ARTICLE / KITCHEN TIPS

The Complete Guide to Salmon: Buying & Storing Salmon

Part two of our comprehensive guide on salmon focusing on how to buy salmon, how to store salmon and everything in between.

How to buy fresh salmon

When you’re buying fresh salmon at the grocery store, first consider how the salmon looks. It should be light pink if it’s farmed salmon and dark pink if it’s wild-caught salmon. It shouldn’t have any gray areas or brown blemishes. It should look moist and firm. But you should use your instincts: if it looks bad, it probably is bad.

When you’ve made your selection, smell the salmon before you commit to buying it. It shouldn’t smell fishy even when your nose is next to it. It should have a mild, seabreeze scent, but you should have to put effort into smelling it to get a reading. Again, use your instincts: if it smells bad, it probably is bad.

How much does salmon cost?

Salmon is sold by the pound or by ounces. For a 6-oz. serving of wild salmon, you can expect to spend $6 to $12. Farm-raised salmon costs a little bit less. A 6-oz. serving of farm-raised salmon might cost you $6 to $8 a piece. Smoked salmon costs a bit more -- it might cost double of what you’d spend for fresh salmon.

Wild vs. Farmed Salmon

Wild-caught salmon is fished from its natural habitat in or near the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Alaska and California. Wild salmon often comes with a higher price tag because of its limited supply but it’s also available frozen and canned year round.

Farmed salmon is usually labeled Atlantic salmon (link to Atlantic salmon article) whether it’s raised in Chile, Norway, or British Columbia. The salmon is raised in a contained area with a controlled environment and diet.

How to buy salmon for sushi

If you’re buying salmon for sushi, you’ll probably see a section of fish labeled “sushi-grade,” but that’s really just for marketing purposes. For sushi and eating raw salmon for things like poke bowls, just make sure you’re buying the freshest farmed salmon that’s available. Most raw salmon you find at markets has been frozen, which kills parasites, but if you plan to eat the fish raw, understand that there is a risk of food borne illness.

How to buy wild salmon

For wild salmon, if you want it to be fresh, you should buy it based on the time of year. Wild salmon is harvested as early as June and as late as September. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get wild salmon at other times of the year. Frozen wild salmon is sometimes considered better than fresh salmon because it’s frozen (almost) fresh off the boat and then it’s shipped. The quality of fresh wild salmon starts to deteriorate as soon as it’s harvested, but frozen salmon bypasses that part making it the superior choice.

How do I know salmon is fresh?

The two ways to determine if salmon is fresh is by appearance and smell. The flesh of the salmon should be firm and pink and the scent should be very mild -- it should smell like and ocean breeze. If it smells fishy, skip it.

How to buy salmon at a grocery store

If you’re buying salmon at the grocery store, it’s probably been flash-frozen first and then thawed to be put on display. There’s nothing wrong with that -- it’s probably better that way than having fresh fish shipped in because any time in transit is time for the quality to diminish. That said, always make sure the flesh is pink, moist (but not slimy), and doesn’t look dried out or wilted. When you smell it, it shouldn’t smell like much of anything but salty, ocean air. A fishy smell means it’s past its prime.

How to buy frozen salmon

Most frozen salmon will be wrapped tightly in packaging, which makes it difficult to tell if it’s good or not. That means you should pay attention to how the salmon looks when you unwrap it. The most important thing to look for is whether or not ice crystals have formed. Ice crystals means that it’s been frozen, thawed, and frozen again. That makes it difficult to determine if it’s OK to eat. The other thing to look for is freezer burn. If fish has freezer burn, the flesh around the edges will be visibly dry and a lighter color than the rest of the fish.

How to buy smoked salmon

How you buy smoked salmon depends on what kind of smoked salmon you want. There’s cold smoked salmon which is first cured in salt and then smoked at a low temperature -- typically 80 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. The result is a very smooth, translucent flesh that’s best served in thin slices. Hot smoked salmon is cured and then smoked at a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. It yields something more like cooked salmon -- it’s opaque, flaky, and has a very smoky flavor. When buying either cold smoked or hot smoked salmon, pay attention to the expiration date. After opening, it will last in the refrigerator for a week.

