Can You Eat Salmon Rare? [Best & Safest Temperatures]

There’s nothing quite as tasty as a succulent, melt-in-the-mouth cut of salmon. It is considered a delicacy in most cultures worldwide. We eat it cooked, smoked, fried, or poached; some dishes even call for raw fish. Salmon is hailed as one of the healthiest fish varieties, but do you ever consider whether raw or lightly-cooked seafood is healthy? Can you eat salmon rare?

One can eat salmon rare if it is stored and frozen at the correct temperatures. Many eat it raw in sashimi and gravlax, where it is the main ingredient. But it can carry parasites such as helminths and harmful bacteria like Salmonella. Health authorities believe salmon is the safest to eat at 145°F.

can you eat salmon rare

Salmon is a treat for most seafood lovers, regardless of the cooking method. There are endless ways to prepare this delightful delicacy. 

Once you know what could lurk in your juicy salmon steak, you may think twice before eating it rare again. But, on the other hand, there are ways to ensure your salmon is safe to eat, whichever way you like it prepared. 

Can You Eat Salmon Rare (Best And Safest Temperature)

Salmon is eaten raw, rare, and with every degree of doneness daily. Sushi is a favorite meal worldwide. So the question isn’t whether you can eat it rare. Instead, it is more appropriate to consider whether you should eat rare salmon and if there are measures you can take to eat it rare safely. 

What Is Lurking In Your Salmon?

While salmon is high in omega-3, proteins, and other nutrients, some unfriendly stowaways might be lurking in this seafood delicacy. Parasites favor salmon, and helminths are one of the most common varieties to make their home in your dinner. 

The scientific name for helminths is Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense, which is impossible to pronounce, but you would know them as tapeworms. They inhabit all types of finfish, such as salmon.

These tapeworms can make you terribly ill, with symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, accidental weight loss, and abdominal pain.

Raw salmon is a potential cocktail of bacteria and viruses that may be skulking in that pretty pink fishy flesh. The most common is Salmonella, but here is a list of others:

  • Vibrio
  • Shigella
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Clostridium botulinum
  • Listeria monocyogenes
  • Hepatitis A
  • Escherichia coli
  • Norovirus

While we may not know what most of those evils are, it is clear that we want to avoid them and their effects on our bodies.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) refer to any toxic matter in our environment, and any seafood is at risk of such contamination. They find their way into most bodies of water, contaminating the sea life. In addition, POPs can increase the risk of cancer, immune disorders, and congenital anomalies. 

However, it is only with extended, heavy exposure that they might cause these illnesses.

How Can We Eat Salmon Safely?

Knowing that nasty organisms could inhabit the salmon, we plan to cook is highly offputting. But don’t despair; all is not lost. 

Parasites can only survive at certain temperatures. Therefore, the FDA has strict regulations to ensure the destruction of parasites in fish to be sold. 

The short version of the above regulations declares the following:

  • Any fish, whether raw, partially cooked, raw-marinated, or marinated and partially cooked, must be frozen and stored at -4°F or below for at least seven days before preparation or sale.
  • It should be frozen solid at -31°F and stored at that temperature for at least 15 hours, or
  • It must be frozen at -31°F until solid and stored at -4°F for at least 24 hours.
  • These rules don’t apply if the salmon is raised in ponds or tanks and if they feed on formulated pellets, which don’t contain any parasites.

Freezing salmon according to these regulations will kill any parasites playing house in its flesh. 

We can also ensure that our salmon is safe to eat by cooking it until it reaches optimum temperatures.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the food safety standards in the States. It states that salmon should be cooked until it has an internal temperature of 145°F. Cooking salmon until this point will produce a very well-done piece of fish. 

Many seafood lovers enjoy rare or medium-rare salmon, achieved between 120-125°F. It is cooked through but still moist and tasty. On the other hand, fish cooked to 145°F can be dry and rubbery, not at all what most people enjoy. 

If you enjoy rare salmon, does this mean the cut you choose could be riddled with bacteria and other harmful organisms? Probably not.

The USDA recommends cooking salmon until it reaches 145°F because one of the most prevalent seafood bacteria, Listeria, dies instantly at this temperature. 

Cooking the salmon at a slightly lower temperature can still be safe because the fish will continue cooking for a few minutes after removal from the heat.

According to several cookbooks, farmed salmon is at an optimal temperature when it reaches 125°F. However, you should only cook wild salmon to120°F because it is a leaner fish and can dry out quickly. 

Salmon Temperatures By Doneness

The best way of checking whether your salmon is done to perfection is to use an instant-read thermometer. If you don’t have one, the meat should separate or flake easily if pulled with a fork and no longer have a raw appearance

If you want to cook your salmon perfectly for each of your guests, here are the recommended temperatures for the varying degrees of doneness:

Rare: 120°F or below

Medium-rare: 125-130°F

Medium: 135-140°F

Well-done: 145°F

Salmon That Is Not Safe To Eat

Usually, if in doubt whether raw fish is safe to eat, it’s a sign to throw it out! Salmon that has gone bad will show the following signs:

  • It smells bad. If there is an ammonia- or musk-type smell, it’s a no-no.
  • It looks gray. Salmon should have a reddish color.
  • It is slimy. It should be moist and firm.

Final Word

You can eat salmon rare. The regulations governing the sale and storage of salmon will, in most cases, prevent the survival of any unwelcome inhabitants of the fish you purchase in the freezer section. 

With everything nasty already good and dead, you can freely cook your fish to any temperature you feel is the sweet spot for that delicious salmon cut. 

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