Similar to chicken, fish has a very limited time it can sit out at room temperature before it spoils. According to USDA, it is 2 hours at room temperature for both fresh fish and cooked fish. If you want to keep fish for a longer period of time frozen fish will last for 3-6 months depending on the fish.
Fish is a very delicate protein so we would advise following some rules when it comes to how long it could stay out. Times will vary depending on if its cooked, raw, cold, room temp, or even frozen.
Fish is also one of the few types of meat that have different freezing methods and storage methods depending on species of fish.
Continue reading for detailed information
How long can fresh fish sit at room temperature?
It is recommended that raw fish wouldn’t stay at room temperature for more than 2 hours before it needs to be discarded or placed back inside of the fridge. After the 2 hours at room temperature, you risk the chance of bacteria starting to grow on the fish.
If the temperature is even higher then the time threshold gets smaller and bacteria can grow even quicker.
Interesting (and scary!) fact is that bacteria doubles in quantity in just 20 minutes of time.
How long can fresh fish sit in the fridge?
When it comes to storing fish in the fridge, the rule of thumb is between 1-2 days before you either need to cook it, freeze or throw it away.
Interestingly, the amount of time that fish can stay in the fridge varies depending on the type of fish.
For example, fish such as bass, flounder, tuna, swordfish, trout, and salmon can be fresh in the fridge between 3-5 days whereas fish that are slightly oilier like mackerel, sardines, and bluefish have a freshness window of between 2-3 days. If you are unsure it is best to stay within the 2-3 window that way you will always remain on the safe side.
How long can cooked fish sit at room temperature?
No matter if it is raw or cooked, according to USDA any fish, can stay out no longer than 2 hours. It will still develop the same amount of bacteria and you have a chance of getting food poisoning.
Once the fish is cooked you can always place it into in the fridge where it should last a few days longer, or freeze it to last the longest.
This rule form USDA for cooked proteins seems very strict and from our experience (we guess yours as well) we keep cooked food at room temperature in events like birthdays, weddings, or other celebrations for way longer.
Usually, cooked food will not go bad that quick, but it depends on quite a few conditions; temperature, humidity, etc. If you want to keep fish at room temperature for longer than 2 hours always make sure to use your best judgment. Smell the fish, touch the fish, even have a little bite. If anything doesn’t seem right don’t consume it.
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How long can cooked fish sit in the fridge?
When cooked fish is stored properly, you can keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days. It is recommended to eat it the day it is cooked for the best quality, but if you do have leftovers it is best to store them in the fridge and consume in the next 3-4 days.
How long can smoked fish sit at room temperature?
Smoked fish is a little more lenient when it comes to how long it can stay out at room temperature. While fresh or cooked fish can only stay out for 1-2 hours; smoked fish can stay out for 3 hours by the USDA recommendations.
Why smoked fish can stay out longer than fresh fish? The smoking process preserves the fish and allows it to stay out slightly longer. This makes smoked fish a perfect dish to serve catering events where food sits out longer than usual.
Can you freeze fish?
Yes, you can definitely freeze fish if you would like to keep it for a longer period of time! Most people prefer to freeze it in an airtight container. This not only allows the fish to stay frozen longer but also prevents fish smell spreading in the freezer or drawing up the smell of other proteins like meat.
Some people sometimes freeze their fish with water, however, by doing this it may lose some of its flavors when you defrost it. So we would advise it to store it in an airtight container without water.
How long can you freeze fish?
How long fish can be frozen depends on the type of fish you are freezing. Fatty fish such as trout and salmon can only be frozen for 3 months. Less fatty fresh fish can be frozen for up to 6 months if you wrap it correctly in an airtight container.
Can you freeze cooked fish?
Many people hate to waste food, but sometimes we tend to cook more portions than we can consume, so instead of throwing the food away the next best thing after chilling it in the fridge is to freeze it.
Cooked fish can be frozen to prevent leftovers from going to waste. Unlike fresh fish, cooked fish can only be frozen for a month.
How to know when fresh fish has gone bad?
There are a few ways to tell if your fresh fish has gone bad. One way you can tell is by feeling the fish itself. If it is slimy to the touch then that means that there are bacteria on it and it is starting to spoil. Most people think that by washing it off you can wash away the bacteria; however, the meat itself is already crawling with bacteria by this point.
Another way to tell is by smelling it, if the fish has an overpowering smell of fish then this is a good indicator that the fish is starting to go bad, and it would be best to simply throw it away. Fresh fish of course has a fish smell but it is not overpowering in any way.
How to know when cooked fish has gone bad?
Telling how cooked fish has gone bad is relatively close to telling how fresh fish has gone bad. If it is starting to spoil the fish will start to get a slimy texture to the skin, often at times the slime will have a cloudy look to it, while other times it will be clear, it all depends on how long it has been sitting out.
As always it is good to smell fish. If it has a rotten meaty smell or a very pungent fishy smell it is probably starting to spoil.
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