Undercooked Cod: Risks, Symptoms, and Prevention

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When it comes to enjoying seafood, cod stands out as a popular choice for its mild flavor and versatility in various cuisines. However, the risk of undercooked cod can lead to unpleasant consequences, including foodborne illnesses and health complications.

In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons behind undercooked cod, solutions to ensure safe consumption, and preventive measures to minimize risks.

Can you eat undercooked cod fish?

Eating undercooked fish, including cod, can be risky because it may contain parasites or harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Consuming undercooked cod increases the risk of these health issues.

Cooking fish thoroughly is generally recommended to ensure it’s safe to eat and to eliminate any potential health risks associated with undercooked fish.

Is it bad to eat slightly undercooked cod?

Slightly undercooked cod may not pose an immediate health risk if it’s only slightly underdone and the fish has been handled and stored properly. However, there’s still a risk of foodborne illness from bacteria or parasites present in the fish.

Fully cooking cod to the recommended internal temperature (usually around 145°F or 63°C) is the best way to ensure it’s safe to eat.

If the cod is slightly undercooked, it’s generally safer to return it to the heat source and cook it until it reaches the appropriate temperature to minimize any potential health risks.

How Can You Tell If Cod Is Undercooked? Signs Of Undercooked Cod

Undercooked cod can be identified by its translucent color and lack of flakiness. If the fish resists flaking when gently brushed with a fork, it needs more cooking time. It is important to fully cook cod to avoid any potential health risks.

Texture And Color

One of the key signs of undercooked cod is the texture and color of the fish. When properly cooked, cod should have a solid white color with a firm and flaky texture.

However, when undercooked, the color of the fish may appear translucent or slightly opaque. Additionally, the texture of undercooked cod will be softer to the touch, rather than the firmness you would expect from fully cooked cod.


The odor of undercooked cod can also indicate its doneness. When cooked properly, cod should have a mild and fresh smell. However, undercooked cod may emit a raw or fishy odor, indicating that it needs further cooking.

Internal Temperature

Checking the internal temperature is one of the most accurate ways to determine if cod is undercooked. The recommended internal temperature for cooked cod is 145°F (63°C).

If the cod has not reached this temperature, it is likely undercooked and should be cooked for a bit longer.

To check the internal temperature, you can use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish.

Be sure to insert the thermometer without touching any bones, as they can give a false reading. Once the cod reaches the recommended temperature, it is safe to consume.

In conclusion, it’s important to always ensure that cod is properly cooked to avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses.

By keeping an eye on the texture, color, odor, and internal temperature, you can easily determine if your cod is undercooked.

How to fix undercooked cod – Step by step guide

If you find that your cod is undercooked, there are a few ways to fix it:

Return to Heat:

The simplest method is to return the undercooked cod to the heat source and continue cooking it until it reaches the recommended internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).

You can use the same cooking method you initially used—whether it’s baking, grilling, or pan-searing—but ensure it cooks through without overcooking the exterior.

Use the Oven:

If the cod was initially pan-seared or grilled, consider transferring it to the oven to finish cooking.

Place it on a baking sheet and bake it at a moderate temperature (around 350°F or 175°C), checking its internal temperature regularly until it reaches the safe cooking temperature.

Steam or Simmer:

Another option is to gently steam or simmer the undercooked cod. This method can help cook the fish without drying it out too much.

Place the cod in a covered pan or pot with a little liquid (water, broth, or white wine), and allow it to steam or simmer until it’s thoroughly cooked.


If you’re in a hurry, you can use a microwave to finish cooking the cod. Microwave it in short intervals, checking the internal temperature frequently to avoid overcooking.

What Color is undercooked cod?

Undercooked cod typically appears translucent and slightly opaque. When cooked thoroughly, cod becomes opaque and flakes easily with a whitish color.

If it’s undercooked, it might retain some translucency and have a more gelatinous texture. However, relying solely on color isn’t a foolproof method to determine if fish is cooked properly; checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer is the most reliable way to ensure it’s safe to eat.

