Salmon, like most fish and seafood, is best enjoyed fresh. However, freezing this omega-3-rich source of protein can drastically increase its shelf life, making it a more practical option for many modern home cooks.
When kept in the freezer, salmon will last for up to three months in optimum condition. It will be safe to eat beyond this but may suffer from a loss of texture and flavor.
Best Way to Store Salmon
Salmon arguably tastes the best when it is cooked fresh. However, this healthy and delicious fish has a very short shelf life when kept in the refrigerator. If you are planning on eating your salmon within 1 or 2 days, then it is best kept in the refrigerator to enjoy its freshness; however, if you need to preserve the salmon for longer then the freezer is the best option.
Fresh, raw salmon will usually have a shelf life of between 1 and 3 days when you buy it from the fishmonger or grocery store.
As long as the use-by date on the packaging hasn’t passed, then you can expect the salmon to last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, though it will always taste better when it is most fresh. It is recommended that raw salmon is cooked and eaten on the same day that it was purchased for the best results.
Not everyone is able to eat salmon as soon as they’ve bought it. Some people buy large cuts of salmon and divide it into smaller portions to make it last longer and get better value for money, and in this case, freezing the portions you aren’t using immediately makes a lot of sense.
If you live a long way from a grocery store then you might stock up on salmon when you make a trip out and then store some in the freezer so that you have enough salmon to last a few weeks or months.
When kept in the freezer, raw salmon can last for beyond six months. However, the taste and texture will start to deteriorate after 3 months. Freezing salmon is an excellent way to preserve it, but it is best eaten within three months of being put in the freezer.
How to Freeze Raw Salmon
If you are freezing salmon from the grocery store, you can put it straight into the freezer in its original, unopened packaging. If the packaging has been opened, then you should run the raw fish under cold water and dab it dry with a paper towel before putting it into an airtight container such as a freezer bag.
Separate individual portions with greaseproof paper or plastic wrap if you plan to defrost them one at a time, otherwise, the salmon is likely to get stuck together during the freezing process. Press as much air out of the freezer bags as you can before sealing them, and then label the bags with the current date.
These can be put into the freezer and stored indefinitely, but the salmon will start to lose taste and texture after 3 months, so it is best to use the fish before three months have passed.
Can You Freeze Smoked Salmon?
Smoked salmon is usually sold sliced in packages, with a typical refrigerator shelf life of around two weeks. If you need to preserve your smoked salmon for longer than two weeks, you can freeze it.
If your salmon was packaged in a plastic vacuum pack, then you can put this straight into the freezer if it hasn’t been opened. The vacuum pack prevents any air or moisture from getting to the fish, keeping it in the best possible condition.
If you have opened your packet of smoked salmon and want to freeze the remainder, you’ll need to wrap it tightly in several layers of plastic wrap and then put the package in a freezer bag. Smoked salmon lasts for up to six months in the freezer but will taste better when it has been frozen for a shorter amount of time.
Can You Freeze Cooked Salmon?
If you have cooked too much salmon for dinner and don’t want to waste it, you can put it in the freezer and save it for a later date. Even salmon which has been frozen, defrosted and cooked, can be put back into the freezer. To freeze cooked salmon you’ll first need to allow the fish to cool down to room temperature.
Once the salmon has cooled, wrap it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put it in a freezer bag. Remove the air from the freezer bag and seal, before placing it in the freezer. If you have several portions of cooked salmon, wrap each portion individually so they don’t stick together in the freezer.
How to Defrost Salmon
Defrost salmon in the refrigerator
The safest way to defrost salmon is in the refrigerator. This is the case no matter what type of salmon you have, including raw salmon, cooked salmon, and smoked salmon.
Salmon typically takes around 12 hours to defrost in the refrigerator, but it’s sensible to take it out of the freezer the evening before you want to use it for dinner, giving it 24 hours to fully thaw. Once defrosted, the salmon will remain fresh in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Defrost salmon in cool water
If you need to defrost salmon quickly, you can do so using a cool water bath. Keep the salmon in its freezer bag, submerge it in a bowl of cool water, and change the water every 15 minutes. The salmon should have thawed within around an hour. If you thaw salmon using this method, it will need to be cooked and eaten immediately.
Defrost salmon in the microwave
Salmon can be defrosted in the microwave but this is really a last resort. The texture of salmon can be destroyed in the microwave, giving it a rubbery feel. If you do need to defrost salmon in the microwave, do so on the lowest setting and check the fish every 2 minutes.
Defrost salmon at room temperature
Salmon should never be defrosted at room temperature because bacteria thrive in a temperature range of 40 °F and 140 °F.