If you have recently made a meal using fish and ended up with cooked leftovers, your first instinct is probably to put them in the fridge – but how long will they last in there? How soon do you need to use them up, and when should you definitely be discarding them? If you’re trying to cut down on food waste, it’s important to know.
How long does cooked fish last in the fridge? Several things can affect how long fish will keep for, including the quality of the fish, how fresh it was when you bought it, and how cold your fridge is. On the whole, fish should last for three days in the fridge, and may still be okay on the fourth day – but it is better to stick to the three-day estimate to reduce the risk of food borne illness.
How Long Will Cooked Fish Keep in the Fridge?
If promptly refrigerated after it was cooked, fish should keep for three days in the fridge. In some cases, very fresh fish may last for four days, but you should be cautious about eating it, as fish can harbor unpleasant bacteria that will make you very ill.
Don’t keep fish in the fridge for longer than three days. If you are not going to use it up within this window, it should be frozen as soon as possible, or thrown away.
How Should You Store Fish in the Fridge?
You should place fish in an airtight container or in a sealed plastic bag before you put it in the fridge. Minimizing the flow of oxygen will help it last for longer. It will also reduce the risk of cross contamination with other foods.
If you do not wrap fish before putting it in the fridge, it should still keep for about three days, but you may find that it loses moisture and its texture becomes less pleasant. The parts of the fish with the greatest exposure to the air will often dry out and may become hard. It’s always best to cover fish up before you refrigerate it.
Can You Refrigerate Fish that has Been Left Out Overnight?
No. Fish that has been left at room temperature for more than two hours will be unsafe to eat and should be thrown away. Do not put it in the fridge, or attempt to reheat and consume it, even if it looks and smells fine.
There is a chance that it will be okay, but there is a much greater chance that bacteria will have spread throughout the flesh and made it unsafe. Eating it could result in food poisoning, which can range from a mild stomach upset to hospitalization.
All leftover fish must be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. If you have cooked fish, either in a meal or separately, you should make efforts to cool it quickly so that it can be put in the fridge. Spread it out on a tray, or place it in a dish in cold water if possible. Transferring it to a cold bowl or another container may also help.
As soon as the fish is cool, you should put it in your fridge. If the room is warm, it is important to do this even more quickly. At temperatures above 90 degrees F, fish must be refrigerated in less than an hour.
The longer you leave fish out for, the less likely it is to keep well once it has been refrigerated. If you accidentally leave it out for half an hour or so, make sure you use it up quickly, rather than keeping it in the fridge for three days.
Can You Put Warm Fish in the Fridge?
Unfortunately, it isn’t safe to put warm fish in the fridge, no. You will need to let it cool down before you refrigerate it, otherwise it will warm your fridge up and potentially make other foods that you are storing in there unsafe to eat.
Never put warm food in your fridge. This compromises everything else in there, and can also result in condensation. It is much better to spread the fish out and allow it to cool, and then place it in the fridge in a sealed container.
Is it Okay to Freeze Cooked Fish?
Yes, freezing cooked fish is safe as long as you do so promptly after cooking it. You should place the fish in an airtight container or in a sealer bag once it is cold, and then freeze it for up to eight months. After this point, its texture may start to degrade, so it’s best to use it up.
The less air that your fish is exposed to while frozen, the better, so make sure it is well-wrapped in the freezer. If you don’t do this, it will end up with freezer burn, which spoils the texture and makes the fish dry and unpleasant.
You can thaw frozen fish in the fridge or the microwave, but never let it defrost at room temperature.
How Long Will Smoked Fish Last in the Fridge?
Smoked fish should last for longer, as the smoking process helps to preserve it. It may still be fine to eat up to three weeks after being refrigerated, although it is better to use it up more quickly than this.
Again, minimizing airflow will help to maintain the texture and prevent the fish from getting dried out.
How Do You Know If Fish Has Gone Bad?
Bad fish usually produces a very unpleasant odor, and you should not eat it in this case. A strong, nasty scent, slimy flesh, or mold flecks on the surface all indicate that the fish is no longer fit for consumption and needs to be thrown away.
Make sure that you refrigerate fish as soon as it is cool, and it should last for up to three or four days. If you are not sure whether fish is okay to eat, smell and inspect it. If in doubt, it is better to throw it away than to risk food poisoning.