Causes of Undercooked Cod 

There are a few causes that can result in undercooked cod:

Cooking Time:

One of the primary causes of undercooked cod is insufficient cooking time. Cod should be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) or until it becomes opaque throughout and can easily flake with a fork.

Inconsistent Heat:

Inconsistent heat distribution while cooking can also lead to undercooked cod. Ensure that your pan or oven is evenly heated to promote uniform cooking.

Improper Thawing:

If you are cooking frozen cod, improper thawing can result in uneven cooking. Thaw frozen cod in the refrigerator overnight or use the defrost function on your microwave for safe and even thawing. 

How to prevent cod from being undercooked?

Ensuring the proper cooking of cod is crucial to prevent foodborne illnesses and to enjoy a delicious and safe meal. Follow these food safety recommendations to ensure your cod is cooked thoroughly:

Proper Cooking Temperature

Cooking cod to the correct internal temperature is essential to eliminate any harmful bacteria and ensure it is safe to consume. The recommended internal temperature for cooked cod is 145°F / 63°C.

This temperature can be easily achieved by using different cooking methods outlined below.

Cooking Methods For Cod

When preparing cod, there are various cooking methods that ensure it is cooked thoroughly. Try these methods to enjoy a perfectly cooked cod:

  • Baking: Preheat your oven to 400°F / 200°C and bake the cod fillets for about 10-12 minutes or until they reach the recommended internal temperature.
  • Grilling: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Place the cod fillets on a grill grate and cook for approximately 4-6 minutes per side, or until they reach 145°F / 63°C internally.
  • Pan-Frying: Heat a pan with oil over medium-high heat. Carefully place the cod fillets in the pan and cook for around 3-4 minutes per side or until they reach the recommended internal temperature.

Importance Of Using A Food Thermometer

Using a food thermometer is crucial to accurately determine the internal temperature of the cod. This ensures that it is fully cooked, eliminating any doubts about its safety.

A good quality food thermometer will help you to achieve the desired internal temperature of 145°F / 63°C, resulting in perfectly cooked and safe cod.

Avoiding Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination is a significant concern when handling raw seafood like cod. To prevent the spread of bacteria, follow these practices:

  • Separate: Keep raw cod and other raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods to avoid any potential cross-contamination.
  • Clean: Thoroughly clean all utensils, cutting boards, and surfaces that come in contact with raw cod to avoid spreading bacteria.
  • Wash Hands: Remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw cod to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

By adhering to these food safety recommendations, you can enjoy a delicious and safe cod dish without any worries.

Common Misconceptions about Undercooked Cod

There are a few common misconceptions surrounding undercooked cod that should be addressed:

External Appearance:

Some people believe that undercooked cod can be identified solely by its external appearance. While color can be an indicator, undercooked cod may still have an opaque appearance. Internal temperature and flakiness are better indicators of doneness. 

Safe Consumption:

Another misconception is that it is safe to consume slightly undercooked cod. While some individuals may prefer fish that is still slightly translucent in the center, it is recommended to fully cook cod to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. 

In conclusion, undercooked cod refers to cod fish that has not been cooked through properly, leaving it partially raw or translucent in the center.

This can occur due to insufficient cooking time, inconsistent heat, or improper thawing. It is important to cook cod until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) and becomes opaque throughout to ensure it is safe and enjoyable to consume.

What are the risks associated with consuming undercooked cod?

Consuming undercooked cod can expose you to various health risks such as

Foodborne Illnesses:

Undercooked cod may contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella, Vibrio, or parasites such as Anisakis, which can cause food poisoning or infections.

Gastrointestinal Issues:

Eating undercooked fish can lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps due to bacterial contamination.

Parasitic Infections:

Certain parasites present in undercooked cod, like Anisakis, can cause allergic reactions, throat irritation, or even form larvae in the digestive tract, leading to discomfort or illness.

Health Complications:

For individuals with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, young children, or the elderly, the risks of severe illness due to consuming undercooked fish are higher.

In addition to bacteria, undercooked cod may also contain parasites like Anisakis, which can cause anisakiasis, a parasitic infection. Symptoms of anisakiasis include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and even allergic reactions in some cases.

