Do You Need To Wash Packaged Salmon?

Whether you’re looking to cook your salmon in a pan, want to grill it, or want to use it for sushi, salmon is a popular fish for many different styles of cooking. However, knowing how to clean your meats and fish before cooking is vital to ensuring you do not eat something that will make you sick. Since salmon is so popular, and you can buy it packaged, do you need to wash it before cooking?

According to the USDA, you should not wash your salmon as the water splashing can spread the bacteria to your kitchen and cooking area. However, if you are buying fresh salmon and need to scale and gut the salmon, you should disinfect all tools, the site, and your hands after washing.

Though there are guidelines to ensure you and your house stay safe when eating salmon, there is more than one way to prepare salmon, and in some of these ways, the salmon is raw. It is essential to read up on the dos and don’ts of fish and meats, as making a mistake can result in adverse health effects on the persons in the house.

Should You Wash Packaged Salmon Before Cooking It

If you are worried about possible bacteria or parasites in your salmon, it is only natural to feel like you need to wash it before you start cooking it. However, according to the USDA, you should avoid washing salmon as much as possible precisely because of the bacteria found on salmon and other fish.

When you wash salmon, both fresh or packaged, there is the chance that the water may splash around your kitchen and onto your countertops and cooking area. When this happens, you may be spreading bacteria over your kitchen. If you are not careful about cleaning the area immediately, the bacteria can multiply or spread over more extensive parts of your house or even your food.

If you are preparing to cook packaged salmon, the best way to ensure your salmon is clean and bacteria and parasite-free is to cook it thoroughly. While you prepare the fish, you may cut it in any way you want and prepare it to get cooked as long as you are sure to use a glass cutting board, since there is no area for bacteria to hide, and you should ensure all your tools and surfaces get disinfected.

Additionally, washing your hands thoroughly with a disinfectant and antibacterial soap would be best after working with the salmon.

Should Your Wash Packaged Salmon For Sushi

Though the method above, cooking the salmon, will ensure your salmon is parasite and bacteria-free, there is still the matter of what to do if you want to keep the salmon raw and use it for sushi or sashimi.

It is vital to note that you should still not wash your salmon before making sushi or sashimi with it, as this can still spread bacteria around your cooking area. However, the best way to be sure you are getting excellent and clean salmon that is safe to use for your sushi is to buy only “sushi-grade” salmon for this purpose.

Some stores may also label salmon as safe for raw consumption or sashimi-grade. However, you should be aware that there seem to be no specific guidelines in place to ensure a particular fish is safe to eat raw. For the most part, the store you buy the salmon from will determine whether it is safe to eat raw or should get cooked before you use it.

How To Stay Safe When Washing Packaged Salmon

Even though you’re not supposed to wash salmon, many people still clean their salmon regardless, and this is especially true if they use it for sushi or sashimi. The fact of the matter is that there are some ways you can decrease the likelihood of bacteria spreading through your house due to washing your salmon before using it.

To follow are some guidelines to assist you in keeping yourself and your house safe from bacteria when washing your packaged salmon.

  • Do Not Open The Tap Fully – One of the easiest ways to reduce the likelihood of spreading salmon bacteria by washing it is by using only a tiny stream of water. The bigger the water stream is, the more likely it is that there will be splashing while you wash the salmon. So using only a small water stream will lessen the chance of spreading bacteria.

  • Hold Your Salmon Low – By using the shape of the sink and keeping your salmon low inside the sink, you reduce the chance that water will be able to splash onto the counter. Even if you use a slow water stream, there may still be some splashing that can spread the bacteria, and keeping your salmon as low in the sink as possible will help the water stay in the sink even if it splashes.

  • Disinfect Your Sink – Once you have washed your salmon, you should always use antibacterial soap or cleanser to clean your sink properly. By cleaning your sink with antibacterial soap, you will kill the bacteria that is left and can reduce the chance of the bacteria spreading.

  • Disinfect Your Countertops – Once your sink is clean, you should also disinfect your workstation and countertops in your kitchen with antibacterial soap to ensure any stray bacteria get removed. Doing this will ensure the rest of the cleaning process is safe, and you will not spread bacteria to anything else.

  • Clean Your Cutting Board, Hands, And Tools – The last thing you need to do is ensure you wash your hands, cutting boards, and any knives or tools with antibacterial soap after you finish with the preparations. Since the bacteria will likely spread to all surfaces or objects that come into contact with the salmon, it is best to ensure everything gets cleaned correctly.

  • Prepare Your Salmon Last – During the cooking process, whether you are making sushi, sashimi, or any other fully cooked dish, it is best to prepare your salmon last. Doing this allows you to cook and prepare everything else without the possibility of the salmon bacteria affecting other foods or ingredients.
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How To Ensure Your Salmon Is Safe To Eat Raw

Since you are not supposed to wash your salmon, packaged or fresh, there should be a way to ensure your salmon is safe to eat raw in the case of sushi or sashimi. Luckily, there are some ways you can be sure any parasites in your salmon are dead, and it is a common practice for many shops that sell salmon and restaurants.

