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For those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, everyone ate tuna in a can. We didn’t look for albacore tuna in a pouch or canned tuna in olive oil. For us, our parents were always making tuna salad, tuna casserole, or Tuna Helper with whatever canned tuna the supermarket carried.
In this article, we’ll answer the following questions: how long does tuna fish last in the fridge, and how to tell if tuna salad is bad. We’ll also look at how temperature affects how long you can let tuna salad sit out.
How Long Does Tuna Salad Last In The Fridge?
According to the USDA, tuna salad, stored correctly in the fridge at a temperature of 40°F or below, will last 3 to 5 days.
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How Should I Store Tuna Salad In The Fridge?
The doors of refrigerators fluctuate more than the shelves. Therefore, do not store your tuna salad in the door of your fridge. Instead, it should be stored on a shelf in a colder part of the fridge. To properly monitor your fridge temp, you need a fridge/freezer thermometer.
It would be best if you also stored tuna salad in an airtight container to prevent it from causing an unpleasant odor in your fridge or from picking up odors from other foods.
I would advise you to use a sealed glass container if you’re worried about odors or dedicate a plastic container just for tuna. This is the brand I use and recommend. This brand has a glass and BPA-free plastic container set if you’re in the market.
Why You Should Store Tuna Salad At Or Below 40°F
When it comes to food, bacteria can do two things. It can be pathogenic (the kind that gives up food poisoning), or it can be “spoilage” bacteria (the kind that causes foods to spoil).
You can often spot the bacteria that cause food spoilage because your food may develop an “off” taste and texture, it may smell “funky,” or it may show signs of mold.
Unfortunately, pathogenic bacteria, which can give us food poisoning, can be present on or in your food without you even knowing it. These types of bacteria can often be present and not affect the taste, smell, or texture of your food.
Bacteria grow the fastest between 40°F and 140°F. This temperature range is what the USDA refers to as the “Danger Zone.” You want to avoid this zone and keep all food stored in the fridge at or below 40°F to slow the growth of these bacteria. A warm temperature in your fridge invites bacteria growth and spoiled food. Help maximize the short shelf life of fresh tuna and tuna salad by investing in a fridge thermometer.
Yes, that’s a hint. If you don’t have a fridge thermometer, please consider investing in one. I don’t play around when it comes to my family and food safety! And neither should you.
How Long Does Tuna Salad Last Out Of The Fridge?
When dealing with fresh tuna, opened canned tuna, or any raw fish, keep in mind that they have a short shelf life.
Fish and mayonnaise spoil quickly in warm temperatures, so only leave tuna salad out of the fridge long enough to scoop a serving or make a sandwich.
However, the official recommendation from the government’s Food Safety website is to throw tuna salad out when it has been above 40°F for more than two hours. Still, you must also take into consideration the temperature of your room.
You should not leave tuna out for more than one hour if the temperature is at or above 90°F or longer than two hours if it is less than 90°F.
This is the recommendation from the U.S. Government, but I always err on the side of caution and don’t let tuna sit out of the fridge for more than a couple of minutes because fish and mayonnaise spoil quickly.
Therefore, in my household, tuna salad goes straight into the fridge when it’s made and only comes out long enough to scoop out a serving or make a sandwich.
It’s not worth the risk of making someone sick. Remember, replacing a batch of tuna salad will cost you a lot less than a trip to the doctor!
How Do You Know if Tuna Salad Is Bad?
You should discard any unopened cans of tuna that are leaking, bulging, rusted, or dented, especially if the dents are around the seams.
If your salad has developed an “off” odor or appearance (change in color or texture), do not taste it and discard it immediately.
If your tuna looks and smells ok but has a funky or “just not quite right” taste, don’t eat anymore and throw it out.
But what if you’re at a gathering and some tuna salad was removed from refrigeration for a while before it was served?
I don’t eat a tuna salad that has been removed from refrigeration for more than a few minutes. However, the official recommendation is to discard food if it has been out of refrigeration for more than two hours if it is below 90°F and one hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
Does Tuna Salad Freeze?
Technically, you can safely freeze tuna salad. But does tuna salad freeze well? Unfortunately, not usually. The quality of your tuna salad once thawed depends on the ingredients used to make it. Let me explain.
Mayonnaise doesn’t freeze well and will often separate and leave an unpleasant texture to your tuna salad. So I’d avoid freezing tuna salad that contained mayo. Trust me on this!
Crisp veggies like celery and onions often become limp after thawing, ruining the texture of your tuna salad.
Salad dressings like Miracle Whip or Greek yogurt may fare better in the freezer. But again, don’t do it. Similarly, the outcome isn’t optimal.
However, if you insist on trying to freeze tuna salad, I’d recommend you try freezing just enough for a tuna salad sandwich.
And best quality, freeze the tuna salad immediately after making it in a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. Then, thaw it in the refrigerator and see if you like it.
If the quality once thawed is acceptable, freeze away!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does Canned Tuna Last In The Refrigerator?
While an unopened can of tuna has a long shelf life, leftover canned tuna does not. Once opened and if properly refrigerated, canned tuna will last in the fridge for up to 3 to 5 days.
How Long Does Tuna Casserole Last In the Refrigerator?
Like chicken salad, egg salad, and tuna salad, tuna casserole will last up to 5 days if stored properly in the refrigerator at or below 40°F.
Can You Freeze Canned Tuna To Extend Its Shelf Life?
Yes, you can use the freezer to extend the shelf life of tuna. However, NEVER freeze tuna in the can. Instead, you must remove the tuna from its can and put it into freezer-safe plastic bags or airtight containers.
If kept at a constant 0°F, tuna will be safe to eat indefinitely. Unfortunately, it is hard to know if your freezer has maintained the proper temperature.
Eat your frozen, canned tuna within three months of freezing for the best quality.
Can You Freeze Fresh Tuna?
Yes, you can freeze fresh tuna meat. Be sure to freeze it in a freezer ziptop bag or airtight container.
What Is The Highest Temperature Allowed For Cold Holding Tuna Salad?
Always err on the side of caution and keep your tuna salad at or below 40°F and avoid the danger zone, which is between 41°F and 135°F.
Final Thoughts From Cost-Effective Kitchen
If your family eats tuna, canned tuna can be a great addition to your cost-effective kitchen.
Canned tuna can be used to make tuna casseroles, tuna bakes, and tuna salad. You can also put chunks of tuna on a green or cold pasta salad. The uses are almost endless.
And if you keep a batch of tuna salad properly stored in the fridge, you should be able to have fresh tuna sandwiches for up to 5 days!
When consuming tuna, always err on the side of caution. Don’t use damaged or dented cans. Keep your tuna adequately refrigerated at or below 40°F and use it within 3 to 5 days. You don’t want to eat bad tuna. And never try to eat week-old tuna salad, even if it looks and smells ok.
You should always use your senses to tell if tuna salad is bad. Always look and smell tuna first before consuming it.
If its color doesn’t look right or smell right, it shouldn’t be eaten anymore and should be thrown out. Remember, “If in doubt, throw it out.” The last thing you want to do is get sick from eating spoiled fish.
If looks ok and smells ok, sample a small bite to ensure it tastes ok before serving.
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If you have any unanswered questions about how long tuna salad lasts, please reach out. I’d love to help!
Until next time…