How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last. Info and Advice

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How long does smoked salmon last is a question many seasoned cooks have asked over the years. In this article we will explain how long does smoked salmon last and even provide some useful information for you to use while cooking and storing your salmon. 

Main topics on how long does smoked salmon last 

Are you looking for a way to add a fine-dining feel to your regular salad? Do you want to make your homemade soup transform into something gourmet-style?

A few pieces of smoked salmon can do the trick. Smoked salmon is a magical ingredient that changes a home-cooked meal into a restaurant-quality dish.

But if you stock up on at home, how long does smoked salmon last before you have to discard it?  

Since smoked salmon is a little on the expensive side, most of us tend to purchase a big stock to avail of a big discount.

It's easy to get tempted that way. But the question is, will they go bad soon? Needless to say, the answer is "yes". It's fish, after all, and will go bad after some time. 

Smoked salmon can stay in good condition for a couple of days to 2-3 months, depending on storage.

how long does smoked salmon last

How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last

Smoked salmon is a delicacy that everyone loves. The process of smoking salmon is a tedious one, but the result is worth it.

Thankfully, you don't really have to do it at home, because smoked salmon is readily available at stores. But, how long will smoked salmon last in your house?

That depends on whether it is still packaged or not, and if it is frozen, refrigerated, or kept at room temperature. 

Unopened Package of Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon usually comes vacuum-packed, and the package has a "best by" or "sell by" date, which is the time by which you should consume the product.

This is usually 2-3 weeks from the manufacturing date. If you keep the unopened pack in the refrigerator, it will last for a maximum of 2-3 days past the "sell by" date.

Try to keep it in the coldest section of the fridge, which is usually the bottom shelf. 

To maximize the shelf life on an unopened pack of smoked salmon, you should store it in the freezer where it will remain in its best condition for 2-3 months.

It is a good idea to wrap the already packed smoked salmon in another layer of air-tight aluminum, freezer paper, or cling film wrapper or keep it in a freezer bag. It will be safe for around 6 months, though the quality will deteriorate after 3 months. 

Opened Pack of Smoked Salmon

Once opened, the "sell by" date on the package of smoked salmon does not have any value, and the clock starts to tick. If you refrigerate it immediately and store it correctly, the fish will last for around 5 days.

Make sure to keep it appropriately wrapped in aluminum or plastic, and you might be able to extend the shelf life of the opened smoked salmon to 7 days.

The best way to increase the life of unpacked smoked salmon is by freezing it. In the freezer, it will last for 2-3 months easily.

However proper packaging is essential here, and you must keep the product tightly wrapped in aluminum, plastic, or paper foil.

You can also keep it in a good-quality freezer bag so that the smoked salmon stays in its best quality for a long time. 

After Thawing Smoked Salmon 

There are two ways of thawing smoked salmon, both sealed and unopened: placing it in the refrigerator and by defrosting it in the microwave or water.

If you thaw it in the refrigerator, the product will stay fresh for another 3-4 days. On the other hand, if you defrost it in the microwave or in cold water, you must immediately consume the smoked salmon. Refreezing thawed smoked salmon is not recommended.

Smoked Salmon Outside Refrigerator

We don't recommend keeping smoked salmon outside the refrigerator. However, if you end up doing that, smoked salmon will likely last for around 2 days outside the fridge.

But it is difficult to determine this with surety since the weather condition of the place you live in will affect the fish. The product will start to go bad very quickly in hot and humid conditions of summers. 

How to Tell Of Smoked Salmon Has Gone Bad

Like all food items, especially fish, smoked salmon will show some telltale signs when it starts to go bad.


You will be able to notice a change in color, smell, texture, and moistness. When smoked salmon starts to become stale, you'll notice how the bright color starts to fade, and it begins to look dryer.

 

The smell will also be a little off. If you see these mild changes, check the date and find out if it has gone past the date.

1

Smell

One of the first things you will notice when smoked salmon starts to go bad is the smell. Spoiled fish always stinks.


It's an acidic and fishy odor - one that's repulsive and very different from the smell of fresh fish. That's your cue to throw it away.


Even if it's not yet unsafe for consumption, eating stinky smoked salmon will be an unpleasant experience. The stale odor will kill the taste. 

2

Color

Once smoked salmon starts to go bad, the color changes to a greenish shade. Large areas of green or discolored patches are indicative of spoilage.


Apart from that, you may also notice mold forming on the fish, which is another visible sign that the smoked salmon is spoilt. Another sign of the product going bad is a slimy film on the surface.   

3

Taste

If you do not notice any of these, your smoked salmon is probably fine. But if the fish is close to or past the date mentioned on the label, or you feel that there has been some problem with the storage method, it's a good idea to taste a small amount of it before serving it to others.


Don't worry - it's not unsafe for consumption. You'll only be checking if the fish tastes alright. 

Storage Of Smoked Salmon:

As we have already mentioned, it is best to keep smoked salmon in the original vacuum-sealed package and keep it in the refrigerator or freezer to keep it in its best condition.

You can store smoked salmon for an indefinite period of time at 0 degrees, but that's not good for its quality. 

If you've opened the package, you should either keep the smoked salmon in an air-tight container or freezer bag, or wrap it in freezer paper, aluminum foil, or cling film.

This will also lock its moisture, while preventing it from stinking up the entire fridge or freezer with a fishy smell. 

It's a good idea to divide the stock into small portions and wrap them separately. This will help you to thaw only one batch at a time while the rest remains frozen.

