Keeping salmon in the best condition possible begins when you buy it at the supermarket. Ask for a piece that is sitting directly on ice or is on the bottom of the refrigerated case to help ensure that the fish you bring home is fresh. If it takes you longer than 30 minutes to get home, ask your fish seller to package the fish in ice or with a freezer package.
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Once you get it home, you have a few options to help ensure that the salmon stays fresh until you're ready to cook.
Buy whole salmon with the tightest scales and brightest eyes as well as a moist tail and gills that are reddish, not brown. For fillets and steaks, choose those with flesh that appears translucent, or shiny, and that have firm flesh without gaps between the muscle fibers.
If you plan to cook salmon the same evening you buy it, rewrap it in plastic if it's only wrapped in paper, and place it in the refrigerator on a plate to catch any errant drips. Whole salmon, steaks and fillets stay fresh in the fridge for up to two days.
You can also safely store the salmon on ice for the two-day period if you are unable to refrigerate it, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Place the fish on a bed of crushed ice in a pan and layer more ice on top of the fish. Replenish the ice as needed.
Salmon, either whole or in fillets and steaks, retains its quality in the freezer for up to three months, although it will remain safe to eat indefinitely even after the quality deteriorates. Follow these guidelines for freezing:
- Ensure that the fish is still within the two-day time period for freshness when you do freeze it.
- Wrap the salmon tightly with freezer-grade plastic or heavy-duty foil.
- Discard the fish if you have a power outage that thaws the fish and lasts over two hours. According to Foodsafety.gov, if the outage is only for a short time and if the fish contains ice crystals and feels cold, it is still safe to eat.
Thaw salmon safely by placing it in the refrigerator the evening before you plan to use it so that it thaws slowly and stays cold for the entire thawing period.