Surprising Signs That Your Seafood Has Gone Bad


Every now and then, a simple trip to the kitchen can turn into a miniature horror movie. All it takes is for you to open the fridge or freezer and see the fish you’ve been meaning to cook for a while.

Is it still good, or will it make you devastatingly sick? With fish, there’s not really anything in-between these extremes, and the average person often has trouble telling whether their fish has gone bad or not. But if you’re worried your fish is, er, fishy, our handy guide will help you discover whether your seafood has gone bad or not!

How long does seafood last? A weirdly tricky question

It would be very easy to tell if your fish has gone bad if it had a more definitive expiration date. Unfortunately, the most honest answer to “how long does seafood last” is “it depends on the seafood.”

For example, some people eat their fish fresh and some people freeze it to eat it for later. Because of this, fish may last anywhere between two days to several months before it goes bad. And that brings us to the good news and the bad news. The bad news is that it’s almost impossible to tell if your frozen seafood is still safe to eat or not. The good news is that when it comes to fresh seafood, there are a number of easy ways to tell whether it’s still good or not.

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Does your fish pass the sniff test?

Do you have some fresh fish in your fridge, and you’re wondering whether it is safe to cook and eat it? In that case, discovering whether it’s still safe to eat or not is easier than you might think. For example, you may have to do nothing more than follow your nose!

If fresh fish is still good, then it will, as a rule, smell “clean.” You might be thinking you don’t know what “clean” smells like, but trust us…you can definitely tell if the fish is smelling funky. And if you’re still not certain, see if the fish smells a bit like the beach. Why? When fresh fish is still safe to eat, it smells a bit like the ocean from whence it came! 

Easy ways to visually inspect the fish

When you’re inspecting fresh fish, you don’t have to limit yourself to your sense of smell. In fact, one of the most reliable ways to tell if the fish is still safe to eat is by giving it an old-fashioned visual inspection.

To start with, take a close look at the eyes of the fish…they should look clear instead of dirty or cloudy. Next, take a look at the skin of the fish: as long as it’s bright and shiny, the fish is likely safe to eat. With these visual clues, you may be able to ascertain whether it’s safe to continue with your fresh fish diet, and the rest of our tips will help you get absolutely certain before you tuck into dinner.

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Is the uncooked fish fresh? Trust your feelings (literally)

If you’re still not sure whether your uncooked fish is safe to consume or not, there is one more trick you can try. And that’s to touch the fish and see how it feels. In many cases, this can provide the final clue as to how safe the fish is.

For instance, if the fresh fish hasn’t turned gray (which is an instant clue that it’s gone bad), you should reach out and touch it. If the flesh feels firm, it’s likely safe, but if the flesh has a mushy texture, then it’s probably dangerous to eat. And you may be able to make a decision as soon as you touch the fish. That’s because as soon as it feels overly slimy, then it’s time to toss that fish out rather than risk cooking it.

Top tips for inspecting cooked fish

So far, our tips have focused on figuring out whether your uncooked fish is safe to cook and eat. But that brings us to the next big question: if the fish has already been cooked, then how can you tell whether it has gone bad or not?

If you just want a good rule of thumb, then you shouldn’t try to eat any cooked seafood that is more than three days old. If you want to personally inspect it, though, then you can start with a visual inspection: if there is any mold on the fish, then throw it out right away. Additionally, some of the tips from before still work: if the fish smells funky rather than fresh, you need to toss it into the garbage. Finally, give it a quick touch: if the fish feels very dry to your touch, then you shouldn’t risk eating it.

And “risk” is the keyword here: never forget that it’s very dangerous to consume fish that has gone bad. Whenever you’re not entirely sure if the seafood is still good or not, we recommend playing it safe and not trying to eat it.

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