Can you eat frozen salmon from the grocery store raw?

Quick Answers

Yes, you can eat previously frozen salmon raw from the grocery store, as long as it was frozen properly at the store and has been kept continuously frozen until you thaw it. Freezing salmon kills any parasites, making it safe to consume raw. However, you still need to handle thawed frozen salmon carefully to avoid contamination with bacteria or pathogens after thawing. It’s best to thaw frozen salmon in the refrigerator, cook it immediately after thawing, and consume within 1-2 days.

Is it safe to eat raw salmon from the grocery store?

Eating raw salmon from the grocery store can be safe if it has been previously frozen solid at low temperatures and properly thawed afterwards. Freezing salmon to the FDA recommended temperature of -4°F for 7 days or -31°F for 15 hours kills any parasites present in the fish, eliminating this risk from eating raw salmon. However, raw salmon still carries a risk of bacterial contamination after thawing if not handled properly. Following food safety guidelines can help mitigate this risk.

Parasites in Raw Salmon

One of the main risks with consuming raw salmon is the potential for parasitic infection. Salmon, along with other anadromous fish that migrate from saltwater to freshwater to spawn, can naturally carry parasitic worms like Anisakis, Diphyllobothrium, and nematodes. When salmon is frozen at -4°F or below for 7 days, these parasites are killed through crystallization of moisture and cellular damage. Previously frozen salmon from the grocery store should be free of viable parasites, making raw consumption safer.

Proper Freezing Temperatures

For freezing to effectively kill parasites, salmon needs to reach an internal temperature of -4°F and remain continuously frozen for at least 7 days. Most home freezers only reach about 0°F, which is not sufficient. Grocery store and commercially frozen salmon is flash frozen quickly at much lower temperatures and kept frozen, meeting safety guidelines. Check that frozen salmon you purchase has no signs of thawing and refreezing, which could mean it did not maintain the proper constant freezing temperature.

Bacterial Contamination

Even when raw salmon has been frozen to kill parasites, bacteria on the exterior of the fish or introduced during thawing can still cause foodborne illness. Salmonella, Listeria, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium botulinum, and other pathogens can be present on the skin or flesh of salmon, or transmitted through cross-contamination. Proper handling, storage, and cooking after thawing frozen salmon reduces this bacterial risk.

Proper Thawing

To avoid bacterial growth on thawed salmon, it’s important to thaw frozen salmon correctly. The safest method is thawing in the refrigerator, which keeps the fish consistently cold. Room temperature thawing causes the outer areas to enter the “danger zone” of 40-140°F where bacteria multiply quickly. Cook raw salmon immediately after thawing, and consume within 1-2 days.

Food Safety Handling

Once thawed, handle raw salmon with the same precautions as other raw meats. Use separate cutting boards and utensils. Wash hands, counters, tools, and storage containers thoroughly before and after handling raw fish. Keep raw salmon away from other foods in the fridge to prevent cross-contamination. Discard salmon within 1-2 days of thawing, and don’t refreeze thawed fish.

Should you freeze salmon before eating raw?

Freezing salmon before eating raw is highly recommended as a safety precaution. Commercially caught salmon has typically already been frozen solid at sea or immediately upon landing to kill parasites. However, if you catch your own wild salmon or buy fresh unfrozen salmon, the CDC and FDA advise freezing at -4°F or below for at least 7 days before consuming raw. This freezing temperature and duration is sufficient to kill any parasitic worms or larvae present in the flesh.

Home vs Commercial Freezing

Freezing salmon at home is often not a reliable way to kill parasites compared to commercial flash freezing. Home freezers only reach around 0°F at their coldest settings, while commercial freezers for fish plunge temperatures down to -30°F or colder very rapidly. The fast freezing minimizes ice crystal formation so the salmon flesh retains quality. If you do choose to freeze salmon at home first, use a thermometer to ensure it reaches an internal temperature of -4°F or below.

Previously Frozen Salmon

Salmon labeled “previously frozen” at grocery stores and seafood markets in non-coastal areas has gone through effective commercial freezing to allow for raw consumption. The salmon was frozen solid on the fishing boat or shortly after landing to flash freeze the entire fish down to extreme sub-zero temperatures. As long as this frozen salmon stays continuously frozen until purchased, it will be safe to eat raw due to parasite destruction during the initial freezing.

Fresh Unfrozen Salmon

Fresh, unfrozen salmon has a higher risk of carrying live parasites. Salmon harvested in colder Alaskan waters has a lower parasite prevalence than salmon from warmer waters like the Pacific Northwest. Without commercial freezing, fresh salmon should not be consumed raw due to the uncertainties around parasite contamination. If you choose to eat fresh salmon raw, the FDA advises first freezing at -4°F or below for at least 7 days to kill any potential parasite problems.

What are the risks of eating raw salmon?

While raw salmon can be safe when properly frozen first, there are still risks to be aware of when consuming raw fish:


Parasites like Anisakis, Diphyllobothrium, nematodes, and trematodes can infest the flesh of salmon and other anadromous fish species. Eating these parasites can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, intestinal obstruction, and gastrointestinal perforation.


Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and other bacteria on raw seafood can cause food poisoning. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and dehydration.


Some viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A can contaminate oysters, clams, and other shellfish. Contamination of finfish like salmon is less common. Symptoms involve nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.


Toxins like ciguatera or scombroid can accumulate in the flesh of reef fish and some pelagic fish species. Salmon are less prone to these toxins. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, sweating, and heartbeat irregularities.


