How Long Can Raw Fish Sit Out?

how long can raw fish sit out

How long can raw fish sit out is a common question. Sure, you must have known that seafood tends to be prone to foodborne pathogens. Therefore, it is essential to handle it safely to avoid contamination and food poisoning.

By following simple safety guidelines, you can reduce the chances of getting some of the nasty symptoms of food poisoning. Read on to understand the differences between how long seafood and freshwater fish can sit out and the best preservation measures for fish.

How Long Can Fish Sit Out?

Both raw and cooked fish, whether seafood or freshwater, can safely sit out on the counter at room temperature for up to two hours. However, this time reduces to one hour in hotter areas where room temperature is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Fish that has sat out for more than the recommended 2 hours should be discarded or frozen and thoroughly recooked before consumption.

You should remember that these timelines are just guidelines based on research and that there are no certainties for bacterial growth. The following factors will play a hand in determining how long your fish will last:

  • Room temperature: Warmer and more humid environments provide conducive environments for bacterial growth. All foods will spoil faster in these conditions than food in more relaxed and less humid climates. Leaving fish out in the sun also increases the risk of spoiling.
  • Leaving your fish uncovered: Leaving fish uncovered exposes it to the elements such as sunlight which facilitate bacterial growth. Uncovered fish will also receive the attention of pathogen-carrying flies that introduce foreign bacteria onto your fish and make it unsafe for consumption.
  • Age of the fish: Try buying freshly caught fish from the store, or maybe try seeing one yourself. Avoid rank-smelling fish, which tends to go bad faster because of how long it stays on the shelf.
  • Is the fish whole or cut into fillets? Filleted fish has a lot more surface area exposed for bacterial growth and therefore don’t last as long as entire fish. Try it out and see the difference!
  • The temperature of the fish: Frozen fish will last a lot longer than fish left at room temperature. This is because low temperatures hinder the growth of bacteria. You should also remember defrost your fish in the fridge to avoid exposing it to the counter.

What Happens If Raw Fish Sits Out Too Long?

Raw fish will go bad if left on the counter for long. Fish is considered to be a perishable food. All perishable foods should not be left in the open for more than 2 hours or one hour for room temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit are considered optimum for bacterial growth.

What Should You Do If Raw Fish Is Left Out Too Long?

If the raw fish smells rotten or sour, throw it away. If you leave raw fish sitting on your counter for more than 2 hours, freeze it, and remember to cook it before consumption thoroughly. You should also re-cook cooked fish left out to kill bacteria.

How Long Can Raw Fish Be In The Car For?

Raw fish should not be left in a hot car for more than 2 hours. This also applies to all perishable foods, which tend to go bad when left out for more than 2 hours in hot environments (anything above 90 degrees Fahrenheit). Try refrigerating fish when transporting it.

What Temperature Encourages Bacteria Growth On Fish?

Room temperatures(40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) are the most conducive to bacterial growth. 

However, bacteria tend to grow over a wide range of temperatures. They are present in frozen lakes whose temperatures are constantly subzero and even in sea vents found at the bottom of seas and oceans, where temperatures reach over 340 degrees Celsius (700 degrees Fahrenheit). Microbial ecosystems can thrive in the harshest conditions without obvious nutritional sources.

how long can raw fish sit out

However, different microbes have different optimum temperatures for growth and survival. Microbes are generally classified based on the optimum temperature for their development.

Mesophiles are middle-living organisms and are adapted to moderate temperatures. The optimum growth temperatures range from 20 degrees to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Psychotropic or psychrotolerant organisms prefer more relaxed environments. They can survive in temperatures as low as 4 degrees celsius and are responsible for the spoilage of refrigerated food.

How Long Does Fish Last In The Fridge?

Raw fish can last up to 2 days in the fridge. Psychrotolerant microbes can survive in the refrigerator and will cause your fish to spoil if left in the fridge for any longer than two days. Freezing it preserves freshness and helps it last a lot longer.

Does Fish Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?

Yes, unrefrigerated fish will go bad. Fish is perishable and will spoil if left in the open at room temperature for two hours or longer. This is because bacteria will multiply on the fish. If rotten fish is consumed, it will cause food poisoning, which can be life-threatening. Throw fish out if you are in doubt of its safety.

Can Raw Fish Be Frozen?

