The Best Way to Store Tomatoes

Just how bad is it to refrigerate your tomatoes?

May 27, 2020
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Fresh Cherry Tomatoes on Wooden table

Photo by: Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

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By Susan Choung for Food Network Kitchen

First, it was, "Don't refrigerate tomatoes!" Now, we're hearing, "Refrigerating tomatoes is the only way to keep them fresh!" If all this conflicting advice is giving you whiplash, you're not alone.

So which rule is correct? The answer is both — depending on how ripe your tomatoes are. "Don't refrigerate" applies to unripe tomatoes. They'll never reach their full potential at colder temperatures. Worse, the chill will dull the flavor and make the texture as mealy as an old bodega apple. So park your unripe romas, plums and beyond stem-side down on a plate and keep them in a cool, dry spot on the counter. Check on their ripeness over the next few days. If the tomatoes are super fresh, like from the farmers market, they can last about a week this way.

Once tomatoes are fully ripe, it's time to pounce. Tasting a perfectly ripened tomato can elicit the purest joy, so don't miss that small window of opportunity. If you can't finish all your ripe beauties at once, that's when the refrigeration-is-ok rule kicks in. Otherwise, they'll rot and that'll elicit the exact opposite emotion of joy. For the best results, let the chilled tomatoes come to room temperature before diving in.

It's also okay to refrigerate half a tomato or whatever is left from cutting into one. Just be sure to pack the remnant in an airtight container to prevent its picking up other fridge flavors. You'll also want to place the tomatoes, cut or whole, in a warmer location in the refrigerator, like on the top shelf near the door.

With all that said, try to bring home tomatoes already vine-ripened and only enough to eat that day or the next. But if you have an overabundance of ripe tomatoes or a change of plans, refrigeration is fine.

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