Smoked salmon has been a delicacy for centuries. From peasants to the Middle Ages, to native American tribes in the distant past, it has filled the needs of being protein-rich, easy to produce in large amounts, and above all, delicious. But humans are not living in the ancient past anymore, and preserving food is important.
Modern humankind is not like that of the past. The need for food that is easy to catch in plentiful numbers has given way to the need for food to last long in preservation and give plentiful energy. So, does smoked salmon stand the test of time? How long does it last, and what can be done to make it last longer?
Smoked salmon has a shelf life of a little more than one week in the fridge. You can consider two weeks its hard cutoff point, but it is best to stay cautious and do something with it before that. In the freezer it can last up to a month. In both cases the same thing does it in: Bacterial colonization.
Some foods die in the freezer due to freezer burn. Some do not even die in the freezer but become so dry that their original texture and flavor is gone. But most meats succumb to the same fate, and it is the same as salmon. Bacteria finds its way into them, and they become dangerous for humans to eat.
Keeping Your Salmon Safe In The Freezer
In order to keep your salmon free of bacteria for as long as possible there are a few steps you have to follow.
The first is wrapping your salmon up. This can be done in many different ways, but the recommended method is plastic wrap. This is because the intention of wrapping your salmon up is to keep it safe from anything that might land on it in the air, and plastic wrap can be layered multiple times to ensure it is airtight.
Of course, if you do not have plastic wrap or do not want to fiddle with it, there are alternatives. Metal foil and ziplocked bags are the two most common. Parchment paper can even work. But no matter what you do, you have to do something, because if you skip this step, you are unlikely to keep your salmon for very long.
The second step is putting your smoked salmon in a container to keep it from bumping into anything else in the freezer. This will protect it from “cross contamination”, which is when bacteria that usually only grows in or on one thing contaminations another thing by coming in contact with it.
You do not want your salmon to bump into your chicken and start hosting the bacteria that grows on chicken, after all. As such, put your smoked salmon in a Tupperware container if you have one. Tupperware containers are airtight, so you might think they make the plastic wrap redundant.
However, not everyone has plastic wrap, and not everyone has Tupperware. If you are fortunate enough to live in that overlap, then that is good. But if you are missing either component, then it is not the end of the world. Lacking Tupperware, you can always use two plates, one face down on top of the other, to shield your salmon.
This is why the airtight plastic is good: The “two plates” method is not airtight, so having a secondary airtight seal around your salmon will keep it safe.
Even if you do not have plastic wrap, the “two plate” method combined with basically any of the other options will make it so improbable that anything finds its way onto your salmon that you are basically guaranteed to be safe. By these methods, your salmon should last as long as it can in the freezer.
Smoked salmon lasts for slightly more than a week in the fridge, and slightly less than a month in the freezer. If you want to stretch its life cycle to its limit in either case, wrap it up and seal it in a container. And of course, enjoy it when you can. It is delicious, nutritious, and able to keep you going while still being healthy.
There is a reason smoked salmon has stuck around for as long as it has. So, go and find it.