Below are some of the most effective tips to ensure your salmon is parasite-free and reduce the chance of bacteria harming you or your family.

  • Buy High-Quality Salmon – One of the most important things you should do when buying salmon, especially salmon to use it raw, is to ensure you buy only high-quality salmon. Though you may get tempted to buy cheaper salmon, the quality of the fish will likely be lower, and even if the fish is cleaned and cut, you may have a higher chance of bacteria or parasites.

  • Buy Safely Farmed Salmon – Another great way to ensure your salmon is safe to eat raw is to buy packaged salmon that way farmed instead of caught fresh. Though this may seem counterintuitive, the way salmon are kept and farmed, when the farm is ethical, ensures there are smaller chances of harmful bacteria and parasites in and on the salmon you buy.

    The way salmon farms control these factors is due to their hygienic regulations and by regulating the food the salmon eat to ensure they don’t get fed anything containing parasites.

  • Your Salmon Should Be Frozen – This is another way you can ensure your salmon is safe to eat raw, and again it seems very much against what most people will tell you. Though many believe that the salmon you use should be fresh, frozen salmon has a much lesser chance of containing parasites, though it may not affect bacteria as much.

    If you buy packaged salmon, it should be flash-frozen to near -40 Degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 hours or frozen at around 0 Degrees Fahrenheit for a week. By freezing or flash freezing the salmon, you kill any parasites that may have made their way into the salmon and are waiting to get into you.

  • Have A Smell – One of the simplest ways to tell if your salmon is no longer safe to eat raw or safe to eat when cooked is to smell it. If the salmon gives off an intense aroma of fishiness, you should probably avoid cooking it, as it may be old or have been out or unfrozen for too long to be safe for consumption.

  • Slice It Thinly And Have A Look – Even though some techniques mentioned above may kill any parasites found in salmon, there may still be some in your fish. If you prefer being extra cautious about this, and this is especially easy for making sushi, you can slice the salmon thinly and look for any unwanted details in the meat of the fish.

    Since, by this time, any parasites that may have inhabited your salmon should be dead, you can simply remove and dispose of them.

Should You Wash A Whole Packaged Salmon Before Cooking?

Though this doesn’t happen too often, some shops sell packaged salmon whole, which means instead of an already gutted, cleaned, and cut piece of salmon, you will be getting the whole thing. If you get an entire packaged salmon or a whole salmon in general, you will need to wash and clean it in several ways to ensure it is ready to be cooked or eaten.

Naturally, if you buy a whole salmon that has not been gutted or cut, you will have to do this part of the process yourself, and there will usually be water involved to allow you to wash off any smaller pieces that are still stuck on the salmon.

Additionally, you will need to rinse the salmon if you need to descale it, which is very likely if you buy a whole packaged salmon instead of a pre-cut and gutted salmon fillet. However, there are also times when salmon fillets get sold with the scales still on, and in this case, you should also wash it while you descale it.

Do Restaurants Wash Packaged Salmon?

Despite what many believe, not all restaurants use fresh fish for their dishes, and even sushi gets made with frozen or packaged fish. The truth is that salmon and raw fish are tricky to keep in good condition without freezing, and if you use exclusively fresh fish, you may end up paying more or having leftover fish that you cannot prepare or use within the safe timeframe.

For this reason, many restaurants and even specialized sushi houses use packaged fish the same as people making dishes at home. Since it is very easy for a restaurant to get into trouble because of food not being kept in good condition or harming a customer, they have to take extra precautions to avoid the growth of bacteria or parasites in their salmon.

Restaurants, unless they receive fresh fish every day, or have specific tanks in which they keep live fish before cooking, will freeze or flash freeze their fish to ensure it is safe to eat, more so if they serve it raw and do not kill any unwanted critters during the cooking process.

You may think that using frozen salmon is terrible and may damage the food or the fish and prevent it from tasting nice, but if you get high-quality fish, this is not a problem. The fact is that the higher the quality of the fish is, the less effect freezing has on the taste or the result.

With these factors in mind, some restaurants wash their salmon before cooking or preparing it. Still, those who rinse their salmon take extra precautions to ensure no harmful bacteria gets spread across the restaurant or kitchen. If the restaurant buys the whole salmon, which is standard practice, the fish needs to be gutted and cleaned, which means it gets rinsed.


If you are undecided whether you should or should not wash your salmon, it is best to stick with the guidelines by the USDA and not to wash your fish to avoid spreading bacteria. However, if you get set on washing your salmon before preparing it, you should at the very least ensure you clean yourself, your equipment, your working station, and cutting boards after washing or rinsing the fish.