Don’t let your seafood go bad! Discover how long different types of seafood can stay out of the fridge.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Seafood should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the factors that affect the shelf life of seafood and provide you with tips on proper storage and handling.

From fish to shellfish, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!

Understanding the Shelf Life of Seafood

Seafood is a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal. However, it is important to understand the shelf life of seafood to ensure its freshness and safety for consumption. Several factors can affect how long seafood can stay out before it spoils, including temperature, storage conditions, and the type of seafood.

Factors Affecting Shelf Life

The shelf life of seafood is greatly influenced by temperature. Seafood should be kept at a temperature below 40°F (4°C) to slow down bacterial growth. Once seafood is exposed to temperatures above this threshold, bacteria can multiply rapidly, leading to spoilage and potential foodborne illnesses. Therefore, it is crucial to store seafood in a cool environment, such as a refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs.

Another factor that affects the shelf life of seafood is the storage conditions. Seafood should be stored in airtight containers or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to prevent air exposure, which can cause oxidation and deterioration. Additionally, seafood should be kept away from strong-smelling foods to avoid cross-contamination of flavors.

The type of seafood also plays a role in determining its shelf life. Delicate seafood such as shrimp and scallops have a shorter shelf life compared to heartier fish like salmon or tuna. This is due to the higher water content in delicate seafood, which makes them more prone to bacterial growth and spoilage. It is important to consume delicate seafood within a day or two of purchase to ensure its freshness.

Different Types of Seafood

Each type of seafood has its own unique characteristics and shelf life. Here are some guidelines for the shelf life of common types of seafood:

  • Fresh fish: Fresh fish can stay out for up to two hours before it needs to be refrigerated. If left at room temperature for longer, it is best to discard it to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
  • Shrimp: Shrimp should be refrigerated immediately after purchase and consumed within two days. Cooked shrimp can last up to three days in the refrigerator.
  • Scallops: Scallops should be consumed within a day or two of purchase. To extend their shelf life, store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
  • Crab: Fresh crab should be consumed within one to two days of purchase. If cooked, it can last up to five days in the refrigerator.
  • Mussels and clams: These shellfish should be cooked and consumed within a day of purchase. Discard any mussels or clams that do not open during cooking.

Remember, these guidelines are general recommendations, and it is always best to use your judgment and follow your senses when determining the freshness of seafood. If seafood looks or smells off, it is better to be safe than sorry and discard it.

To learn more about seafood safety and storage, you can visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.

Factors Affecting Shelf Life

When it comes to seafood, understanding the factors that affect its shelf life is crucial to ensure its freshness and safety. Several key factors play a role in determining how long seafood can stay out before it spoils. These factors include temperature, exposure to air, and bacterial contamination.


The temperature at which seafood is stored is one of the most critical factors affecting its shelf life. Seafood should be kept at a consistent temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below to minimize bacterial growth and prevent spoilage. Refrigeration is essential for maintaining the freshness of seafood, as higher temperatures can accelerate the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms.

It’s important to note that while refrigeration slows down bacterial growth, it does not completely stop it. Therefore, it is recommended to consume seafood within a few days of refrigeration to ensure its quality. Freezing seafood can extend its shelf life even further, but proper packaging and storage techniques are necessary to maintain its texture and flavor.

Exposure to Air

Another crucial factor affecting the shelf life of seafood is its exposure to air. Oxygen can cause oxidation, which can lead to the degradation of seafood quality. When seafood is exposed to air, it can become dry, lose its flavor, and become prone to spoilage.

Proper packaging, such as vacuum-sealed bags or airtight containers, can help minimize the exposure of seafood to air and prolong its freshness. It is recommended to transfer seafood to airtight containers or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap before refrigerating or freezing.

Bacterial Contamination

Bacterial contamination is a significant concern when it comes to seafood shelf life. Seafood can harbor various types of bacteria, some of which can cause foodborne illnesses if consumed. Therefore, it is crucial to handle seafood with care and maintain proper hygiene practices to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination.

When buying seafood, make sure to choose reputable suppliers who follow strict quality control measures. Additionally, it is essential to store seafood separately from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. Thoroughly cooking seafood to the appropriate internal temperature can also help eliminate any potential bacteria.

By understanding and addressing these factors, you can maximize the shelf life of seafood and enjoy it at its best. Remember to always prioritize food safety and freshness when handling and storing seafood.

Different Types of Seafood


When it comes to seafood, fish is one of the most popular choices. There are numerous types of fish that are enjoyed by people all over the world, including salmon, tuna, cod, and mackerel. Fish is not only delicious but also a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health. When storing fish, it is important to keep it refrigerated at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacterial growth. Fresh fish can typically stay in the refrigerator for up to two days, while frozen fish can last for several months.


Shellfish, such as shrimp, crab, lobster, and clams, are another popular type of seafood. Shellfish are known for their delicate flavor and are often used in a variety of dishes, from pasta to soups. When it comes to storage, shellfish are highly perishable and should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase. It is recommended to store live shellfish in a cool, damp place, such as the refrigerator, and consume them within two days. Cooked shellfish, on the other hand, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.


