If you've ever wondered how to store tomatoes, you might have considered this question already: Does refrigerating a tomato prolong its shelf life or cause it to turn mealy and bland? The answer is that it depends.
The types of tomatoes out there range from those hefty, gloriously delicious heirloom varieties all the way to the reliable ones you find at the supermarket, but suffice it to say that all tomatoes are at their best when they're firm with a little snap to their skin and a little give to their texture without any mush. That's true whether you're baking a tomato pie or picking out the best tomatoes for homemade salsa—there are tons of tomato recipes to try. A tomato that's just right tastes like summer, which is why Ree Drummond once labeled Caprese Salad her favorite thing on earth: "Simple, but oh so impressive." But a tomato that falls short of being perfectly ripe makes all the difference.
So how do you store tomatoes to keep them fresh and not mealy in flavor? Here, we discuss when you should refrigerate them versus keep them on the countertop.
Do tomatoes last longer in the fridge or on the counter?
The easiest solution is to leave tomatoes out at room temperature, letting nature run its course. If you grow tomatoes at home, you already know that the fruit will continue to ripen and age, turning even, if not consumed during its brief window of prime ripeness. This is where the refrigerator comes in handy—if a tomato has reached its prime and there are no plans to use it in dinner that day, move it to the refrigerator, where the chill will slow down its aging process and prevent it from spoiling early.
Should tomatoes be refrigerated?
Yes, but only as a last resort. The reason why refrigeration should only be used for tomatoes reaching their shelf life is because it change the flavor and texture. A chilled tomato should always be given the chance to come back to room temperature, which is where its natural flavor and texture shines. And just to give you something else to think about when it comes to all-things tomato, you never want to chill an underripe tomato. This impedes the tomato's ability to ripen even after being brought back to room temperature. So the only time you want to refrigerate tomatoes are when they've reached their prime—and that's only to buy yourself some time, so you can eat it once you're good and ready.
How do you store cut tomatoes?
Store a tomato that's been cut with the cut side covered, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and the leftovers refrigerated. Whatever you do, don't forget about it—a cut tomato begins to degrade immediately. It should keep for a day or two, but not much longer than that.
Any bonus tips for storing tomatoes?
Yes! Store tomatoes stem-side down to prevent moisture-loss, whether at room temperature or chilled in a refrigerator. Moisture escapes from tomatoes via the stem-end, as the tomato skin keeps it all inside.