Shelf Life of Seafood & How to Store It (Fresh+Cooked)

by Ella

Seafood, a culinary symphony of flavors and textures, holds a special place in kitchens around the world. From the delicate sweetness of scallops to the robust richness of salmon, the treasures of the ocean grace our tables with their distinct allure. Yet, the key to unlocking the full potential of seafood lies not only in its preparation but also in its preservation. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the art and science of proper seafood storage, unveiling the secrets to maintaining freshness, preventing spoilage, and savoring the ocean’s bounty to its fullest extent.

Seafood Storage Times

Fresh Seafood:

1. Fresh Fish (Whole or Fillets): Fresh fish can typically last in the refrigerator for about 1 to 2 days. It’s best to consume it as soon as possible for optimal flavor and texture.


2. Shellfish (Shrimp, Crab, Lobster, etc.): Shellfish should be cooked or consumed within 1 to 2 days of purchase for the best quality.


3. Live Shellfish (Clams, Mussels, Oysters): Live shellfish should be cooked and consumed as soon as possible after purchase. If they are tightly closed, they can last in the refrigerator for up to 1 to 2 days.


See Also: How Long Do Crab Legs Last in The Freezer?


Cooked Seafood:

1. Cooked Fish: Cooked fish can last in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days. Make sure to store it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly to prevent moisture loss.

2. Cooked Shellfish: Cooked shellfish, such as shrimp or crab, can also last for about 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator when properly stored.

3. Cooked Clams, Mussels, Oysters: These should be consumed within 1 to 2 days of cooking for the best quality.

See Also: A Comprehensive Guide to Cooked Lobster Storage & Shelf Life

How to Store Seafood

Storing seafood properly is essential to maintain its freshness, flavor, and safety. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to store different types of seafood:

Fresh Fish:

Keep the fish in its original packaging if it’s vacuum-sealed or wrapped by the fishmonger.

If the packaging is not airtight, wrap the fish in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container to prevent exposure to air and moisture.

Store the wrapped fish on a plate or tray to catch any drips.

Place the wrapped fish in the coldest part of your refrigerator, ideally at a temperature between 32°F and 38°F (0°C to 3°C).

Use the fish within 1-2 days for optimal freshness.

Shellfish (Shrimp, Crab, Lobster, etc.):

If you bought shellfish in a mesh bag, transfer them to a breathable container like a bowl covered with a damp cloth or paper towels.

For longer storage, store the shellfish in a bowl covered with a damp cloth or paper towels to maintain moisture.

Keep the container on the lower shelves of your refrigerator, away from other foods.

Use shellfish within 1-2 days for best quality.

Fresh Clams, Mussels, and Oysters:

Discard any broken or open shellfish.

Place the live shellfish in a breathable container like a bowl or mesh bag.

Cover the shellfish with a damp cloth or paper towels to maintain humidity.

Store the container in the refrigerator’s vegetable or crisper drawer.

Use live shellfish within 1-2 days, and make sure they are tightly closed before cooking.

Cooked Seafood:

Store cooked seafood in an airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate cooked seafood promptly, ideally within 2 hours of cooking.

Consume cooked seafood within 3-4 days for the best quality.

Frozen Seafood:

Freeze seafood as soon as possible after purchase.

If the seafood is not already vacuum-sealed, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then place it in a freezer-safe bag or container.

Label the packaging with the type of seafood and the date of freezing.

Store frozen seafood in the coldest part of the freezer at 0°F (-18°C) or lower.

Use frozen seafood within 3-6 months for optimal flavor and quality.

See Also: How to Cook Frozen Shrimp & 10 Recipes!

Thawing Frozen Seafood:

Thaw seafood in the refrigerator by placing it on a plate or tray to catch any drips. Allow several hours or overnight for larger items.

For quicker thawing, place the seafood in a sealed plastic bag and submerge it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.

Cook thawed seafood immediately; do not refreeze unless it has been cooked.

Seafood Storage Tips

Quick Chilling: To prolong seafood freshness, promptly chill it after purchase or preparation. Placing seafood in a bowl of ice or using a refrigerator thermometer can help achieve the ideal temperature.

Proper Packaging: Use airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags to prevent exposure to air and moisture, which can accelerate spoilage.

Labeling and Rotation: Properly label and date seafood containers to ensure timely consumption. Practicing the “first in, first out” principle helps avoid wastage.

Can I store seafood with other foods in the refrigerator?

Yes, you can store seafood with other foods in the refrigerator, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure both food safety and quality:

Cross-Contamination: Seafood can carry bacteria and juices that might cross-contaminate other foods, especially those that won’t be cooked before consumption. To prevent this, store seafood in a way that prevents its juices from coming into contact with other foods.

Packaging: Always ensure that seafood is properly wrapped or contained to prevent any leakage or drips. Use airtight containers or resealable bags to contain any liquids.

Storage: Store seafood on the lowest shelves of the refrigerator to prevent any accidental drips onto foods stored below. This also prevents seafood from contaminating ready-to-eat foods like fruits, vegetables, and leftovers.

How do I know if seafood has gone bad?

Knowing when seafood has gone bad is crucial for ensuring your health and safety. Here are some signs to look for to determine if seafood has spoiled:

Off-Putting Odor: Fresh seafood should have a clean, ocean-like smell. If you detect a strong, foul, or ammonia-like odor, it’s a sign that the seafood has started to spoil.

Sliminess: If the seafood feels excessively slimy or sticky to the touch, it has likely begun to deteriorate. Fresh seafood should have a firm texture.

Discoloration: Look for any significant changes in color. For example, if fish turns from bright and translucent to dull and opaque, or if shellfish shells change color, it could indicate spoilage.

Deteriorated Texture: Fresh seafood should have a firm and resilient texture. If the flesh is mushy, falls apart easily, or is overly soft, it’s a sign of spoilage.

Bulging or Open Packaging: If the packaging of pre-packaged seafood appears swollen, bulging, or compromised, it may have been exposed to harmful bacteria and should be discarded. Similarly, if cans of seafood are dented or swollen, they should not be consumed.

Excessive Ice Crystals or Freezer Burn: For frozen seafood, excessive ice crystals or freezer burn (dry, white patches on the surface) can indicate improper storage and potential spoilage.

See Also: 6 Healthiest Shellfish & Their Health benefits


The question of how long seafood is good in the fridge is a multifaceted journey that intertwines science, culinary wisdom, and mindful consumption. By adhering to proper storage practices, recognizing signs of spoilage, and embracing sustainable choices, we embark on a voyage of culinary exploration that celebrates the ocean’s bountiful treasures. As we navigate the symphony of seafood shelf life, let us savor each succulent bite with appreciation for the delicate balance between nature’s offerings and our responsible stewardship.



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