How to Tell if Abalone Has Gone Bad

Abalone is a delicious and luxurious shellfish enjoyed around the world However, like any seafood, it is perishable and can go bad if not stored and handled properly Knowing how to identify signs of spoiled abalone can help you avoid foodborne illness and make the most of this prized ingredient.

In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about determining when abalone has gone bad including

  • Optimal storage conditions
  • Appearance and smell
  • Safe shelf life
  • Effects of freezing
  • Changes during cooking
  • What to do if abalone goes bad

Plus some tips for buying preparing and serving abalone while maintaining quality and freshness.

Proper Storage of Abalone

To maximize abalone’s shelf life after purchase and prevent premature spoilage, proper storage is key. Here are the best practices for keeping abalone fresh:

  • Keep live abalone cool – between 36-42°F is ideal. They can be kept alive for 4-5 days this way.

  • Freshly shucked abalone meat should be stored in the refrigerator in a breathable container or wrapped in plastic wrap. Keep between 34-40°F.

  • For longer term freezer storage, wrap shucked abalone tightly in freezer wrap or bags. Freeze at 0°F or below.

  • Keep all abalone away from heat sources and sunlight to avoid temperature fluctuations.

  • Don’t allow abalone to sit in pooling water which can breed bacteria. Drain excess liquid.

Following these cold storage guidelines gives you the best chance of avoiding premature spoilage.

How to Tell When Abalone Has Gone Bad

Even when properly stored, abalone has a relatively short prime shelf life before quality starts deteriorating. Check for these signs of spoiled abalone before consumption:


  • Milky colored liquid oozing from meat
  • Flesh turns opaque and milky
  • Darkening and yellowing of meat
  • Visible mold growth
  • Shriveled, dried out appearance


  • Strong fishy, ammonia-like odor
  • Sour, rotten smell
  • Unpleasant “off” odors


  • Very mushy, slimy consistency
  • No bounce back when pressed


  • Bitter, sour, or rotten taste
  • Metallic, chemical taste
  • Lacks sweetness and ocean brininess

The fresher the abalone, the sweeter and milder it will taste. Any “off” flavors or textures indicate spoilage and the abalone should be discarded.

How Long Does Abalone Last?

How long abalone stays fresh and edible depends on whether it is alive, fresh, frozen, or cooked:

  • Live abalone – 4-5 days when kept cool between 36-42°F

  • Fresh, raw abalone – 1-2 days in the fridge

  • Frozen abalone – 9-12 months when properly frozen below 0°F

  • Cooked abalone – 3-4 days refrigerated

For maximum freshness and flavor, live and raw abalone are best consumed within 1-2 days of harvesting or purchasing. Cooked abalone lasts a bit longer at 3-4 days.

Does Freezing Affect Abalone Quality?

Freezing can extend abalone’s shelf life, however it may impact texture and flavor. Here’s how freezing affects abalone:

  • Causes cellular damage, creating a mushier texture when thawed
  • Can result in freezer burn if not properly sealed
  • Leads to loss of moisture, making abalone chewier
  • Dulls and alters the delicate flavor
  • Prevents consumption raw or lightly cooked

While frozen abalone is safe to eat, the changes freezing causes to texture and taste are especially noticeable in high quality, fresh abalone. For best flavor and experience, fresh abalone is ideal.

What Happens When You Cook Bad Abalone?

Cooking spoiled or bad abalone is unsafe and the results will be obvious. Here’s what happens:

  • Strong “fishy” and ammonia smells will be very noticeable
  • Texture will be incredibly mushy and slimy
  • Flavor will be sour, bitter, rotten or rancid
  • Nauseating aftertaste
  • Foodborne pathogens may cause illness

Cooking cannot reverse the effects of spoilage. The smells, textures, and tastes caused by bacteria will persist and become more evident. Abalone that exhibits any signs of spoilage should always be discarded before cooking.

What to Do With Spoiled Abalone

If abalone exhibits signs of spoilage, it is critical to avoid eating it. Here are the safest protocols for bad abalone:

  • Discard in sealed bag to contain odors
  • Do not taste to confirm spoilage
  • Wash hands, surfaces, containers thoroughly after handling
  • Notify seller if recently purchased abalone went bad very quickly
  • Monitor for illness symptoms if you ate spoiled abalone

Following safe food handling procedures helps prevent harmful bacteria from spreading. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

Tips for Purchasing and Serving Fresh Abalone

To help avoid ending up with spoiled abalone, here are some useful purchasing and serving tips:

  • Buy live or freshly shucked abalone on ice from reputable sellers
  • For live, pick active, tightly closed shells with no cracks or dents
  • Choose frozen abalone with no freezer burn or ice crystals
  • Use abalone within 1-2 days of thawing frozen product
  • Rinse just before use – don’t soak abalone as it absorbs water
  • Cook gentle and briefly to preserve texture and flavor
  • Completely cook through until opaque and firm
  • Serve abalone immediately after cooking for best taste

Following safe handling and serving practices helps ensure an enjoyable abalone eating experience.

The Bottom Line

Abalone is exquisite but extremely perishable. Knowing what to look for and understanding proper storage methods allows you to determine if your abalone has gone bad before eating. Be on the lookout for any foul odors, unusual textures, or off flavors which indicate spoilage. For best quality and food safety, start with a fresh product, store abalone correctly, and consume it within a couple days of purchasing. With some care to avoid and identify spoiled abalone, you can fully enjoy this sublime seafood.

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Do abalone need to be refrigerated?

Abalone can be kept live for up to 3 days if stored in a deep-sided bucket covered with a hessian sack soaked in water and kept in the coolest part of the house. Alternatively, refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC.

How long does canned abalone last in the fridge?

*Store in a cool and dry place. Refrigerate after opening and eat within 3 days. *Minimum order for collection: 1 can. ** Drained weight is the weight of the abalone meat in the can.

Can you eat the green part of abalone?

What part of the abalone is edible? What is not edible? Just about all of it is edible, except the shell. Many people discard the guts, but they offer a great flavor and texture when cooked, much like a cooked clam or oyster.

Can I keep live abalone in the fridge?

They are packed and shipped in oxygen-filled bags for longer shelf life and will keep well in the fridge for about 2 days, or can be shucked and frozen for future consumption.

How do you know if abalone is bad?

Make sure your freezer stays at 0ºF or lower. Canned abalone should be kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight—between temperatures of 50ºF and 70ºF. To know if abalone is bad, you can pay attention to how long you’ve stored the abalone. This shellfish should only be kept in the fridge while fresh for 24 to 48 hours.

What does abalone taste like?

Abalone is said to taste sweet, salty, savory and buttery all at the same time. It is a little chewy on the outside, but also surprisingly soft on the inside. The texture is very similar to calamari. Some liken the taste to a buttery, richer version of scallops, with the salty taste of the sea being evident underneath.

What does an abalone look like from the outside?

An abalone looks like a flattened snail from the outside. It has a hard and heavy shell that covers the topside of the body. The soft, fleshy side is attached to the rocks. When you flip it over and remove the meat, the shell exhibits an iridescent surface, commonly known as mother of pearl or nacre.

What does a white abalone shell mean?

Derived from the mollusk named Haliotis sorensi, the white abalone shells signify purity. Wearing white abalone assists in the cleansing of toxins. At times, the shell can appear a light grey, or off-white with specks of white. These shells have such depth and are ideal for harnessing the healing properties of abalone.

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