How Long Does Salmon Last? (Fresh, Cooked & Smoked)

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Salmon is an easy-to-fix source of protein that’s extremely good for you. It can be stored in a variety of different ways to prolong its shelf life. Whether you’re buying it fresh, smoked or cured, you need to know, how long does salmon last?

Fresh salmon should be consumed as soon as possible – at most, within two days. Smoked salmon stored correctly can last several weeks – and all forms of salmon are best eaten within four months when frozen.

Salmon Shelf Life

fresh salmon on ice
  • Fresh salmon – we recommend consuming fresh salmon within two days when stored in the fridge. It can last indefinitely when frozen but will be of higher quality if used within 6-9 months. 
  • Cooked salmon – store cooked salmon in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking and it should last you up to four days. Frozen, it will last around six months.
  • Smoked salmon – if kept in the original vacuum packaging, smoked salmon can last for up to one week beyond the printed date. Once opened, eat it within one week. Frozen, it will retain best qualities when consumed within six months.
  • Canned salmon – an unopened can of salmon can last for years. To be on the safe side, aim to use it within six or eight months. Once opened, it will only be good for up to two days.

Related | What Does Salmon Taste Like?

How To Tell If Salmon Has Gone Bad

Fresh Whole Salmon & Salmon Steaks

Can salmon go bad? Salmon fatty acids can turn rancid with time and will let you know that your salmon is no longer a healthy food and has gone bad. How long that takes depends on the type of salmon that you’re keeping.

Eating bad salmon can give you food poisoning, a very unpleasant and potentially dangerous experience. To figure out if your salmon has gone bad, look for the following changes.

  1. Sliminess – fresh salmon may be a little slippery, but extra sliminess indicates it’s no longer good. This might even appear as a milky coating on the surface.
  2. Dull coloration – rather than shiny, red/pink flesh, the salmon will appear dull.
  3. Unpleasant odor – fresh salmon will smell pleasantly like the seaside, whereas bad salmon will have a pungent fishy odor that is not appetizing.
  4. Texture – the flesh should be quite firm and springy. If you press your finger into it and a dent remains, the salmon is no longer good.
  5. Cloudy eyes – if you’ve purchased a whole salmon, check the eyes. They should be clear and not cloudy.

How Long Does Fresh Salmon Last?

Fresh salmon may last for one or two days in the refrigerator if stored correctly. For best quality, buy your salmon the day before or the same day that you plan to cook it.

Wild caught salmon has a strong flavor and odor – over time this can become overpowering, so much so that it can be hard to tell if your salmon has turned rancid. Fresh is best.

Fresh Whole Salmon & Salmon Steaks

Cooked Salmon

If you’re lucky enough to have access to whole, fresh salmon, consider purchasing it dressed right off the boat.

While you will want to leave the skin on, the blood and organs should be removed from the inside of the fish. Some find seeing the eyes off-putting; if so, buy steaks, King salmon portions or wild coho salmon fillets.

If your fresh salmon – whole or steak – comes wrapped in paper, remove it, gently pat it dry with a paper towel, and wrap it in plastic. Store it on a plate in the fridge. The plate will catch any drips that sneak out of the plastic.

If you don’t plan to eat your fresh salmon within two days, it’s better to store it in the freezer as soon as possible.

Fresh Frozen Salmon

If you have access to fresh caught, freshly dressed salmon but just can’t eat it all, salmon steaks and filets can be frozen for up to four months in a home freezer. They won’t go bad if left for longer, but the quality will decline rapidly.

Related | Flash Freeze

Either freeze them separately in vacuum seal plastic bags or separate them with wax paper. You can also rinse your fresh fish in mild salt water and freeze it in standing water in a ziplock bag.

Once they’re frozen, place them deep in your freezer so they’re not exposed to air every time you open the freezer door.

Never refreeze salmon that’s been partially thawed; allow the thaw to finish and use the salmon up within a day or two.

If freezing whole salmon or steaks, wrap first with freezer-proof plastic or aluminum foil. Plan ahead when you’re ready to use it, and thaw it slowly overnight in the fridge. Whole salmon should be “dressed” (the gills and entrails removed) before freezing.

How Long Does Cooked Salmon Last?

Once you’ve cooked your filets or steaks, you’ve got two more days of great flavor to reheat and enjoy.

Reheating salmon can be a little touchy; it can get dry or rather rubbery if overcooked. Never refreeze cooked salmon.

Be aware that the strong aroma of salmon will be reawakened if you heat it in the microwave, which may make you unpopular depending on where you heat it up.

Consider flaking your cold salmon into a salad – this can be served on crackers or toast for a hearty lunch.

How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last?

Smoked Salmon on a Bagel

Smoked salmon can be refrigerated for up to two weeks if unopened. Once it’s opened, you’ve got a week. Luckily, smoked salmon is stable.

When studying how to tell if salmon is bad on a smoked platter, check the edges of the fish. If the edges are dry and tough, your smoked salmon is aging and you need to use it up or toss it.

Frozen Smoked Salmon

Can you freeze salmon after smoking? Frozen smoked salmon can be frozen for up to four months.

Be aware that once you thaw it, your smoked salmon filet or plank may lose a lot of moisture.

Consider thawing it in the package under running water to help the flesh maintain moisture and resist collapsing.

Alaskan Gold Smoked Salmon has a shelf life of 30 days once thawed!

How Long Does Cured Salmon Last?

Gravlax is a method of curing salmon that has Scandinavian origins. The term “gravlax” means “buried salmon.” The traditional preparation method included burying it in cool beach sand until it was fermented.

You can cure a salmon filet in a brine of salt, sugar, dill and other spices. Rather than placing it in sand, you can bury it in fresh dill and weight it down to force out the moisture.

Related | What Are Capers?

Gravlax takes just a couple of days and a bit of flipping to prepare, but once you’re done you can shave off slices of delicious cured salmon without needing to smoke it.

How long does salmon last in the fridge once you’ve cured it? Once you’ve prepared your gravlax, it should be eaten within four days. You can also freeze it for up to two months.

Thawing it partially can make slicing it easier. Be sure to purchase sushi grade salmon for the freshest possible product.

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.