Crustaceans, including crabs and lobsters, are a type of shellfish that have a hard exoskeleton. These creatures are considered a delicacy in many cuisines around the world. To ensure the freshness of crustaceans, it is best to purchase them live. If you are unable to cook them immediately, it is advisable to keep them in a cool, damp place until you are ready to cook. Cooked crustaceans, if stored properly, can last for up to four days in the refrigerator. Remember to remove the meat from the shell before storing to prevent spoilage.

For more information on seafood storage and safety, you can visit the Seafood Health Facts website, which provides detailed guidelines on handling and storing various types of seafood. The website also offers valuable information on the health benefits of consuming seafood and the potential risks associated with improper handling and storage.

Proper Storage and Handling


When it comes to seafood, proper storage and handling are crucial to maintain its freshness and quality. Refrigeration is one of the most common methods used to keep seafood safe to eat for longer periods. The general rule of thumb is to store seafood in the refrigerator at a temperature below 40°F (4°C).

It is important to note that different types of seafood have varying shelf lives. For example, shellfish like mussels and clams should be consumed within a day or two of purchase, while fish like salmon and cod can last up to three days. To maximize freshness, it is recommended to store seafood in airtight containers or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

Additionally, it is crucial to keep seafood separate from other food items to prevent cross-contamination. This can be done by placing seafood in a separate drawer or section of the refrigerator or by using individual sealed bags.


Freezing seafood is an excellent way to extend its shelf life even further. When freezing seafood, it is important to do it as soon as possible after purchase to lock in its freshness. Before freezing, make sure to remove any excess moisture by patting the seafood dry with paper towels.

Seafood can be frozen in airtight containers or sealed plastic bags. To prevent freezer burn, it is recommended to wrap the seafood in an additional layer of aluminum foil or place it in a freezer-safe zip-top bag. Labeling the containers with the date of freezing is also a good practice to keep track of how long the seafood has been stored.

Properly frozen seafood can last for several months in the freezer, with some species like shrimp and scallops retaining their quality for up to six months. However, it is important to note that the texture and flavor of seafood may deteriorate over time, so it is best to consume it within the recommended timeframe.


When it comes to thawing seafood, it is important to do it safely to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. The best way to thaw seafood is to transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw slowly overnight. This method ensures a gradual thawing process, which helps maintain the texture and flavor of the seafood.

If you’re short on time, seafood can be thawed using the defrost function on a microwave. However, it is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and periodically check the seafood to ensure it doesn’t start cooking in some spots.

Once thawed, it is important to use the seafood immediately. Refreezing thawed seafood is not recommended, as it can lead to a loss of texture and quality.

For more in-depth information on proper storage and handling of seafood, you can visit the FDA’s official website on selecting and serving fresh and frozen seafood safely. Remember, following these guidelines will help you enjoy seafood at its best and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. So, go ahead and savor the flavors of the ocean!

Signs of Spoiled Seafood

When it comes to seafood, freshness is key. Consuming spoiled seafood can lead to foodborne illnesses and unpleasant dining experiences. To ensure you are enjoying the best quality seafood, it is important to be aware of the signs of spoilage. Here are three common indicators that your seafood may have gone bad:

1. Unpleasant Odor

One of the most obvious signs of spoiled seafood is a strong, unpleasant odor. Fresh seafood should have a clean and briny smell, reminiscent of the ocean. If you detect a strong fishy or ammonia-like odor, it is likely that the seafood has started to spoil. Trust your nose – if it doesn’t smell right, it’s best to avoid consuming it.

2. Change in Texture

Another telltale sign of spoiled seafood is a change in texture. Fresh seafood should have a firm and springy texture. If you notice a slimy or mushy texture, it is a clear indication that the seafood has begun to spoil. Additionally, if the seafood flakes apart easily or feels mushy when touched, it is best to discard it.

3. Discoloration

Discoloration is another sign that seafood may be spoiled. Fresh seafood should have vibrant colors that are characteristic of the particular species. If you notice any brown, gray, or yellow discoloration, it is an indication that the seafood has started to deteriorate. Additionally, any presence of mold or black spots on the seafood is a definite sign of spoilage.

It is important to note that these signs may vary depending on the type of seafood. For example, shellfish such as clams and oysters should have tightly closed shells. If the shells are open, it indicates that the shellfish is dead and should not be consumed. Additionally, if you notice any broken shells or shell fragments, it is best to discard the shellfish.

By being aware of these signs of spoilage, you can ensure that you are enjoying the freshest and safest seafood possible. Remember, when in doubt, it is always better to err on the side of caution and discard any seafood that you suspect may be spoiled.


Knowing how long seafood can stay out is crucial to ensure food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses.

Remember, seafood should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

By understanding the factors affecting shelf life and following proper storage and handling techniques, you can enjoy fresh and delicious seafood every time.

So, next time you’re planning a seafood feast, keep these guidelines in mind and savor the flavors without any worries!

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