Bacterial Contamination:

Undercooked cod can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella or Vibrio. These bacteria are naturally present in seafood and can cause food poisoning if not eliminated through proper cooking.

Bacterial contamination occurs when the cod is not cooked at a high enough temperature, allowing the bacteria to survive and multiply.

To prevent bacterial contamination, it is crucial to cook cod to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C).

This ensures that any potential bacteria are killed, making the fish safe to consume. Use a food thermometer to accurately measure the temperature and ensure proper cooking.

Bacterial Contamination:

Undercooked cod can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella or Vibrio. These bacteria are naturally present in seafood and can cause food poisoning if not eliminated through proper cooking.

Bacterial contamination occurs when the cod is not cooked at a high enough temperature, allowing the bacteria to survive and multiply.

To prevent bacterial contamination, it is crucial to cook cod to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C). This ensures that any potential bacteria are killed, making the fish safe to consume.

Use a food thermometer to accurately measure the temperature and ensure proper cooking.

Long-term Health Effects

Ingesting undercooked cod over a long period may have detrimental effects on health. The primary concern is the potential for exposure to toxins present in the fish, such as mercury and other heavy metals.

When cod is cooked thoroughly, these toxins are typically reduced to safe levels. However, undercooking the fish may not eliminate or reduce the levels of these harmful substances, which can accumulate in the body over time.

Prolonged consumption of undercooked cod with high toxin levels can lead to various health issues, including neurological disorders, developmental problems in children, and kidney damage.

What temperature should cod reach to be considered fully cooked?

Cod, like most fish, should reach an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) to be considered fully cooked. At this temperature, the fish will become opaque and flake easily with a whitish color.

Using a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature is the most reliable way to ensure that cod—and any fish—has been cooked thoroughly and is safe to eat.

Can freezing cod affect its cooking requirements or the risks of undercooking?

Freezing cod can impact its cooking requirements to a certain extent, but it doesn’t necessarily increase the risk of undercooking if handled properly.

Freezing may alter the texture of the fish due to ice crystal formation, which could potentially affect its moisture content.

This change in texture might slightly influence the cooking time needed to ensure it’s thoroughly cooked.

However, following standard cooking guidelines—such as using a food thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C)—will help determine when the cod is adequately cooked, whether it’s fresh or previously frozen.

Properly frozen cod, when thawed and cooked to the recommended temperature, is safe to eat and shouldn’t pose a higher risk of undercooking compared to fresh cod if handled and cooked correctly.

What should be done if someone accidentally consumes undercooked cod?

If someone accidentally eats undercooked cod and shows symptoms of foodborne illness or discomfort, it’s essential to take certain steps:

Monitor Symptoms:

Watch for any signs of food poisoning or allergic reactions, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, or allergic responses like itching or swelling.


Encourage the individual to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration if vomiting or diarrhea occurs.

Seek Medical Advice:

If severe symptoms develop, especially in vulnerable individuals like young children, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems, seek medical attention promptly. Symptoms like high fever, persistent vomiting, or difficulty breathing require immediate medical help.

Save the Remaining Food:

If possible, store any leftover undercooked cod in the refrigerator, as it might be needed for analysis or identification by medical professionals in case of severe illness.

Prevent Further Consumption:

Avoid consuming more of the undercooked cod or any food that might have been prepared or stored with it to prevent additional exposure.

In most cases, mild symptoms from consuming undercooked fish may resolve on their own within a day or two.

However, it’s crucial to be vigilant, especially if symptoms worsen or if the person affected is at higher risk due to their health condition.

Consulting a healthcare professional is the best course of action if there’s any concern or doubt about the individual’s well-being.


Undercooked cod can pose significant health risks, but with careful handling, thorough cooking, and adherence to recommended guidelines, these risks can be minimized. Prioritizing safe cooking practices, using food thermometers, and staying informed about proper handling techniques are essential steps toward enjoying cod safely. By taking proactive measures, individuals can savor this delightful seafood while minimizing the risks associated with undercooked cod.

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