Every year from May till August we barbeque a whole barracouta (snoek). The whole fish is way too much for us to eat in a single sitting. We normally have more than half the fish leftover. That means that cooked fish leftovers are cut up and stored in the fridge. That raises the question of how long can I safely keep my cooked fish in the fridge.

Cooked fish can be safely stored in a refrigerator set to below 40°F for 3 to 4 days. Always refrigerate cooked fish in a shallow, airtight container to prevent cross-contamination. Never store cooked fish on the same shelf as raw meat. Refrigeration slows but does not prevent bacterial growth.

Never store cooked fish next to raw meat
Never store cooked fish next to raw meat

Let’s take a closer look at how long to safely keep cooked fish in the fridge. How best to store it and what you can do with cooked fish once it has been stored in the fridge.

How Long Does Cooked Fish Last In The Fridge?

As soon as cooked fish cools down to room temperature the process of bacterial growth begins. Once that bacterial growth reaches a critical point the fish is considered bad and is also potentially dangerous to eat. 

By refrigerating it you slow down the process of bacterial growth. And also extend the time that the fish will remain safe to eat.

However, placing your cooked fish in the fridge will not prevent bacterial growth from taking place. It will merely slow down the rate at which bacterial growth happens.

Cooked fish

Best Practices

If you are able to put it into the refrigerator relatively quickly after it has cooled down to room temperature you will be able to keep your cooked fish in the refrigerator for three to four days before the bacterial growth becomes too much and the fish will spoil.

It is important when you put it into the refrigerator that it does not share a shelf with raw food. Such as raw fish, meat, or poultry so as to prevent cross-contamination between the cooked fish and the raw meat. 

Cooked fish does go bad in the fridge. Properly stored, it can last for up to three to four days. But note that this does not prevent the fish from going bad.

If it has been in the refrigerator for longer than four days, you should consider the fish to be spoiled. It shouldn’t be eaten as the fish is potentially dangerous.

Be sure to place your cooked fish in an airtight container before placing it into the refrigerator. This will prevent bacteria from elsewhere in the fridge from contaminating the fish.

Likewise, if you happen to leave your fish in the fridge for too long, having it in an airtight container will prevent the bacteria from the fish from contaminating any other fresh produce that you have in the refrigerator.

Has it gone bad? Smell it
Smell it

How Do You Know If Cooked Fish Is Bad?

When fish has been cooked and stored in the refrigerator the tell-tale indication that the fish has gone bad will be the smell. As cooked fish begins to go bad, the smell will begin to become more and more rancid. Even though fresh fish tends to get slimy on the surface, that does not happen in the case of cooked fish.

The rancid smell that fish begins to get as it goes off becomes more and more putrefying as time goes on. This is another reason why it is important to keep your cooked fish in an airtight container when stored in the refrigerator. You don’t want the smell of fish beginning to go off to permeate everything else in the fridge, especially milk.

How Do You Store Cooked Fish In The Refrigerator?

The best way to store cooked fish in the refrigerator is by storing it in a shallow, air-tight container that will allow the fridge to cool the fish in a uniform manner. If the fish is stored in a deep container, the fish cannot cool in a uniform manner and some of the fish might not refrigerate properly at all.

Make sure that your refrigerator is set to 40°F or less in order to safely refrigerate fish.

If parts of your fish don’t refrigerate then those parts will go off sooner. They will contaminate the remainder of the fish, meaning that all of your fish could be inedible within as little as a day or two.

Using an airtight container prevents cross-contamination of your fish when you start the refrigeration process as well as everything else in your fridge if your fish starts going bad.

Fresh fish display
Fresh fish display

Can You Reheat Cooked Fish?

You can most definitely reheat a cooked fish dish that has been kept in the refrigerator. Fish dishes can be reheated and eaten up to 4 days after the original cooking date quite safely. Some fish dishes that have been cooked with garlic and onions may even taste better a day or two after when they were originally cooked.

The only challenge when it comes to reheating fish is that there is a propensity for the fish to dry out during the reheating process.

I find that by reheating the fish slower there is less of a chance for my fish to dry out. Oily fish also tends to hold moisture better during the reheating process.

Can You Reheat Fish In The Microwave?

It is most definitely safe to use a microwave to reheat cooked fish after it has been in the refrigerator. However, I always use my microwave with its power set relatively low when I reheat fish. 

In order to ensure that the fish reheats evenly without drying out, I use the microwave for approximately 30 seconds at a time, stopping to turn the fish over before returning it to the microwave for another increment of 30 seconds. I continue this process until the fish has been evenly reheated. 

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