How Long Does Fish Last in the Fridge (Raw, Cooked & Canned)

by Ella

Fish is a delectable and nutritious protein source that graces dinner tables around the world. Whether you enjoy a succulent salmon steak, a flaky white fish fillet, or a flavorful tuna salad, incorporating fish into your diet can be a delightful culinary experience. However, to savor the taste and reap the health benefits, it is essential to store fish properly. This article explores the ins and outs of storing fish in the fridge, answering the age-old question: how long does fish last in the fridge?

Factors Affecting Fish Shelf Life

Before we delve into the specific timeframes for storing fish in the fridge, it’s essential to understand the key factors that influence the shelf life of fish. Several factors can either extend or shorten the amount of time fish can be safely stored in the refrigerator:


1. Fish Type

The type of fish you’re dealing with significantly impacts its shelf life. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout tend to spoil more quickly than lean fish such as cod or flounder. This is because the higher fat content in fatty fish makes them more prone to rancidity.


2. Freshness at Purchase

The freshness of the fish at the time of purchase plays a vital role in determining how long it will last in the fridge. Choosing fish that is freshly caught or harvested is the first step in ensuring a longer shelf life.


3. Temperature

Temperature control is crucial when it comes to fish storage. The temperature in your refrigerator should be consistently set at or below 40°F (4°C) to slow down bacterial growth. Any temperature fluctuations can accelerate spoilage.


4. Packaging

Proper packaging is essential to keep fish fresh. Vacuum-sealed packaging or airtight containers help prevent exposure to air, which can lead to oxidation and spoilage. Additionally, avoid storing fish in packaging that has been damaged or compromised.

5. Handling

Proper handling practices, both before and after purchase, can impact the shelf life of fish. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw fish separate from ready-to-eat foods, and always wash your hands, utensils, and cutting boards after handling raw fish.

6. Time

Time is perhaps the most critical factor in fish storage. As a general rule, the sooner you consume fish after purchasing it, the better its quality will be. It’s essential to pay attention to expiration dates and storage guidelines provided by the seller.

How Long Can Fish Be Stored in the Fridge?

Now that we’ve established the factors influencing fish shelf life, let’s delve into specific recommendations for storing different types of fish in the fridge.

1. Fresh Whole Fish

When storing fresh whole fish in the refrigerator, you should aim to use it within 1 to 2 days of purchase. The sooner you cook or prepare it, the better. For optimal freshness, keep the fish in its original packaging or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent moisture loss and minimize exposure to air. Place it on a plate or tray to catch any potential drips and store it on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator, where temperatures are coldest.

2. Fresh Fish Fillets and Steaks

Fresh fish fillets and steaks, whether they are lean or fatty fish, should also be consumed within 1 to 2 days of purchase. As with whole fish, proper packaging and storage on the lower shelves of the fridge are essential. If the fish is not for immediate use, consider freezing it (we’ll discuss this later in the article).

3. Leftover Cooked Fish

Leftover cooked fish can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. To keep it fresh, place it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. It’s advisable to reheat cooked fish to 165°F (74°C) before consuming it to ensure it’s safe to eat.

4. Smoked Fish

Smoked fish, such as smoked salmon or trout, has a longer shelf life than fresh fish. When stored properly in the refrigerator, smoked fish can last for 1 to 2 weeks. Again, make sure it’s well-packaged to prevent exposure to air.

5. Canned Fish

Canned fish, like tuna or sardines, has an impressive shelf life, often lasting for years. Check the expiration date on the can, and once opened, transfer any leftover canned fish to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

See Also: 7 Tips For Buying Good Quality Canned Fish

6. Cooked Fish Dishes

If you’ve prepared a fish dish like a seafood stew or curry, it can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Ensure that it’s stored in an airtight container to maintain its flavor and quality.

7. Sushi and Sashimi

Sushi and sashimi, being raw fish, are highly perishable and should ideally be consumed on the same day they are prepared. If you have leftover sushi or sashimi, it can be stored in the refrigerator for a maximum of 24 hours. However, it’s essential to exercise caution and use sushi-grade fish to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Signs of Spoiled Fish

Recognizing the signs of spoiled fish is crucial for food safety. Consuming spoiled fish can lead to foodborne illnesses, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other health issues. Here are some common signs that fish may be spoiled:

Unpleasant Odor: Fresh fish should have a clean, briny scent reminiscent of the ocean. If the fish smells overly fishy, ammonia-like, or sour, it may be spoiled.

