Why is My Frozen Salmon Mushy? – Causes and How to Prevent It

Nothing is more disappointing than pulling beautiful salmon fillets out of the freezer, thawing them, and ending up with a pot of fish mush. Mushy, mealy salmon is unappetizing and ruins recipes.

If you’ve struggled with mushy frozen salmon, you’re not alone. Many home cooks run into this common problem. Thankfully, with some simple tips on handling, thawing and cooking, you can enjoy tender, flaky frozen salmon.

In this article, I’ll go over the reasons frozen salmon can turn mushy, along with techniques to help prevent it. You’ll learn how to choose good quality frozen salmon, store it properly, thaw it correctly, and cook it to maintain texture. Let’s dive in!

What Causes Frozen Salmon to Get Mushy?

There are a few reasons why frozen salmon might end up with a mushy consistency

1. Damage During Freezing

Improperly freezing salmon can cause the flesh to become mushy. When salmon is frozen slowly or at too warm of a temperature, large ice crystals form. These crystallize the fish cells, rupturing cell walls.

Once thawed, the cells have lost structural integrity, causing mushiness. Quickly flash freezing salmon below 0°F keeps crystals small.

2. Prolonged Frozen Storage

Even properly frozen salmon will deteriorate in texture over time Fat oxidation and deterioration of proteins lead to mushiness.

For best quality, frozen salmon should be used within 2-3 months. Eat frozen fish within a year.

3. Improper Thawing

How you thaw frozen salmon makes a big difference in texture. Thawing too quickly causes ice crystals to rupture cells.

Salmon thawed slowly in the refrigerator maintains texture better. Don’t thaw on the counter.

4. Overcooking

Overcooking is another cause of mushy salmon. High heat for too long dries out the flesh, making it mushy and mealy.

Gentle cooking methods like baking or poaching help ensure frozen salmon stays tender.

How to Prevent Frozen Salmon from Getting Mushy

Follow these best practices when buying, storing, thawing and cooking frozen salmon:

  • Buy high-quality salmon – Opt for frozen wild-caught salmon over farmed. Pick salmon bled after catch for best flavor.

  • Freeze salmon quickly at 0°F or below. Flash freezing causes smaller ice crystals.

  • Store properly – Keep frozen salmon below 0°F. Avoid freezer burn by sealing tightly.

  • Don’t over freeze – For best quality and texture, use frozen salmon within 2-3 months.

  • Thaw slowly in the refrigerator overnight, never at room temperature.

  • Handle gently when thawed – Don’t let salmon soak in liquid which makes it mushy.

  • Cook it right – Bake, poach or pan sear. Don’t overcook – salmon is done when just opaque in center.

Thawing Frozen Salmon the Right Way

Since improper thawing is a main cause of mushy salmon, use these methods:

  • Refrigerator: Unwrap frozen salmon and place in a bowl or on a plate. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

  • Cold Water: Place vacuum-sealed frozen salmon in cold water, changing water every 30 minutes until thawed. Cook immediately.

  • Microwave: Defrost vacuum-sealed salmon on the defrost setting based on package instructions. Cook immediately.

Pro tip: Don’t soak thawed salmon in liquid or re-freeze unless using immediately. This leads to a mushy texture.

Cook Frozen Salmon Properly

Cooking method greatly impacts the final texture of frozen salmon.

  • Oven: Bake salmon at 400°F for 10-15 minutes until opaque in center.

  • Sous vide: For the most tender salmon, cook 1-inch fillets at 115°F for 20 minutes then sear.

  • Pan sear: Heat oil in a pan. Cook salmon skin-side up for 2-3 minutes per side until almost opaque throughout.

  • Poach: Simmer salmon in a broth or wine mixture at 160-180°F for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness.

Remove salmon from heat before it flakes. Enjoy your frozen salmon at its best!

The Bottom Line

Freezing offers a great way to enjoy delicious salmon anytime. But nothing’s worse than biting into a thawed fillet only to find it mushy and mealy. With proper freezing, storage, thawing and cooking, you can savor tender, flaky frozen salmon.

What Smart Chefs Know About Frozen Fish


Is it okay to eat mushy salmon?

Texture: Fresh salmon has a firm texture, and the flesh should spring back when pressed. If the texture is mushy or slimy, the salmon is bad.

Why is frozen fish mushy?

If the freezing process happens too slowly—i.e. if the fish wasn’t flash-frozen properly—that liquid can form ice crystals that will rupture the cells of the fish. When that fish is later thawed and cooked, this liquid will leak out, producing a mushy texture.

How to make frozen salmon not mushy?

Flip the salmon so it’s skin-side down, and season the flesh side generously with salt, pepper and any other spices you’d like. Cover the skillet with a lid to help trap heat and steam the salmon so it cooks through. While it’s steaming, you want the skin against the hot pan so it crisps up instead of getting soggy.

Why did my salmon turn out mushy?

There are two causes for mushy fish: The fish was frozen and thawed too rapidly. Melted water soaks the fish and makes it soft.

Why is my salmon mushy?

The fish skin not only imparts a delicious flavor but also helps the fish to maintain its firm texture. Removing it before cooking may be a reason for your fish becoming mushy. If you don’t like the skin, remove it just before plating up. As you can see, there are multiple reasons why your salmon may be mushy.

What are the side effects of eating Salmon?

For individuals who enjoy fish and do not have a fish allergy, salmon is a high-quality, nutrient-rich food to include in your diet. Unless an individual has a fish allergy, the side effects from eating salmon would primarily be positive for heart and brain health for instance. It is possible that farmed salmon contains higher amounts of contaminants like PCBs compared to wild salmon and that eating it regularly may contribute to an accumulation of toxins. However, very large amounts of contaminated farmed salmon would have to be consumed and many salmon farms are finding sustainable practices that considerably reduce contaminants. The benefits of eating salmon in most cases outweighs the risks. The USDA agrees that eating 4 ounces of wild or farmed salmon twice a week is safe and can give you the nutritional benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for heart and brain health.

Why is my frozen fish mushy?

Fish turns mushy when a previously frozen fish cooks up and delivers flesh that resembles the texture of a roughly mashed potato. Fish usually turn mushy after being taken out of the freezer to defrost before cooking. Per The Spruce Eats, it can happen when your previously frozen fish is dunked in water without any packaging and takes in moisture.

Is it normal for salmon to look mushy after cooking?

And while purists may avoid salmon showing some mush, some people may not notice or be bothered by salmon with a little mush, especially after its cooked (confession: my grocery store salmon often has this look, and by the time it’s on my plate, I’ve entirely forgotten about it, and never notice anything amiss).

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