How to buy salmon roe

Also referred to as red caviar or ikura, salmon roe is a specialty item that you can buy fresh or canned. Pink salmon, the most plentiful Pacific salmon, has the most popular roe. Pink salmon roe is medium-sized. If you want larger eggs, chum roe is an option. If you want smaller eggs, look for sockeye roe. If you buy roe in a jar is that there will be preservatives because it is required by law to keep it safe. If you’re buying frozen roe, you can find it without preservatives, just make sure that it’s flash frozen and packaged in a vacuum sealed in a transparent container.

How to buy salmon cheap

If you want sustainably raised salmon, first check the recommendations from SeafoodWatch.org. If you want to buy the least expensive salmon, look for Atlantic salmon because it’s farmed and, therefore, less expensive. But if you must have wild caught Alaska salmon, buy it between May and July for the best quality. However, it will be a bit more expensive. Finding it frozen is your best bet for inexpensive uncooked salmon, but if your recipe calls for pre-cooked salmon, canned salmon is a very inexpensive option.

Storing Salmon

Storing Salmon

How long is salmon good for?

Fresh salmon does not last very long without refrigeration. Unrefrigerated raw salmon lasts for about two hours before it starts breaking down.

How long is salmon good for in the fridge?

Salmon and other fish and seafood does not keep for very long -- at most, fresh, raw salmon will last two days in your refrigerator. To be safe, if you buy fresh salmon, plan to cook it the same night. Frozen fish should be thawed and cooked the same day. You can keep fish in the freezer indefinitely and safety won’t be an issue, but quality will diminish over time.

How to store salmon in the fridge

If you want your raw salmon to last as long as possible without freezing it, pack it in ice in the refrigerator to slow down decomposition.

How long can raw salmon sit out?

Raw salmon can sit out for about two hours before it starts spoiling.

How long is sushi grade salmon good for?

Because sushi grade salmon is raw, it lasts for about two days if it’s refrigerated. If it’s sitting out, it will be OK to eat for about two hours.

How long is smoked salmon good for?

You can keep an unopened package of smoked salmon in the refrigerator for two weeks. After opening, smoked salmon lasts about a week in the refrigerator.

How do you store salmon roe?

An unopened jar of salmon roe can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Once a jar of roe is opened, it should be eaten immediately, but it will last in the refrigerator for two days, three days at most.

How do you store salmon patties?

If you make salmon patties and want to store them raw, they will be OK in the refrigerator for up to two days. You can keep them in the freezer as long as you want, but the quality starts to go down after about three months. Cooked salmon patties will last in the refrigerator for two days and in the freezer for about six months without losing quality.

How do you freeze salmon?

If you want to freeze raw salmon, rinse it, pat it dry, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, place it in an airtight container and freeze it. Make sure to label it with the date and use it within three months. To freeze cooked salmon, place it in an airtight container, label it with the date, and use it within six months.

What is the best way to freeze salmon?

The best way to freeze raw salmon is to rinse it, pat it dry, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Then place in a container, date it, and freeze it. Use it within three months for the optimum quality.

How long can you store salmon in the freezer?

You can store raw salmon in the freezer for three months before the quality starts to go down. Cooked salmon can be stored in the freezer for six months before it starts losing its quality.

Can you freeze fresh salmon from the grocery store?

You can freeze fresh salmon from the grocery for up to three months.

Can you freeze raw salmon?

You can freeze raw salmon wrapped tightly in plastic for up to three months before the quality starts to diminish.

Does freezing salmon ruin it/Is it bad to freeze salmon?

Freezing salmon is a great way to store salmon raw or cooked. The quality will start to go down for raw salmon after three months and six months for cooked salmon.

Can salmon be refrozen?

