Undercooked Salmon: Safe or unsafe in 2023?

Undercooked Salmon

Salmon is a versatile ingredient commonly used in various culinary preparations, including baking, pan-frying, grilling, and even consuming it raw. However, it is important to note that when eating undercooked salmon/raw salmon, proper preparation and storage are crucial to minimizing any potential risks.

Consuming improperly stored, handled, or prepared fish can result in food poisoning, an undesirable outcome that should be avoided at all costs. Therefore, it is advisable to exercise caution when indulging in raw fish dishes such as sushi, sashimi, ceviche, or any seafood delicacies.

Undercooked salmon image

One might wonder whether it is safe to consume undercooked salmon if raw salmon can be eaten. However, this assumption is incorrect. Slightly undercooked salmon provides an ideal environment for parasites and bacteria, as they thrive best at temperatures around 40°F or 4°C. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that salmon is thoroughly cooked to eliminate any potential health risks associated with consuming undercooked fish.

Is It Okay to Eat Slightly Undercooked Salmon?

Consuming chilled and raw salmon frozen for a minimum of seven days prior is considered safe for consumption. Cooked salmon is also safe to eat. However, it is crucial to avoid slightly undercooked salmon as it can pose significant risks. Bacteria tend to thrive within the temperature range of 40°F or 5°C to 140°F or 60°C, making slightly undercooked salmon a potential breeding ground for harmful microorganisms. To ensure safety, salmon must reach an internal temperature of 145°F or 63°C during cooking.

Undercooked salmon

It is important to note that consuming slightly undercooked salmon is not recommended due to its various health risks, such as food poisoning and salmonellosis, among other illnesses. To minimize the chances of infection, following proper protocols and cooking salmon thoroughly is vital. When dining at a restaurant, choosing establishments that prioritize cleanliness and adhere to all safety protocols is advisable.

However, it is worth noting that despite strict adherence to safety protocols and proper preparation, parasites, and bacteria can still be present in salmon. Therefore, it is always wise to take necessary precautions. If you are already at high risk for foodborne illnesses, it is best not to take any chances and avoid consuming undercooked salmon altogether.

What are the Chances of Getting Sick from Undercooked Salmon?

Consuming undercooked salmon significantly heightens the risk of falling ill. It greatly increases the chances of contracting food poisoning or other food-borne illnesses. Undercooked salmon can expose you to various health risks, including severe wound infections, gastrointestinal diseases, sepsis, or food-borne sickness. To ensure your safety, opting for thoroughly cooked salmon and eliminating potential dangers is best.

Undercooked salmon can serve as a breeding ground for numerous bacteria and parasites. Some examples include:

  • Cod worms
  • Vibrio vulnificus
  • Hepatitis A
  • Staphylococcus aureus.

In general, the consumption of parasites and bacteria from salmon is usually not a cause for concern, especially when the salmon is cooked. The incidence of illness related to consuming cooked salmon is relatively low, with less than 10 reported cases annually. If you happen to ingest contaminated salmon, symptoms can manifest within a timeframe ranging from 6 hours to 6 days. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends freezing fish before consuming it raw, as this process effectively kills off most parasites.

A food-borne illness can be overcome for most individuals with sufficient rest and hydration. However, certain individuals should exercise caution when dealing with an infection. This group of people may include, but is not limited to:

  • Elderly.
  • Children.
  • Young infants.
  • Kids under five years old.
  • People with compromised immunity.

How Do You Know If Salmon is Cooked?

To ensure proper cooking of a 6 oz salmon fillet, it is recommended to bake it in an oven set at 400°F for approximately 11 to 14 minutes. Once the salmon reaches an internal temperature of 145°F or 63°C, it can be considered thoroughly cooked. Before placing the salmon in the oven, no fishy odor should emanate from it.

After removing the salmon from the oven, a visual inspection is important. The salmon should easily flake apart when gently probed with a fork. It is likely undercooked if the salmon does not easily flake and proves difficult to tear apart.

The presence of a white substance known as Albumin on the surface of the salmon can indicate its readiness. If a small amount of Albumin is visible, it indicates that the salmon is ready to be removed from the heat. However, if there is an excessive amount of Albumin, it suggests that the salmon may be overcooked.

How Long Does Salmon Take to Cook?

Salmon has a relatively quick cooking time compared to meats, and the duration can vary depending on the cooking method chosen. If you bake a 6 oz salmon fillet in the oven, it would typically take 11 to 14 minutes. Pan-frying is another cooking method, which usually requires approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Grilling salmon typically takes about 10 to 20 minutes.

