frozen fish will last much longer than chilled fish. The only exception to this rule is smoked salmon. Even in the freezer, smoked salmon will only last between three to six months.

You can always freeze salmon on your own, even if you bought it raw or cooked it. To freeze salmon, wrap the pieces in a layer of plastic wrap or place in a sealed plastic bag

Method 2 of 3: Inspecting the Fish

Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 4

Step 1. Feel if there is a gooey layer on the raw fish

As the fish ages and starts to spoil, the outer surface will get wetter and will eventually develop a thin layer of goo. This is a good sign that your fish has started to go bad. When the fish is completely spoiled, this sticky moisture in the meat will become thicker and slippery to the touch.

  • Discard fresh fish as soon as you notice the beginnings of this gooey texture.
  • Cooked fish will not develop a gooey coating, even after it has started to spoil.
Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 5

Step 2. Check for a pungent fishy smell

All fish, raw or cooked, smells like fish. However, a chilled fish that has started to spoil will have a more intense odor. After a while, that sharp fishy smell will turn into a putrid smell of rotting meat.

As the fish continues to spoil, its pungent smell will get stronger and stronger. It's best to discard it as soon as it starts to smell "weird"

Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 6

Step 3. Inspect the raw fish for a milky color

Fish meat is typically white or pink in color, with a thin, transparent film of liquid. As fresh or refrigerated fish ages and begins to spoil, the meat will turn to a milky, bright color. The milky parts of the fish may also have a bluish or gray hue.

If you've already cooked the fish, it won't develop a milky color. This sign of being spoiled only applies to raw fish

Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 7

Step 4. Look for signs of freezer burn

If you keep fish in the freezer for more than 9 months, it may start to show signs of freezer burn. Look for spikes of crystallized ice that have formed on the fish's surface and notice if there are any discolored parts as well. Discard freezer-burned food.

Freezer burned food is still technically edible and won't cause any problems. However, the fish will lose most of its flavor and take on a grainy texture as it is burned in the freezer

Method 3 of 3: Identifying spoiled salmon

Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 8

Step 1. Notice if the white lines on the flesh have disappeared

Salmon, unlike most other types of fish, is well known for the fine lines that separate the layers or blades of its meat. These lines indicate that the fish is still fresh and edible. If you notice that these lines have disappeared, or if they have taken on a grayer tinge, the salmon has probably spoiled.

Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 9

Step 2. Squeeze the salmon to see if it is still firm

Fresh, edible salmon should be firm to the touch. If the salmon in your fridge has become spongy, mushy, or unexpectedly soft in texture, it's likely gone bad.

White lines between layers of salmon can indicate its firmness as well as its freshness. Once the lines disappear, the flesh is sure to be spongy

Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad Step 10

Step 3. Inspect the salmon for discolored spots on the meat

Unlike other types of fish, as salmon ages and begins to spoil, they will develop discolorations. Note the surface of the meat. If you see any spots that aren't the healthy pink color of most salmon, your fish has probably spoiled.

Most of the discolorations you will find in salmon will be dark. However, spoiled salmon can also have small whitish spots


  • Canned fish can last for years. Canned tuna, anchovies or sardines can last between two and five years after the sale date. If you have canned fish that is more than five years old, it's best to throw it away.
  • If canned fish has an expiration date rather than a sell-by date, the salmon must be eaten before the expiration date.
  • Since salmon spoils easier than other canned fish, canned salmon will last between 6 and 9 months in your pantry.


Popular by topic