A sun-ripe, juicy tomato is one of nature’s jewels. They’re literally bursting: sweet, tart, and umami flavors flood your taste buds when you bite into them. For maximum flavor, you should never refrigerate your tomatoes.
Tomato Alert! Tomatoes are in season right now!
Why you shouldn’t keep your tomatoes in the fridge
Putting whole tomatoes in the fridge changes both their taste and texture. The tomatoes become mealy and mushy, which is not what you want in a tomato. Chilling tomatoes also leads to decreased tomato flavors. When tomatoes are cold, it’s more difficult to smell them, which is a huge part of taste. Also, cold tomatoes have cold molecules, which means that our tongues don’t perceive them as intensely as when they are warm or room temperature. Imagine little tomato flavor molecules: when they’re cold, they don’t move as much and when they’re happy and warm, they zip around flooding your mouth with flavor.
Science says don’t refrigerate tomatoes
Can anyone be sure of anything? But just in case, we did a double blind taste test: we took two tomatoes from the same vine and left one out and one in the fridge for 4 days. Then Mike cut them up and promptly forgot which tomato was what, but luckily we wrote it down:
A: Stored in the fridge, then left out to warm up to room temp before serving
B: Stored at room temp, served at room temp
C: Stored at room temp, then cooled in the fridge for 4 hours before serving
D: Stored in the fridge, served cold.
We tried them and both of us agreed the results were, from best to worst: B-C-A-D. The room temp tomato had a far sweeter taste and more solid texture, while the fridge tomato had a very watery taste and a mealy texture.
The best way to store tomatoes
Keep fresh, whole tomatoes out on the countertop, unrefrigerated. You can either put them in a bowl, on a plate, or keep them loose. Keep them out of direct sunlight and don’t leave them in a bag.
The one (or two) times you should refrigerate tomatoes
Cut tomatoes should always, always go in the fridge. To reactivate the flavor of cut tomatoes, simply take them out of the fridge a little bit before you’re going to eat them and let them come up to room temp so they aren’t fridge cold.
If your home is hot hot, the fridge will be the best place to keep them once they start on the edge of being over ripe. Just remember to take them out and let them come to room temp before enjoying. Pro tip: if you’re going to slice or cut them, do it while they’re still cold from the fridge, then let them rest.
Fun tomato recipes
Now you know all about how to store the best tomatoes, so you can go forth and cook them:
- Classic Chinese Tomato Egg Stir Fry
- The Ultimate Umami Bomb Tomato Sauce
- Moroccan Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
- Easy Roast Chicken with Eggplant and Tomatoes
- The Best Way to Eat Tomatoes This Summer: BLT Burrata, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich