How To Tell If Smoked Salmon Is Bad? [Signs & What to Look For]

You’ve had friends over for a BBQ. Everyone’s now left, with bellies full of fire-grilled meats. Now you’re left with a few leftover smoked salmon strips. As you’re about to add these to a cheese-smothered bagel, you remember they were in the sun all day and wonder if they’re good to eat. How can you tell if salmon has gone bad?

You can do various checks to identify whether smoked salmon has gone bad. First, look for an expiry date on the packaging. It’s generally safe to eat fish a few days after this date, provided it doesn’t show signs it’s gone bad. Signs of spoilage include a dull color, slimy texture, and sour smell. 

how to tell if smoked salmon is bad

Some conditions increase the chance of smoked salmon going bad (like the BBQ scenario where it was out of the fridge for hours).

So, you need to know how to store your fish to keep it nutritious and tasty. Let’s look deeper at the telltale signs your smoked salmon is no longer safe to eat, as well as ways to keep it fresher for longer. 

Signs That Smoked Salmon Has Gone Bad

The simplest way to tell that smoked salmon isn’t safe to eat is if it’s way past its expiry date. 

Store-bought smoked salmon is usually vacuum-packed, with an expiry date printed somewhere on the packaging. So if you want to savor your salmon at its best, eat it before this date.

However, suppose you forgot about the fish till a few days after its expiry date. Well, in this case, its quality might have dropped, but it should still be edible. 

Depending on how it was prepared and packaged, you can safely eat smoked salmon up to a week after its expiration.

Salmon that’s been hot-smoked tends to last longer than cold-smoked salmon, organic smoked salmon can go bad quicker than honey-smoked salmon, and vacuum-packing salmon extends its shelf life. 

When properly vacuum sealed, smoked salmon can last up to a week in the refrigerator.

However, always trust your senses over an expiry date. If you spot signs of spoilage, the salmon isn’t good to eat, even if there’s plenty of time before its expiry date (or if it doesn’t have an expiry date recorded on its packaging).  

You can tell that smoked salmon is no longer fresh by the way it looks, smells, and feels. So here’s what to watch out for when you’re examining your fish to decide whether you should bite into it or toss it out.

What Does Smoked Salmon That’s Gone Bad Look Like?

Smoked salmon should be a vibrant coral color. If yours is dull, grayish, or even greenish, it’s gone bad. 

Keep a lookout for bits of mold on the fish as well as its packaging. It’s rare for salmon to grow mold, but if you discover some on yours, this is a clear warning that you shouldn’t eat it.

What Does Smoked Salmon That’s Gone Bad Smell Like?

Give your smoked salmon a good sniff. Do you pick up a sour, rotten, or sulfurous odor? Yes? Your salmon’s gone bad. 

Something smells fishy? Deciding whether a fishy smell is cause for concern is trickier than the other three smells. For example, smoked salmon should have a somewhat fishy smell, but it shouldn’t smell overwhelmingly fishy. 

Listen to your nose. If the salmon smells odd in any way, don’t eat it.

What Does Smoked Salmon That’s Gone Bad Feel Like? 

Figuring out whether your smoked salmon’s texture shows it’s gone bad is as tricky as trying to decide whether its smell is too fishy. You see, smoked salmon is supposed to be slimy and a little sticky, but if it’s too slimy and sticky, it’s not fit to eat. 

Feel the fish to find out if it has a thick, slimy coating. If so, it’s too slimy!

What Does Good Smoked Salmon Look, Smell, And Feel Like?

Perhaps you’re not too sure how smoked salmon is supposed to look, smell, and feel. Here are pointers to help you tell fresh from foul smoked salmon.

Characteristics of Good Smoked SalmonCharacteristics of Bad Smoked Salmon
A bright coral color; no moldA dull, grayish, or greenish color; possible mold
Subtle fish and smoky smellStrong fishy, sour, rotten, or sulfurous smell
Soft pliable texture; slightly slimy and stickyVery slimy and sticky to touch

How To Safely Store Smoked Salmon 

Now that you know the warning signs of salmon that’s gone bad, let’s get stuck into tips for storing good smoked salmon properly, so you can keep it in top condition for you to eat. 

Tip # 1: Refrigerate Smoked Salmon To Keep It Good 

Get your smoked salmon inside your fridge as quickly as you can after buying it. If it’s a hot day or you’re serious about keeping your fish fresh, you could take a cooler and ice with you to chill your salmon while you shop. 

It’s unlikely that your smoked salmon will go bad from being unrefrigerated for half an hour or so, but put it in the fridge as soon as possible to minimize the chance that bacteria will take hold. If smoked salmon has been out of the fridge for hours, play it safe by tossing it (especially if it’s been in the sun). 

Once you’ve opened the package, remove just what you’ll eat immediately, keeping the rest refrigerated. Next, tightly wrap the leftover fish in plastic or aluminum wrap, or move it to a zipper bag or container with a tightly fitting lid.  

Store an opened package of smoked salmon properly, and it can stay good to eat for about a week. 

Tip # 2: Freeze Smoked Salmon To Keep It Good 

You can preserve your smoked salmon’s goodness for three months or so by popping it into the freezer. First, freeze the fish in its original vacuum packaging or zipper freezer bags (squeeze out the air before you tightly seal the bags), making sure you get it on ice by its freeze-by date (if it has one). 

The safest way to thaw frozen smoked salmon is in the fridge overnight. It should stay good for up to three days after thawing if kept refrigerated. 

For speedier results, defrost your salmon in a bowl or sink of cold water (keep the fish tightly wrapped in its packaging). If you use this quicker method, eat the fish soon after thawed. 

Final Thoughts

Use your senses to tell if smoked salmon is spoiled. A dull or greenish color, mold, off smell, and super-slimy texture all show that your salmon’s time is up. Knowing how smoked salmon has been stored can also give you a clue as to whether it’s likely to have spoiled. 

Smoked salmon that has been properly refrigerated or frozen will be the safest – and tastiest – to eat. On the flip side, eating salmon that’s been in the sun for hours is a health no-no. 

So throw out what’s left from your BBQ and put some avocado on your bagel instead! 

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