If the original packaging is intact, you can still give it a double wrapping. It will help to extend its shelf life further. 

The best method of thawing frozen smoked salmon is by leaving it in the refrigerator section overnight.

Just bring the amount of the item you need out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. Your smoked salmon will be ready by the morning. Always keep smoked salmon in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

Smoked Salmon - Cold-Smoking vs. Hot-Smoking

Smoked salmon is salmon that has been smoked for enhanced flavors and extended shelf life. It is first cured and then cold-smoked or hot-smoked.

Cold smoking gives us a texture that's raw and yet edible, while hot-smoking gives us a cooked, flaky texture.

In both methods, the fish is first brined in a solution of water and salt. This helps to remove unnecessary moisture and prevent bacterial growth.

Then, the fish is either cold-smoked at 80-90 F, or hot-smoked at 120-125 F or higher for intensified flavors. Both have to be eaten without cooking.

Experts say that hot-smoked salmon may be safer than cold-smoked salmon because the heat to which the salmon is exposed while smoking kills possible contaminants. But if you eat cold-smoked salmon within the given time, there's no risk at all.

Is It Safe To Eat Smoked Salmon Without Cooking?

It is safe to eat smoked salmon without cooking it. Store-bought smoked salmon, in particular, undergoes several steps to ensure that the fish doesn't contain bacteria, pathogens, or parasites.

Even if bacterial growth starts in cold-smoked salmon, it won't reach a level where it can harm you if you consume it immediately or within the given time. Hot-smoked salmon poses no threat at all.  

Reheating smoked salmon is usually not recommended, as the process can dry out the fish and destroy its texture and taste and affect its moisture level.

However, don't forget to check the label of the smoked salmon to see if reheating is recommended.

If you are a healthy adult and your immune system is uncompromised, you can enjoy cold-smoked salmon without worrying about safety issues. 

It has come to notice recently that cold-smoking can't consistently remove the bacterium called listeria from the fish, and cold-smoked salmon may be sporadically contaminated.

The key is to get the salmon from trusted manufacturers who ensure minimum contamination and fresh fish. 

Cold-smoked salmon is unpasteurized and needs to be handled carefully to ensure safe consumption.

As it is true with all semi-raw animal proteins, cold-smoked salmon should be avoided by pregnant women, young children, elderly individuals, and immune-compromised people. 

If salmon is smoked without proper salting or cooking procedure, the fish can become the breeding ground for pathogens.

Inadequate storage can also lead to the spoilage or rotting of smoked salmon. As a result, you can get botulism, food poisoning, and more. 

At the same time, smoked salmon is also rich in lean protein, vitamins, selenium, magnesium, DHA, EPA, and of course, Omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are extremely good for your health.

Omega-3, in particular, is quite beneficial for your heart and brain. It can help with muscle mass maintenance while you're on a weight loss journey. As long as you consume it in moderate amounts, you'll be safe.

How To Eat Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon is a delicious delicacy that adds a depth of flavor to various dishes. As a topping on toasts, eggs, crackers, hor's d 'oeuvres, and soups, it can work magic.

You can also put it in salads or have it with soft cheeses Vermont cheddar or double cream brie. It pairs wonderfully with Riesling, English sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs, and Manzanilla Sherry. Its lightly salted, smoky taste is a decadent delight.

How to Smoke Salmon at Home

If you're a true culinary adventurer, you might want to smoke salmon at home. It is not at all impossible if you have a smoker, and you follow the right steps as mentioned below:

Brining Salmon

The first step is to brine the fish. For that, you need to mix 4 cups of water, ¼ cup of kosher salt, and ¼ cup of brown sugar.


For flavors, you should also throw in a couple of bay leaves, a stalk of celery, sliced, half a cup of chopped fennel and chopped onions each, and a few cloves of garlic.


Now, put the fish in a glass or plastic container and cover it with the brine. Place it in the fridge with the lid on.

Curing Salmon

Curing will take around 8 hours if it's a thin fillet and about a day if it's a thick piece.


If the piece is as thick as a sturgeon steak, you may need to cure it for two days. Curing helps to remove moisture from the fish and add salt for preservation.


Remember not to brine it for more than three days, or you will be left with extremely salty salmon pieces. 

Air-Drying Salmon

After curing the fish in brine, it is essential to allow the fish to air-dry in a cool and breezy place.


Once you place it on a rack in an area with good air circulation, a thin, sticky layer will be formed on top of the fish. This is called the pellicle.


It will take the fish around 2-3 hours for the fish to dry and form this sticky, lacquer-like film to help the smoke stick to the fish.

Hot-Smoking Salmon

After the formation of the pellicle, the salmon is ready to be hot-smoked.


It doesn't mean extreme heat. You need to smoke salmon at 140 F in the smoker. You can use any wood for smoking, as long as it is not treated.


You need to cure a thin fillet for about 1 hour. But a big slab of salmon will take almost 4 hours. Your aim here is to achieve an internal temperature of 140-145 F.

Conclusion

Smoked salmon is delicious and can add a different dimension of flavors and richness to any simple dish.

It is also good for you if you take it moderately. But you must check for the signs of spoilage or staleness to prevent food-borne diseases. Also, make sure to store your stock of smoked salmon properly. 

Freezing it will make it last for a couple of months in good condition. It's practical to portion the stock and wrap each portion separately before freezing so that you don't have to thaw the entire batch all at once.

You can only take the part you need and defrost it before you can enjoy your smoked salmon.

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