You should avoid refreezing salmon unless it was thawed properly and never reached room temperature. If you refreeze salmon that was already brought up to room temperature, it’s at risk for foodborne illness.

Can you freeze cooked salmon?

You can freeze cooked salmon, tightly wrapped in plastic for up to six months without it losing quality.

Can you cook frozen salmon?

If you want to cook a salmon filet that’s frozen solid, you can cook salmon without thawing it first. It’s best to cook frozen salmon in tightly covered baking dish in the oven, but it will take a bit longer for the salmon to reach the safe internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it’s ideal to defrost it first in the refrigerator overnight, under cold running water, or in the microwave.

Can you freeze smoked salmon?

You can freeze smoked salmon for up to six months without compromising quality. If the package has been opened, wrap the smoked salmon tightly in plastic.

How do you defrost salmon?

The best way to defrost salmon is by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. However, you can thaw frozen salmon in the microwave using the “defrost” function, you just need an accurate weight of the salmon you are thawing so you don’t accidentally cook it. The one thing you should keep in mind is that when you remove it from the microwave, the salmon should still be very cold.

How long is salmon good for after thawing?

After thawing, uncooked salmon is good up to two days in the refrigerator.

How to defrost salmon overnight?

If you want to defrost your salmon overnight, place it in a bowl in the refrigerator. It should be cold but supple when it’s ready.

How to defrost salmon in hot water?

You should not thaw salmon in hot water; it puts you at risk for foodborne illness. If you want to thaw salmon in water, put the salmon (wrapped in plastic) in a bowl and leave it in the sink with the faucet streaming cold water over it.

How do you defrost salmon fillets?

The best way to defrost or thaw salmon fillets is by putting them in the refrigerator overnight. However, they can be thawed in the microwave if you know the weight of the fillets to be entered into your microwave on defrost mode. You can also place it in a bowl under cold running water until it’s pliable.

How long is thawed salmon good for vacuum sealed?

After vacuum sealed salmon is thawed, it will last in the refrigerator for about two days.

How long is cooked salmon good for?

Cooked salmon can last for two days in the refrigerator. If you leave it out, cooked salmon is good for about two hours.

How long does cooked salmon last in the fridge?

You can keep cooked salmon in the refrigerator for up to two days before it starts to spoil.

How long can cooked fish sit out?

Like with most opened, perishable foods, cooked salmon can sit out for up to two hours and still be safely eaten.

Can you freeze cooked salmon?

You can freeze cooked salmon if you wrap it tightly in plastic or in an airtight container.

How can you tell salmon is bad?

If salmon is bad, it will be slimy and have an unmistakable fishy smell. It also may have brown spots or discoloration.

Can you eat salmon a day out of date?

Expiration dates and use by dates should be used as guides, which means they can be good a day after the date printed on the packaging and it’s possible for the fish to spoil before the date (though it is unlikely).

What happens if you eat old salmon?

You probably won’t get sick if you eat old salmon. The foodborne illnesses you could get from salmon are Ciguatera and Scombroid and

have nothing to do with the freshness of the fish. They’re caused by organisms salmon may eat, but it can’t be detected by sight or by odor and they can’t be killed by cooking.

How do you reheat salmon?

Salmon should be reheated in the oven at a low temperature with a heat-proof covering until it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, or 125 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re more concerned with flavor than safety. You should avoid reheating salmon in the microwave.

How do you reheat salmon in the microwave?

You should avoid reheating salmon in the microwave, but if you don’t have any other options, set the microwave it on low power (about 30 percent of full power) in 20 second intervals until it reaches the safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or 125 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re willing to risk safety for flavor.

How do you reheat salmon in the oven?

Salmon should be reheated in the oven at a temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. To prevent it from drying out, cover the salmon with aluminum foil. It should take 10 to 15 minutes to bring the internal temperature up. The safe internal temperature for reheating any cooked food is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you are not afraid of the risk, you can heat it to 125 degrees Fahrenheit without compromising its flavor and texture.