With respect to pickled herring, is the herring cooked before being put into the pickling solution?

If not, what safety measures are in place to ensure bacteria are within safe limits?

2 Answers 2


No, it is not.

Traditionally it is first cured with salt to reduce the water content of the meat, then placed in a vinegar-based brine.

Recipes vary a bit, but for classic Bismarckhering 14% salt and 7% acetic acid are used. Additionally, today pickeled fish is stored in refrigerators (as opposed to the 19th century), providing additional safety.

This is sufficient to stop the growth of harmful microorganisms, including the feared clostridium botulinum.

  • 1
    Yep, I do have to add one bit of information here since I eat pickled herring regularly. An openness jar can spoil, even in the fridge. However it may take a while for it to happen, but It is not immune to spoilage because it's been pickled. I know from experience.
    – Escoce
    Nov 25, 2015 at 16:08
  • @Escoce, good point. I ignored the "stays good for X time" part on purpose: OP didn't specify whether he asks about home-made or commercially sealed pickled fish. The process and the results differ significantly from classic "canning" where you give food a shelf life of years at room temperature. One of the reasons for the limited shelf life is the missing "heat enough to kill all bacteria that might be present" step.
    – Stephie
    Nov 26, 2015 at 7:17
  • Some talk about "chemically cooked". -However, that's not usually what's meant in questions like this. Jul 21, 2018 at 23:38

Properly commercially sealed herring in vinegar brine can be stored for VERY long time in the fridge, and possibly at room temperature. Some brands "Noah's Gourmet" for example, I'm pretty sure they hot seal the herring because it is ALWAYS white and mushy upon opening. Almost mashed potato mouth feel. Or maybe not. The ones that aren't mushy, and have a pleasant texture, always (from what I've seen) have a preservative such as potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate added.

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