Some people may experience allergic reactions to salmon proteins. Symptoms can include tingling or burning sensations in the mouth and throat, hives, headache, and gastrointestinal issues.


Large predatory fish like tuna, shark, swordfish, and mackerel can accumulate high mercury levels. Salmon are short-lived species low on the food chain and do not carry significant mercury risks when consumed in moderation.

How to buy safe raw salmon from the grocery store

Follow these guidelines when purchasing raw salmon for sushi, sashimi, ceviche, tartare, or other raw preparations:

Previously Frozen

Only purchase salmon labeled “previously frozen.” This indicates the salmon underwent proper flash freezing at extremely cold temperatures to kill any parasites.

Reputable Seller

Buy frozen salmon from a reputable grocery store or seafood market with high product turnover rather than discounted product of uncertain origin.

Package Integrity

Inspect packaging carefully for signs of damage, punctures, or thawing and refreezing. There should be no liquid pooling or frost crystals inside.

Sell-By Date

Check the sell-by date and pick packages with the furthest from expiration. Salmon frozen solid at the store should stay fresh and safe for 9-12 months in the freezer.


Freshly thawed salmon should look bright, glossy, and translucent. Avoid salmon with any dull, faded areas or yellowish discoloration indicating mishandling after thawing.


Raw salmon should have no strong, unpleasant “fishy” smell. It should smell fresh from proper freezing and cold storage.

Thawing frozen salmon safely

It’s important to thaw frozen salmon properly to avoid bacterial growth. Follow these guidelines:

Refrigerator Thawing

  • Place frozen salmon sealed in its package on a plate to catch drips.
  • Thaw in the refrigerator, allowing 8-12 hours for a 1 lb package.
  • Rotate package occasionally to encourage even thawing.
  • Cook immediately upon thawing, within 1-2 days.

Cold Water Thawing

  • Seal salmon in a leak-proof plastic bag submerged in cold tap water.
  • Change water every 30 minutes until fish is pliable and thawed.
  • Cook thawed salmon immediately, within a few hours.

Microwave Thawing

  • Place frozen salmon in a microwave-safe container.
  • Microwave at 30% power, checking often.
  • Cook immediately once thawed, don’t allow sitting.

How to store thawed frozen salmon

Keep thawed frozen salmon chilled at 40°F or below and cook within 1-2 days for best safety and quality:

  • Keep thawed salmon in its original wrapping or place in a tray to catch drips.
  • Refrigerate promptly after thawing, do not allow sitting at room temperature.
  • Use thawed salmon within 1-2 days for raw preparations.
  • Do not refreeze thawed salmon.
  • Discard if any off-odors develop or if you doubt freshness.

How to use thawed frozen salmon

Previously frozen salmon from the grocery store can be a good choice for raw preparations when handled properly:


Thawed salmon is often used in maki rolls, nigiri, sashimi, and other raw sushi dishes. Slice the freshest parts of the salmon fillets into thin pieces and serve immediately.


For sashimi, partially freeze the salmon again after thawing to firm it up before slicing paper thin. Arrange pieces nicely on a platter and serve with sliced ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce.


Dice the salmon into bite-sized pieces and mix with citrus juice, onions, peppers, cilantro, salt, and other ingredients. The acid “cooks” the fish. Chill for 1-4 hours before eating.


For steak tartare-style preparations, finely chop or mince the freshest salmon into tiny pieces. Mix with capers, shallots, mustard, and quail egg yolk. Serve chilled over crackers or crostini.


Thinly slice smaller salmon fillets and arrange attractively on plates. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Top with thin shavings of parmesan cheese or microgreens before serving.


Dry cure thick salmon fillets with a mixture of salt, sugar, and dill. Wrap tightly and weigh down for 24-48 hours while curing. Slice very thin and serve with mustards, crackers, or bagels.

Safe refrigerator storage times for raw salmon

To avoid potential bacterial growth and spoilage, adhere to the following fresh storage times for raw salmon:

Salmon Type Refrigerator (40°F or below)
Fresh salmon 2 days
Thawed frozen salmon 1-2 days
Smoked salmon 14 days
Opened canned salmon 3-4 days
Cooked salmon 3-4 days

These times are for maximum freshness and flavor quality. Discard any raw salmon that has an unpleasant odor or slimy texture.

Tips for serving raw salmon safely

Take these extra precautions when serving raw salmon dishes:

  • Keep raw salmon chilled until right before serving.
  • Avoid cross-contaminating surfaces, utensils, and other foods.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.
  • Use clean tongs, not fingers, to pick up sushi or sashimi.
  • Provide ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, and extra plates for dipping.
  • Tell your guests raw salmon is being served if they have food allergies.
  • Stick to fresh salmon fillets within 1-2 days of thawing.
  • Avoid raw salmon if you have a compromised immune system.

Who should avoid raw salmon?

There are certain groups at higher risk for foodborne illness who should avoid raw or undercooked salmon:

  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Individuals with chronic diseases
  • Anyone with a salmon allergy

Cooking salmon to an internal temperature of at least 145°F kills any potential parasites, bacteria, or viruses present in raw fish. If you fall into a higher risk group, stick to fully cooked salmon.


Previously frozen salmon from the grocery store can make delicious, safe raw dishes when handled with proper caution. Look for “previously frozen” labels to ensure effective parasite destruction. Thaw frozen salmon in the refrigerator, use within 1-2 days, and serve chilled immediately for maximum food safety and enjoyment of your raw salmon meal.

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