How Long Can You Leave Cooked/Raw Fish Out?

Last updated on August 29th, 2022 at 12:08 pm

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As you were putting away the groceries you forgot about the package of fish. A few hours later, you realize you accidentally left it out and wonder if it is still safe to store and cook later. 

But, you should be careful when handling seafood (and all food really) to avoid foodborne illnesses. The risk of harmful bacteria growing on food increases when it is left out at room temperature for a while. 

So, how long can you leave cooked or raw fish out?

Fish, whether it is cooked or uncooked, should only be left out at room temp for up to 2 hours. After this amount of time, it becomes unsafe to eat. Bacteria can begin growing on the fish after 2 hours at room temperature whether it is raw or cooked. 

How Long Can You Leave Cooked/Raw Fish Out?

This is why seafood and meats need to be kept in either a refrigerator or a freezer. A good rule to follow when it comes to fish is that it can only be left out for 2 hours before it becomes unsafe. 

This rule applies to both cooked and raw fish. 

The longer it is left out the more spoiled it will become. So, leaving fish out overnight is definitely not an option. There aren’t many certainties of when exactly the bacteria will begin to grow so it is in your best interest to refrigerate or freeze cooked or raw fish as soon as possible. 

The temperature at which the fish is kept can affect how long it lasts and remains good to eat. If the fish is left out at room temperature, it will only last for a couple of hours. If the room is above 90F then the fish will only last for 1 hour. 

Never keep fish at temperatures of 40 to 140F for more than an hour or two. This is called the “Danger Zone” and bacteria can begin to grow when the fish is stored in these temperatures. If you have accidentally left fish sitting out overnight, discard it. 

Fish left out for hours will be unsafe to eat. But, if you have only left it sitting there for a half an hour, then it is fine to cook or store in the fridge or freezer. 

It is important to know the signs of spoilage so you can recognize when fish has gone bad. Spoiled fish will have a slimy, milky texture like thick and slippery coating and a fishy smell. 

Yes, fish is normally fishy smelling but if its smell becomes stranger or more rancid, then the fish is likely spoiled. Cooked or raw fish can only be left out for 2 hours before it goes bad and should be discarded. 

Can You Get Food Poisoning From Fish?

Fish is good to eat. Some people enjoy its taste and it offers many nutritional benefits. But, although it can be tasty and healthy, fish can be bad for you if it is spoiled. 

If you leave fish out, then bacteria can grow causing it to go bad. But, can you get food poisoning from fish?

You can get food poisoning from eating fish that has gone bad. The types of sickness you can get are ciguatera poisoning and scombroid poisoning. This is why it’s important to store fish properly before and after cooking it. 

If you leave fish sitting out at room temperature for a long time, then it can develop some harmful bacteria that can make you very sick. To avoid getting food poisoning from fish, don’t leave fish left out, be sure to store fish in the refrigerator or freezer for the correct amount of time and cook fish thoroughly before you eat it. 

Food poisoning can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, voting, weakness, and fatigue. Most cases of this illness typically resolve in a couple of days if you stay hydrated and avoid solid foods. 

If it doesn’t clear up in a few days, then you should go to the doctor. 

You can avoid getting food poisoning from fish in a couple ways. First, ciguatera poisoning is commonly carried in certain types of fish including amberjack, grouper, snapper, sturgeon, king mackerel, barracuda, and moray eel in which the poison is in the internal organs so avoid eating these parts of the fish. 

Scombroid poisoning contaminates any fish that hasn’t been refrigerated properly. You should be careful when eating tuna, sardines, mackerel, mahi-mahi, or anchovies.

Factors That Affect How Long Fish Will Last

The following are the factors that can affect how long fish lasts:

  • The risk of fish becoming unsafe to eat is higher when it is in higher temperatures. For instance, if you are taking fish out on a picnic or potluck, remember that the warmer and more humid the weather, the greater the risk of your fish being contaminated and you getting food poisoning. 
  • Always be sure to cover your fish because uncovered, it is more susceptible to bacteria. 
  • If the fish is old, then it is more likely to contain bacteria than fresher fish.
  • Filets have more surface area which can be contaminated by bacteria meaning that they don’t last as long as unfilleted fish.
  • The temperature of the fish itself also can help it to stay good for longer. For example, frozen fish will take longer to reach the Danger Zone than fresh fish. It is still recommended to defrost fish in the refrigerator to be safe.

All of these factors play a part in how long fish will last. Always be sure to refrigerate or freeze fish to keep it safe to eat. Fish last for about 1 to 2 days in the fridge and 3 to 6 months in the freezer if it is stored properly. 

Like we said, covered fish remain good for longer. So, store fish in an airtight container, freezer bag, or wrapped in plastic wrap, freezer paper, or aluminum foil for best results. 

This should be done for cooked or raw fish stored in either the fridge or freezer. You can get food poisoning from contaminated fish so be sure to store it properly.

Final Thoughts

If you have accidentally left fish sitting out. It will only be good for a couple of hours. If left for longer than this, it will be spoiled and unsafe to eat. Fish left sitting out on the kitchen counter can go bad quickly so always try to remember to put it away. 

When fish is left out at room temperature, it will grow harmful bacteria which can make you sick if you eat it. So, to avoid food poisoning from spoiled fish, always store it in the fridge or the freezer. 

Remember that you cannot leave fish out for more than 2 hours no matter if it is raw or cooked. 

Hannah R.

Hey, I'm Hannah and I'm the founder of Get Eatin'.

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