How to Store Tomatoes
You've probably asked yourself at some point or another—do I actually know how to store tomatoes...the right way? There's some conflicting information floating around the ether, and it's time to set the record straight.
There's nothing more cringe-worthy than the thought of a perfect Caprese salad, sullied by flavorless tomatoes. You deserve better, so here's how to store tomatoes the right way:
FRIDGE OR COUNTER?
Simply put, the fridge will halt (and sometimes counteract) the ripening process, while a room-temperature (or hotter) countertop will speed up ripening. So the best way to store tomatoes depends on the ripeness of your tomatoes. Here's how to store tomatoes, no matter how hard or squishy they are:
HOW TO STORE UNDER-RIPE TOMATOES
If your tomato has a while to go before it's ripe, you can leave it out on the counter for a few days to ripen.
What you don't want is to put an underripe tomato in a cold fridge—in On Food and Cooking, food scientist Harold McGee explains that ripe tomatoes, "are especially sensitive to chilling at temperatures below about 55ºF...and suffer damage to their membranes that results in minimal flavor development, blotchy coloration, and a soft, mealy texture when they’re brought back to room temperature." And no one wants that.
HOW TO STORE RIPE TOMATOES
Ripe tomatoes are best stored around 55°F. At that temperature, ripe tomatoes will be held in stasis, neither ripening or becoming damaged by cold.
Alas, most refrigerators are cooled to around 35°F to 38°F. That's a solid 20°F under the happy temperature of a ripe tomato. Room temperature, on the other hand, is typically somewhere around 70°F—a good deal higher than the 55°F your tomato wants. And when it's summertime (tomato season!), and there's no A/C, and the sun is beating down on the countertop—that room temperature might shoot up to an even less-ideal level.
McGee writes, "Fully ripe tomatoes are less sensitive [to sub- 55°F temperatures], but lose flavor due to the loss of flavor-producing enzyme activity. Some of this activity can come back, so refrigerated tomatoes should be allowed to recover at room temperature for a day or two before eating." So, if you want to keep your ripe tomatoes in peak condition for more than a few days, you can actually store them in the fridge until a couple of days before you want to eat it, then keep them on the counter for a couple days so they can recover their flavor.
HOW TO STORE OVER-RIPE TOMATOES
You don't want to keep a tomato that's about to go squishy sitting on a warm countertop. If your tomato is a little overripe, putting it in the fridge will stop the ripening process right in its tracks, preventing issues like mold. And tests from Serious Eats show the flavor actually won't be negatively affected by the cold.
But, hey, sometimes squishy tomatoes happen—and that's what tomato sauce is for.
Now, put those perfectly ripe tomatoes to good use with our favorite tomato recipes.
Originally published on Epicurious