You’re having a cookout or get-together, and time slips by you. You’re having fun with your family and friends when you realize those salmon fillets have been on the table in the sun for who knows how long. You’re wondering to yourself, “how long can salmon sit out?”
Salmon, along with most cooked perishables, should not sit out for more than 2 hours. 2 hours at room temperature put the food into the “Danger Zone.” In the Danger Zone, bacteria most optimally reproduce.
When leaving cooked or raw salmon out, you should be aware of this 2 hour time frame and work around it. Salmon kept at room temperature or in the Danger Zone for more than 2 hours is no longer food-safe.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA calls the temperature range between 40℉ and 140℉ the Danger Zone. In this temperature range, bacteria optimally grow, potentially doubling their counts within 20 minutes.
That means that if you leave salmon out for 2 hours, the bacteria on it could multiply up to 64 times!
When working with salmon, it’s important to cook and keep the salmon at internal temperatures that minimize bacteria and pathogen growth. You can measure the internal temperature of salmon by sticking a food thermometer into its thickest part.
According to the USDA, salmon should be cooked to a temperature of 145℉. If not serving immediately, it’s best to keep salmon at that temperature or above the 140℉ threshold. Above 140℉, most bacteria or pathogens have been killed off.
If not eating immediately, the salmon should be cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The salmon should be kept below the Danger Zone threshold of 40℉. Below 40℉, most bacteria or pathogens struggle to survive.
Salmon should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Whether the salmon is cooked or raw doesn’t matter. That amount of time provides ample opportunity for existing bacteria to grow and new bacteria to get introduced.