There are plenty of varieties of fish and seafood available in the store. Before you purchase anything, you’ll want to know the answer to the question how long does fish last in the fridge. Taking proper care of fish in the fridge, whether raw or cooked, will save you headaches and even stomachaches in the future.
So what does the United States Department of Agriculture have to say on the matter? They recommend only one to two days for raw fish and seafood, while you should be good for three to four days after cooking. What makes seafood last less in the fridge than other meats like steak?
Read on and we’ll talk about all of that plus how to prolong the life of your fresh, raw fish and your cooked fish.
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How Long Can Fresh Fish Last In The Fridge?
Whether you picked up fish from a fishmonger or just at your local grocery store, you need to know that you shouldn’t keep it raw in your fridge for longer than a couple of days. That’s less than if you bought steaks or pork chops. Why does fresh, raw fish last only a couple of days in the fridge?
The biggest reason fish doesn’t last as long as meat from land animals in the fridge is because fish live in a much colder environment. The bacteria in fish are used to living in those environments, so a fridge (even one kept just a few degrees over freezing) isn’t much different for that bacteria. This is similar for shrimp.
That cold environment also means that fish are full of unsaturated fats, unlike land animals that have more saturated fat. Those unsaturated fats stay liquid at cooler temperatures, much to the benefit of the fish. However, those same unsaturated fats react with oxygen more quickly than saturated fats. That leads to a quicker onset of rancidity and spoiling.
So while you may be used to raw meat lasting three to five days in the fridge, don’t bank on your fresh, raw fish doing the same. If you’re buying raw fish from the grocery store, plan on cooking the fish as soon as possible.
When storing fresh, raw fish in the fridge, you want to keep it in the coldest place in the fridge with the least chance of contamination possible. That means the back of the bottom shelf of your fridge. Fish juices can’t leak all over other food if something goes wrong nor do you have to worry about crazy temperature fluctuations.
So that’s raw fish, but how long is cooked fish good in the fridge?
How Long Does Cooked Fish Last In The Fridge?
Whether you cooked some thawed fish from your freezer or cooked it fresh from the store, sometimes you still end up with leftovers. You don’t want it to go to waste, and the USDA (in the same post cited above) states you have a maximum of four days to eat it.
If you’re going to have leftover fish, how can you avoid ruining it or filling the air with the unpleasant fishy smell synonymous with fish in the microwave?
How To Reheat Fish Without Ruining It
The biggest concern with reheating fish is drying it out and making it tough to chew. That means you need to have a plan for locking moisture in during the heating process. Preheat your oven to 275°F. While your oven is preheating, loosely wrap your fish in aluminum foil. This will help keep moisture surrounding your fish rather than escaping into the air.
If your fish is already looking a little dry or you’re concerned, add a little splash of water to the foil before closing up your fish package. Once your oven is preheated, put the foil-wrapped fish into the oven for approximately 15 minutes. You want to make sure your fish reaches an internal temperature of 120-130°F so it is thoroughly reheated but not overcooked.
Can You Use A Microwave To Reheat Fish?
If you want your house or workplace to smell like fish and for the fish to be dried out, yes. Otherwise, keep your fish away from the microwave. It’s going to dry it out and leave an unpleasant texture. Plus, wherever you reheat fish in a microwave is going to have an unpleasant fishy smell.
So what happens if you know you can’t cook your fish within that one-to-two day range?
How To Prolong The Life Of Your Raw Fish
If you know you’re buying fresh fish but aren’t going to be able to cook it within two days, you need to have a plan to keep it safe. In the same post by the USDA that covers how long can fresh fish stay in a fridge, they say that frozen fish can stay as long as you need in the freezer. However, they have a recommendation of using frozen raw fish within eight months of freezing.
So how do you preserve your raw fish in the freezer? A vacuum sealer is your best option. It prevents any air gaps and moisture loss to ensure the best quality fish when you go to thaw it. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you’re not out of luck. Below is one of the top Vacuum Sealers on the market today. They are so handy to have.
The next-best option is wrapping your fish tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil then putting it into a freezer-safe bag. Just like with the vacuum sealer, the goal is no air gaps around the fish. This is to help prevent as much chance as possible of your fish getting freezer burn.
Avoid Freezer Burn
Here’s a quick refresher on freezer burn and how it happens. Freezer burn is moisture being pulled from the outer layer of meat due to exposure to cold, dry air. This typically results in ice crystals forming on the exterior of the meat and dehydrated meat. It’s still technically fine to eat, but it can have a bad effect on the texture and taste.
Ensuring there’s no gap between the first layer of protective material and the fish will help prevent direct contact between the fish and the air. The second layer is added protection to keep the wrap from tearing in the freezer.
If you want to freeze cooked fish, you can follow the same procedures as the fresh, raw fish. You do want to make sure your cooked fish has cooled completely before vacuum sealing it or wrapping it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. From there, put your fish in a freezer bag and store it for up to three months for best quality when you thaw it.
Then the logical question is how do you thaw frozen fish when you want to have it again?
How To Thaw Frozen Fish
Just like reheating cooked fish, keep your frozen fish away from the microwave. The best way to thaw your frozen fish is to put it in the fridge the morning of the day you want to eat it. You can even put the fish in the fridge the night before. Just like when storing fresh fish, put it on the bottom shelf to ensure no escaping fish juices mess up other food.
If you realize you forgot to put the frozen fish in the fridge in the morning but still want fish for dinner, there’s another way to thaw it without touching that microwave. Place your frozen fish, still in its proper packaging, in a large bowl and submerge it in cold water. Don’t use hot water because it can cause textural issues as well as promote bacterial growth. If you use ice-cold water, the thawing process will take too long. Dump and replace the water every 20-30 minutes until the fish is thawed.
How Do You Know If Your Fish Has Gone Bad?
Whether it’s the second day that you’ve had raw fish or the fourth day you’ve had cooked fish in the fridge, you could be understandably nervous that something has gone wrong. You need to know how to identify when raw or cooked fish has spoiled.
How To Tell If Raw Fish Has Spoiled
There are a few signs you can look for when checking your raw fish to make sure it’s okay to eat.
- Overly fishy/rotten smell
- Bluish-gray flesh
- Slimy or sticky texture
Fresh fish should not have much of a smell at all. Certain types of Coldwater fish might even smell faintly of the ocean. Any scent of rotting meat or a heavy fishy smell is a bad sign. When looking at the fish, it should be the expected color. No fish should have a bluish-gray tint to it. When you touch raw fish, it should be wet and firm, not slimy or sticky.
How To Tell If Cooked Fish Has Spoiled
The signs of cooked fish that have spoiled are similar to raw fish when it spoils. If your cooked fish smells rotten or like ammonia, it’s gone bad. Texturally, if your cooked fish is slimy or mushy, you need to throw it away. If the cooked fish looks different from when you put it in the fridge, primarily dulling or looking darker, it might have gone bad too.
When you buy fresh, raw fish from the grocery store, you should only keep it one or two days in your fridge before either cooking it or freezing it. Once you’ve cooked fish, you should only keep it in the fridge for three to four days before eating it or freezing it.
What’s your favorite type of fish to cook and how do you cook it? Let us know in the comments!