internal fish temp
internal fish temp

How to Tell When Fish Is Done

March 9th, 2021

Measuring Fish Temperature for Perfectly Cooked Fillets

An instant-read thermometer can help you cook fish perfectly by gauging internal temperature for fish. The internal temperature for fish will reflect the doneness of a fillet. From there, you’ll have a good idea of how raw, flaky, or dry a fillet is. 

What temperature should fish be cooked to? 

Ideal fish cooking temps will differ, depending on the type of fish you’re cooking. But as a general guideline, the internal temp for fish should be somewhere between 120 degrees F to 135 degrees F. This range of fish temps will cook any fillet to a medium-rare to medium doneness. 

  • When cooking wild-caught salmon, aim for fish internal temperatures no higher than 120 degrees F. It’s much leaner than farmed salmon, so this ensures that it stays tender.

  • For most white fish, aim for 130 degrees F

  • Very fatty fish can be cooked to 135 degrees F, since it is less prone to drying out. 

These temperatures are suggestions that will leave you with fillets that are tender, neither underdone or overcooked. If you like something a little more or less cooked, make adjustments by lowering or raising the fish cooking temp accordingly.

flaky salmon fillet How to Measure Fish Internal Temperature

To know exactly when a fillet is done, use an instant-read thermometer to measure the fish temperature at the thickest part. 

Make sure the tip of the probe is in the center of the thickest part of the fillet, for the most accurate reading. If the probe is too shallow or too deep, it likely is measuring on the surface of the fillet or the heat source itself. This will make it impossible for you to determine the true doneness of the fish. 

The surface temperature of a fillet typically will be higher than the center of a fillet, since it’s exposed more directly to heat. The heat source will also, of course, be hotter than the center of a fillet.

Temperature to Cook Fish for Food Safety

The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 145 degrees F for cooked fish. Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have a certain medical condition. When fish is cooked to a well-done 145 degrees F, your risk of food-borne illness is significantly reduced. 

Keep in mind that at this internal temp, fish tends to be dry, tough, and hard to flake with a fork. 

flakey salmon fillet with sauce Carryover Cooking and Internal Temp for Fish

When using very hot and direct cooking methods like pan-frying, broiling, or grilling, pull fish from the heat earlier than you normally would. This will help you account for carryover cooking. 

Carryover cooking happens when food continues to cook, even after it’s transferred to a plate. It retains residual heat from a cooking surface, which can result in fish that is more done than you prefer. The hotter the cooking surface, the more carryover cooking will raise the internal temperature for fish after it has rested for several minutes.

To account for carryover cooking, simply remove fish from the heat when the fish cooking temp is a few degrees lower than your preferred doneness.