The Best Way to Store Tomatoes

Ingredient Intelligence

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What's the hallmark of a good tomato? In my book, it's sweet, bursting with juices, and has a just-firm texture that doesn't fall apart when I bite into it. I want to eat a perfectly ripe tomato that feels like it was just picked and still warm from the sun.

How you store fresh tomatoes can make the difference between tomatoes tasting as they should be or ones that have a weird texture and flavor. Here's the best way to do it!

Keep Them Cool, Not Cold

I used to think that you should store all your fruits and vegetables in your refrigerator so they'd last longer. I assumed that refrigeration didn't change produce, only prolong shelf life. Boy, was I wrong! Fresh tomatoes are one of those things you should keep out of the refrigerator.

When you refrigerate tomatoes, any ripening you still want to happen will stop because of the cold, which also means you stop the development of their yummy flavors. The cold turns the flesh dry and mealy, and a lot of juiciness is lost.

Instead of refrigerating, keep tomatoes at room temperature or in a cool (but not cold!) place if you want them to last longer. Some people even go as far as putting them at wine cellar temperature! Since they're delicate little things, keep them in a single layer to prevent bruising.

If you come across tomatoes that have been refrigerated, put them out at room temperature for at least an hour to help revive them to be closer to their unrefrigerated state.

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But What About Other Tomato Products?

So if you shouldn't refrigerate fresh tomatoes, what about other tomato products? It's fine to refrigerate cooked tomato products likes sauces or soups, and in fact you should always do so for the sake of food safety.

You should also refrigerate salsa and leftover salads or dishes that have tomato in them. While the texture of the tomatoes will suffer a bit, it's safer to store cut tomatoes (and any cut fruit and vegetables) this way. You don't want to run the risk of the food spoiling if left out at room temperature.

(Image credits: Christine Gallary)