How Long Does Seafood Last?

When it comes to seafood, freshness is key. Whether you’re a seafood enthusiast or just occasionally enjoy a tasty fish or shrimp dish, knowing how long you can store unopened fresh seafood in the refrigerator is essential. Proper storage maintains the quality and taste and ensures your safety. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the recommended storage times for different types of unopened fresh seafood and provide tips on identifying signs of spoilage. So, let’s dive in!

How Long Does Unopened Fresh Seafood Last in the Refrigerator?

Unopened fresh seafood can typically last for a limited period in the refrigerator before it deteriorates in quality and becomes unsafe to consume. The exact shelf life depends on the type of seafood and its initial freshness. Generally, it is recommended to consume unopened fresh seafood within two to three days of purchase when stored in the refrigerator.

Fish, such as salmon, trout, and snapper, can remain fresh for up to two days if stored properly. Shellfish, like shrimp, crab, and lobster, should ideally be consumed within one to two days. It’s important to note that these time frames are approximate and may vary based on the quality and freshness of the seafood when purchased.

Can I Store Unopened Frozen Seafood for an Extended Period?

Unopened frozen seafood can be stored for an extended period, if kept at a consistent freezing temperature of 0Β°F (-18Β°C) or below. Freezing seafood helps preserve its quality and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. Here are the recommended storage times for unopened frozen seafood:

  • Fish: Unopened frozen fish can typically be stored in the freezer for three to six months. However, for the best flavor and texture, consuming it within three months is recommended.
  • Shrimp: Unopened frozen shrimp can be stored for up to 12 months without significant quality loss.
  • Scallops: Unopened frozen scallops have a similar storage time to shrimp and can be safely stored for up to 12 months.

How Long Does Unopened Smoked Seafood Stay Good For?

Unopened smoked seafood has a longer shelf life than its fresh counterpart due to the smoking process, which is a preservation method. Unopened smoked seafood can stay good for an extended period when stored properly. Typically, it can last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

The exact duration may vary depending on the type of smoked seafood and its packaging. Smoked fish like salmon, trout, or mackerel have a longer shelf life than shellfish. It is essential to check the packaging or consult the manufacturer for specific storage instructions and expiration dates.

Does Unopened Seafood Retain Its Quality Past the Expiration Date?

The expiration date serves as a helpful guideline for ensuring freshness and quality. However, it’s important to understand that the expiration date is not an absolute cutoff point. The seafood’s quality may gradually decline over time, even if it remains unopened.

In some cases, unopened seafood may retain its quality past the expiration date if stored properly. Factors such as temperature, packaging, and the initial freshness of the seafood play significant roles in determining its longevity.

For instance, frozen seafood often has a longer shelf life than fresh seafood. If the frozen seafood has been stored consistently at or below 0Β°F (-18Β°C), it may still be acceptable past the expiration date. However, it’s crucial to note that frozen seafood can suffer from freezer burn or loss of flavor and texture over an extended period.

Canned seafood, on the other hand, typically has a longer shelf life due to the preservation method. If the can is undamaged and stored in a cool, dry place, the unopened canned seafood might retain its quality beyond expiration.

Ultimately, it’s essential to use your judgment and rely on your senses when determining the quality of unopened seafood. If the seafood appears discolored, has an off-putting odor, or shows signs of spoilage, such as bulging cans or compromised packaging, it’s best to err on caution and discard it.

Can Unopened Seafood Be Consumed After Its “Best By” Date?

The “best by” date on seafood packaging indicates the date the manufacturer recommends consuming the product for optimal quality. However, unopened seafood can often be consumed safely past this date if stored correctly and shows no signs of spoilage. 

It’s important to consider the following:

  • Storage conditions: If the seafood has been stored properly at the recommended temperature, it may still be safe to consume after the “best by” date.
  • Quality degradation: While the seafood may still be safe to eat, its quality and flavor may have diminished. Trust your judgment and evaluate its freshness based on odor, appearance, and texture.
  • Risk assessment: If you have any doubts about the safety or quality of the seafood, it’s advisable to discard it to avoid potential foodborne illnesses.

Are There Any Signs to Identify if Unopened Seafood Has Gone Bad?

Certain signs can help you identify if unopened seafood has gone bad. Here are some common indicators of spoilage:

  • Foul odor: If the seafood emits a strong, unpleasant odor, it clearly shows that it has spoiled and should be discarded.
  • Sliminess: Fresh seafood should have a clean and firm texture. It’s best to avoid consuming it if it feels slimy or sticky.
  • Color changes: Unopened seafood with significant color changes, such as browning or grayish hues, is likely past its prime and should not be consumed.
  • Mold or discoloration: Mold or unusual discoloration on unopened seafood indicates spoilage. Discard it immediately.

Can I Freeze Unopened Fresh Seafood?

Yes, you can freeze unopened fresh seafood to extend its shelf life. Freezing seafood helps preserve its quality and prevents bacterial growth. However, it’s important to note that freezing unopened seafood is not a foolproof method, and the freshness of the seafood before freezing will impact its quality upon thawing.

To freeze unopened fresh seafood, ensure it is well-sealed in airtight packaging or freezer-safe containers to prevent freezer burn and maintain flavor. It’s advisable to wrap the seafood tightly in plastic wrap or use freezer bags for long-term storage.

What’s the Best Way to Store Unopened Fresh Seafood in the Refrigerator?

Store unopened fresh seafood in airtight containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent cross-contamination and odor absorption.

How Can I Thaw Frozen Unopened Seafood?

Thawing frozen unopened seafood properly is crucial to maintain its quality and ensure food safety. Two recommended methods for thawing frozen seafood are refrigerator thawing and cold water thawing.

Refrigerator thawing is the safest and most convenient method. Simply place the unopened package of frozen seafood in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw slowly over time. This method requires patience, as it can take several hours to overnight, depending on the size and type of seafood. However, it ensures a gradual thaw, minimizing the risk of bacterial growth.


Properly storing unopened fresh seafood in the refrigerator is essential to maintain its quality, flavor, and safety. Following the recommended storage times and being vigilant for spoilage can ensure that your seafood dishes are always a delightful and healthy experience. 

Remember to trust your senses and use common sense when evaluating the freshness of unopened seafood. Enjoy your seafood at its freshest and savor the incredible flavors it has to offer.

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