The cooking time of salmon ultimately depends on factors such as the cooking method and the size of the salmon. For instance, a 12 oz poached fillet may take up to 25 minutes to cook, while a smaller 4 oz fillet baked in the oven could be ready in as little as 8 minutes. It is important to ensure that the salmon reaches an internal temperature of at least 145°F or 63°C for safe consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do parasites look like in salmon?

Parasites can be an unpleasant experience for individuals sensitive to worms, parasites, or anything visually disturbing, especially when encountering them in their food. Specifically, a parasite commonly found in fish, often called a cod worm, is a tiny worm that can be present in fish like salmon. Unlike most fish, salmon has a pink hue, making it easier to spot these little worms.

What do parasites look like in salmon?

However, it’s important to note that the chances of encountering these worms in your salmon are highly unlikely. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are typically 10 or fewer cases of illness caused by these parasites each year. Furthermore, cooking the salmon thoroughly can effectively eliminate the parasites, ensuring the fish is safe to consume.

Nonetheless, some individuals may still experience lingering concerns about these parasites, despite the assurance that cooking eliminates them. If you belong to this category, a “fish candling” technique can remove the parasites. This process involves shining a light onto the salmon and manually extracting the parasites using tweezers. This method provides an additional layer of reassurance for those who prefer to take extra precautions.

What’s the white stuff that comes out of salmon?

The substance you mentioned as the “white stuff” is called “Albumin.” Albumin is a protein that dissolves in water and can coagulate when exposed to heat. When you cook salmon, the Albumin in the flesh coagulates and becomes visible, often protruding from the surface. The presence of coagulated Albumin can serve as a reliable indicator that your salmon has been cooked thoroughly.

What’s the white stuff that comes out of salmon?

However, noticing an excessive amount of Albumin could indicate that your salmon is overcooked. Overcooking can cause more Albumin to be released, resulting in an unappealing appearance and potentially affecting the texture and taste of the fish.

In summary, coagulated Albumin on cooked salmon is normal and indicates proper cooking. Just be mindful not to overcook the salmon to avoid excessive Albumin release.

Why is my salmon white and not pink?

Most salmon in grocery stores is sourced from farms, where they are raised in captivity. In such environments, these salmon cannot access their natural diet consisting of shrimp and krill. The consumption of these crustaceans provides the salmon with carotenoids, which in turn give their flesh a pink colour.

How much pink is ok in salmon

To replicate the desired pink hue in farmed salmon, many aquaculture farmers incorporate an additive called astaxanthin into their feed. Astaxanthin is responsible for imparting the familiar pink colour to the flesh of the salmon. Therefore, when you come across salmon with a pink colour, it is likely due to this additive.

On the other hand, if you encounter salmon with white flesh, it is generally safe to consume. However, it is essential to exercise caution as the whiteness of the flesh could also indicate that the salmon has become rancid. It is advisable to take necessary precautions and ensure the freshness and quality of the fish before consumption.

Can you eat pink salmon?

Yes, pink salmon is perfectly safe to eat. In fact, pink salmon (also known as humpback salmon) is a salmon species commonly consumed and enjoyed by many people. Its mild flavor and delicate texture make it a popular choice for culinary preparations.

“Pink” refers to the color of the salmon’s flesh, typically a pale pink or light orange. The salmon’s diet and genetics influence the natural characteristic of its color, which is a pink hue. It’s important to note that the pink colour does not indicate the fish is undercooked or unsafe to eat.

How much pink is ok in salmon?

Regarding the color of salmon, a range of pink shades is generally considered normal and safe to consume. The intensity of the pink color can vary depending on factors such as the species of salmon, its diet, and whether it is wild-caught or farm-raised. While some color variations are expected, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Wild-caught salmon: Wild-caught salmon typically have a deeper pink or orange color due to their natural diet, which includes shrimp and krill. The color can vary among species, such as sockeye, coho, or chinook. The flesh should have a vibrant pink or orange hue.
  • Farmers feed farm-raised salmon an artificial pigment called astaxanthin to mimic the natural color of wild-caught salmon, resulting in a light pink color in the farm-raised salmon. The flesh of farm-raised salmon can range from pale pink to a more intense pinkish-orange.


To sum up, undercooked salmon poses an extreme risk as it can contain various parasites and bacteria that are usually eliminated through freezing or thorough cooking. Once you properly cook the salmon, these bacteria pose little threat. To ensure safety, it is crucial to cook salmon to an internal temperature of 145°F or 63°C. Additionally, it is important to exercise extra caution when consuming raw fish dishes like sushi, sashimi, or ceviche. Taking these precautions helps minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses associated with undercooked or raw seafood.

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