Slimy Texture: Fresh fish should have a moist but not slimy texture. If the surface feels excessively slimy, it may be a sign of bacterial growth.

Dull Appearance: Fresh fish should have vibrant, translucent flesh. If the flesh appears dull, discolored, or cloudy, it may be past its prime.

Off-putting Color: The color of the fish should be uniform and natural. If you notice any unusual discoloration or browning, it’s best to avoid consuming it.

Visible Mold: The presence of mold on the fish is a clear indication of spoilage. Discard the fish immediately if you see any mold growth.

Taste Test: If you’re unsure about the freshness of fish, you can perform a taste test. Fresh fish should taste clean and mild, without any off or sour flavors. If it tastes off, it’s better to err on the side of caution and not consume it.

See Also: How to Tell If Fish Is Bad: Tips & Tricks

Tips for Selecting Fresh Fish

Choosing fresh fish at the store or market is the first step in ensuring a longer shelf life once you get it home. Here are some tips to help you select the freshest fish:

Check the Eyes: If you’re buying whole fish, examine the eyes. They should be clear, bright, and slightly bulging. Cloudy or sunken eyes are a sign of aging or deterioration.

Look for Shiny Skin: The skin of the fish should be shiny and metallic, not dull or dry.

Gills Inspection: If you can access the gills (common with whole fish), they should be vibrant red or pink, not gray or brown.

Firmness: Press the fish gently with your finger. Fresh fish should spring back and feel firm to the touch. Avoid fish that leaves an indentation.

Smell Test: Give the fish a sniff. It should have a clean, briny scent. Avoid fish with a strong, fishy, or ammonia-like odor.

Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask the fishmonger or store staff for information about the fish’s freshness and source. They can provide valuable insights.

Buy from Reputable Sources: Whenever possible, buy fish from reputable fishmongers, markets, or seafood counters known for their high-quality seafood.

Refrigeration Tips for Fish

Proper refrigeration is essential to maximize the shelf life of fish and prevent spoilage. Here are some guidelines to follow when storing fish in the fridge:

Maintain a Cold Temperature: Ensure that your refrigerator is set at or below 40°F (4°C) to slow down bacterial growth. Use a refrigerator thermometer to verify the temperature.

Store on the Lowest Shelf: Keep fish on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator, preferably in the back where temperatures are the coldest.

Use Airtight Containers: Store fish in airtight containers or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to minimize exposure to air.

Keep It Dry: Place a plate or tray underneath the fish to catch any moisture or drips. Excess moisture can lead to bacterial growth.

Avoid Overcrowding: Do not overcrowd the fridge with fish or other foods, as this can hinder air circulation and temperature control.

Check Expiration Dates: Always check the expiration date on packaged fish and use it before the date indicated.

Label and Date: If you’re storing fish in a container, label it with the date of purchase or the date it was cooked. This helps you keep track of its freshness.

Freezing Fish

If you’re not planning to use the fish within the recommended timeframes for refrigeration, freezing is an excellent option to extend its shelf life. Proper freezing techniques can help preserve the quality and flavor of fish for an extended period. Here’s how to freeze fish effectively:

Wrap It Well: Wrap the fish tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. For added protection, you can place it in an airtight freezer bag.

Label and Date: Clearly label the package with the type of fish and the date it was frozen. This makes it easier to identify and use later.

Remove Air: If using a plastic freezer bag, try to remove as much air as possible before sealing it to prevent freezer burn.

Use a Freezer: Place the wrapped fish in the coldest part of your freezer, ideally at -0°F (-18°C) or lower.

Thaw Safely: When you’re ready to use the frozen fish, thaw it in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. Slow, controlled thawing in the fridge helps maintain its quality and safety.


Fish is a delectable and nutritious addition to any diet, but its perishable nature demands proper handling and storage. Understanding how long fish can last in the fridge and the factors influencing its shelf life is crucial to ensure your seafood remains safe and delicious.

By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can confidently select, store, and enjoy fish without worrying about spoilage or foodborne illnesses. Remember that freshness is key, so make informed choices at the market, store fish properly, and use it within the recommended timeframes for the best culinary experience. Whether you’re preparing a seafood feast or a simple weeknight dinner, these practices will help you make the most of this fantastic protein source.



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