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5 Sure Signs You Are Dealing With Undercooked Salmon

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For many people, fish is one of those foods that you either love or hate. However, this is mainly because they are not aware how broad the term “fish” is, and how many types with unique flavor profiles there are. 

One of those types is definitely salmon. If prepared the right way, salmon can be delicious. My favorite way to consume it is as part of sushi or sashimi, i.e. raw, but various other cooking methods are also an option.

But what about undercooked salmon? Is it safe to eat it in that state? Some people might think that, if it is safe to eat it raw, then it is certainly safe to enjoy it undercooked, right? 

Well, actually, this is very wrong, and, in this article, you will find out why. 

Can You Really Eat Undercooked Salmon?

Well, technically, you can, but it is really not recommended because there are certain risks in terms of health. 

I don’t say that eating undercooked salmon will cause damage every time you eat it, but if there is a possibility of it happening, it is always better to prevent it. 

Namely, there is a high chance that wild salmon caught in Alaska can be infected with the parasite called Japanese broad tapeworm, which can be a threat to your health. 

Aside from that, salmon that hasn’t been cooked properly can also contain certain bacteria, including salmonella, Vibrio vulnificus, and warm saltwater bacteria. 

Vibrio vulnificus is particularly dangerous because it can lead to serious health problems, including gastrointestinal disease, wound infection, and even sepsis. 

Logically, all of these parasites and bacteria can also be present in raw salmon, just like in other raw fish, like for example in raw tuna. So, why can you consume it raw, but not undercooked? 

Well, you can’t eat all kinds of raw salmon, but only sushi-grade or raw salmon, meaning it has been frozen at -4°F for at least 7 days, making sure that all bacteria are killed in the process. 

On the other hand, undercooked salmon has a temperature of around 40°F or higher, which is an ideal temperature for harmful bacteria growth. 

What Happens If You Eat It Undercooked?

delicious salmon on plate (2)

As I already said, undercooked salmon may contain various harmful bacteria. If you consume it, you put yourself at risk of contracting foodborne illnesses, which can lead to different symptoms. 

The most common bacteria associated with undercooked salmon is Salmonella. 

Consuming this bacteria will most certainly lead to foodborne illnesses. The symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, as well as fever. 

Diarrhea and vomiting can also lead to dehydration, which is especially dangerous for small children, older people, and those with a weak immune system. 

In some cases, severe cases of food poisoning can occur, requiring medical attention. 

Additionally, salmon can also be a host to parasites, such as tapeworms. Eating undercooked or raw salmon increases the risk of ingesting these parasites, which can lead to parasitic infections. 

Symptoms of a parasitic infection may vary but can include abdominal discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, and weight loss.

Some other bacteria and parasites that can be present in undercooked salmon include cod worms, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Staphylococcus aureus, as well as Shigella. 

So How To Tell If Your Salmon Is Undercooked?

You now know what can happen if you consume undercooked salmon, some nasty things indeed. It is therefore very important to know the signs of undercooked salmon. 

1. Translucent Appearance: If your salmon is undercooked, it may have a translucent or semi-transparent appearance in the thickest part of the flesh. It may appear somewhat raw or gelatinous instead of opaque and flaky.

2. Raw or Mushy Texture: When salmon is undercooked, its texture may be softer with a raw mushy consistency. When you touch it, the flesh may feel slightly slimy or have a texture similar to raw fish. 

3. Darker Color: If you don’t properly cook your salmon, it may appear darker in color. While cooked salmon typically has a vibrant pink or coral hue, undercooked fish may have a more reddish or darker tone. 

4. Lack of Flakes: Properly cooked salmon will easily flake apart with a fork. However, undercooked salmon wont have well-defined flakes and may still appear cohesive or resistant to separation. 

5. Raw or Fishy Smell: While properly cooked salmon will have a mild, pleasant aroma without strong odors, undercooked salmln may emit a stronger raw or fishy odor. 

The smell of fish is caused by the release of trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) from the muscle tissue. If the fish is not thoroughly cooked, that chemical compound won’t go away. 

How To Properly Cook Salmon?

salmon with ingredients

If you are ordering your salmon at the restaurant, check for these signs and use safety protocols. But if you are preparint it yourself, you can learn how to do that properly and avoid any potential problems. 

Right Time Frame is Essential

In general, you should cook salmon fillets at 400°F in the oven for about 11-14 minutes. 

However, there are some variations in terms of cooking methods. 

If you are pan-frying it, you should do that for approximately 10-15 minutes if you want to cook it properly. 

Finally, if grilling is your preferred method, this should take about 10-20 minutes of your precious time. 

Size of Your Salmon

Logically, size is also an important factor. The bigger the size of the fillet, the longer it will take to cook properly. 

For example, a 12 oz poached fillet could take up to 25 minutes, but a 4 oz fillet cooked in the oven could take as little as 8 minutes.

With or Without Salmon Skin

Although it is not directly related to the problem of undercooked salmon, it is certainly not the same when you cook salmon with or without the skin. It is much better to leave the skin on. 

First, it protects the salmon from direct heat, keeping the moisture in and protecting it from drying out. 

Aside from that, it adds texture and flavor to the fish, i.e. crispy skin provides a nice texture contrast to the moist flesh. 

Finally, the skin of the salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for the brain and the heart. 

Cook It With The Skin Facing Down

The flavor of salmon also depends on the way you cook it, so it is important to know the main tips and tricks. So, it is worth knowing that cooking the skin side of the salmon fillet first is essential. 

It will get crispy enough and if you use a non-stick pan or well-oiled grates, it won’t stick and make a mess either. 

How To Check It For Doneness?

undercooked salmon

There are two main ways to check if your salmon is properly cooked. First, you can do a little inspection yourself if you believe in your senses. If you are not so sure, the safest way is to check the internal temperature of the fish. 

• Opaque Appearance: When you cook it properly, the salmon will have an opaque and uniformly colored appearance throughout the flesh. 

• Flakey Texture: When salmon is properly cooked, the flakes should be firm but still moist, with a slightly tender and delicate texture. When you gently press it with a fork or knife, cooked salmon should easily flake apart. 

• Separated Layers: As salmon cooks, the layers of muscle and fat separate slightly, making it easier to identify the individual layers. 

So, when cooked, the flesh should appear distinct but still cohesive, with a clear separation between the layers. 

• Mild, Pleasant Aroma: Unlike the strong or unpleasant fishy odor of raw or undercooked salmon, a properly cooked one will have a mild and appealing aroma. 

• Internal Temperature: This is the most reliable way to check if your salmon is done. Simply insert a food thermometer inside the thickest part of the fish because it takes the longest for that part to cook. 

According to the FDA, if the thermometer shows a temperature of 145°F (63°C), your salmon is done. If it is lower, the salmon is undercooked and you should let it cook a bit longer. 

One more note. Be careful not to overcook the salmon. Salmon contains a certain amount of white stuff, known as Albumin. However, if there is an excessive amount, salmon is probably overcooked. 


So, the most important conclusion of the whole story is that raw salmon and undercooked salmon are entirely different things in terms of edibility. 

Raw salmon is mostly sushi-grade, i.e. it is frozen properly to kill all the bacteria and parasites. That can not be said for undercooked salmon, which is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. 

Because of that, you shouldn’t consume it, and you should know that translucent appearance, mushy texture, darker color, lack of flakes, and fishy smell are the main signs that your salmon is not fully cooked. 

See also: Can You Refreeze Salmon And Will It Impact Its Quality? 

5 Sure Signs You Are Dealing With Undercooked Salmon