Yes. Freeze shellfish and raw fish to preserve their freshness by limiting the growth of bacteria.  Frozen fish and shellfish remain fresh indefinitely and are safely consumed on reheating. They, however, lose flavor and texture during lengthy storage. 

Freeze at temperatures below -17.8 degrees Celsius(0 degrees Fahrenheit) for the best results. It is best to consume frozen raw fish within 3 to 8 months. you should consume frozen shellfish within 3 to 12 months. Cooked seafood can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days and frozen for three months. Remember never to leave any fish sitting out for more than 2 hours.

For five years, you could store commercially canned fish such as tuna in the pantry. Home-a fish should, however, be kept for only a year.

How Long Does Fish Last Once Defrosted?

Defrosted fish can last 1 to 2 days if defrosted in the refrigerator. Fish defrosted on the counter may be exposed to bacteria and can go bad faster. If the fish isn’t consumed after defrosting, it can be safely refrozen and thoroughly recooked for the next meal.

Defrosting in the refrigerator is the safest way to defrost. This process may take a long, but it prevents exposure to bacteria and keeps the fish safe for consumption. Fish defrosted in this manner can be left a day or two in the refrigerator before cooking.

how long can raw fish sit out

Coldwater thawing is another safe way to defrost fish. It is a lot faster but requires a lot of attention from the chef. The fillets being defrosted should be in airtight containers before submerging them in bowls of cold tap water. 

You should avoid hot water as it may cause the development of harmful bacteria. Change the water every thirty minutes. This process thaws for about thirty minutes per pound. Fish defrosted using this method should be cooked immediately when it is still safe to consume.

Can You Thaw Fish At Room Temperature?

You should avoid thawing fish at room temperature or in warm or hot water. This is because bacteria tend to develop rapidly in these conditions, making the fish unsafe for consumption. Try using cold water defrosting instead. Keep the fish fillets in sealed bags to preserve the flavor, and remember to cook them immediately on defrosting.

How Can I Tell If Fresh Fish Has Gone Off?

Rotten fish has slimy and milky flesh. The fish develops a thick and slippery coating once it goes off. The fishy smell becomes a lot more pronounced when the fish goes bad. You should immediately discard such fish. Never consume lousy fish. Food poisoning can be life-threatening, so try to cook your fish within 24 hours after buying it. Fresh fish fillets should always glisten after dipping them in water.

1. Fishy Smell

The fishy smell of fish becomes a lot more pronounced when it goes bad. Fresh fish usually doesn’t have many ascents. Rotten fish also tends to smell like ammonia.

2. Grey Or Translucent

Fish that have a translucent and dull color have gone bad. Fish comes in many colors. Salmon is pink, and cod is white, tuna is dark red, etc. It, therefore, gets a bit difficult to tell. Fresh fish should always look wet, and its scales should glisten. 

If you still can’t tell by looking at it, go ahead and give it a sniff.

3. Slimy

If your fish feels slimy, don’t eat it. Fish develops milky flesh when it goes bad. It should be wet, not sticky and messy. Throw fish that have a thick and slippery coating away.

Related Questions 

What Happens If You Eat Bad Fish?

You can either get ciguatera food poisoning or scombroid food poisoning when you eat lousy fish. Abdominal cramps, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea are some of the symptoms of ciguatera food poisoning. These can progress to headaches, itchiness, and tingly numb skin.

Flushing, rashes, headache, dizziness, urticaria, sweating, and other gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea are some of the symptoms of scombroid poisoning.

Request immediate medical assistance should you experience any of these symptoms.

How Long Can Raw Sushi Sit Out?

Raw sushi can sit out in the open for only two hours before it is infested by bacteria and becomes unsafe for consumption. You can store it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.

Can You Get Food Poisoning From Fish?

Yes, eating rotten fish will cause food poisoning. You can get either ciguatera food poisoning or scombroid food poisoning from eating rotten fish. The symptoms will appear 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, but you might not feel sick until a few hours pass.

Should Fish Be At Room Temperature Before Cooking?

Yes. You should let fish, and any other kind of meat, stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking it. 

Is It Ok To Leave Salmon Out Overnight?

Salmon should not be left out in the open overnight. Cover your food to avoid attracting flies and refrigerate it when storing. Salmon left out for more than 2 hours should not be consumed.


Denzel and Beryl are a food scientist powerhouse couple. They met while attending culinary school, and have been cooking and baking together ever since. They love to watch football, movies, and reality shows in their free time. They have even participated in several cooking and baking competitions globally!

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