Daniel joined the severe Eats cooking team in 2014 and also writes recipes, equipment reviews, articles on cooking techniques. Prior to that he to be a food editor at Food & alcohol magazine, and the staff writer for Time Out new York's restaurant and also bars section.

You are watching: How long do tomatoes last in the refrigerator


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Here, the refrigerated sample is to the left, through a slightly lighter, much less red color, despite the difference is simply barely visible.Daniel Gritzer

Inside, the typical tomato looked slightly an ext yellow and also pale in the refrigerated sample 보다 the countertop one, despite both looked mealy and also not an especially ripe.


Refrigerated plum tomato, left, and also countertop at right.Daniel Gritzer

The plum tomato proved the many drastic intuitive difference, through the refrigerated sample appearing more white and also grainy in the flesh 보다 the countertop one.


Daniel Gritzer

Here's an even closer look in ~ the plum tomato, again with the refrigerated sample come the left.


Cherry tomato.Daniel Gritzer

The cherry tomatoes confirmed the least difference, v a simply barely perceptible increase in redness in the countertop sample (at left).


As because that the taste-test results? Well, first, my mom was disqualified due to the fact that she retained rejecting every the tomatoes, regardless of warehouse method, while reminiscing about what they offered to taste prefer in the farmlands that Maryland whereby she prospered up in the '40s and '50s.


My sister, thankfully, to be able to focus on the task at hand—analyzing the relative, no absolute, merits of these tomatoes—and offer me she opinion. In every case, the tomato she picked as her favorite was the countertop sample: Not once did the frozen refrigerator sample come out on top. She found the countertop ones come be much more aromatic and also sweet, v a far better texture, than the refrigerated ones, despite she said the distinctions weren't as obvious with the cherry tomatoes.


My own tasting the the samples backed her choices up, and she and also I go away with a few observations:


First, a important mediocre tomato, prefer the conventional ones here, can not be turned right into a good tomato, no matter just how you save it.A tomato the is simply fine, but not great, prefer the plums ns bought, can advantage quite a bit from being left the end at room temp.Better-tasting tomatoes, like the cherries in this test, aren't together adversely influenced by cold temperatures.Another detail that mine sister spicy out: tomatoes with more flesh and also less particle jelly, prefer the typical ones here, are an ext likely to experience textural deterioration than arrays with very tiny flesh and an ext seed jelly, like the cherries.

The Unexpected revolve After 2 job of storage

It was at this suggest that I thought I'd repeat mine tasting after another day, check all my findings, and be done v it. So, a work later, ns sat my household down again—this time mine sister, stepfather, and also mother (who, I described to her, could only participate if she forgot about those mythic Maryland tomatoes and also focused on the persons in front of her).


Once again, ns let the refrigerated tomatoes heat up to room temperature prior to serving them alongside the countertop ones. However this time, I additionally stuck some of my countertop people in the refrigerator a pair hours earlier, to to compare briefly cool countertop ones come room-temp multi-day-refrigerated ones. I offered all the tomato samples blind.


And the weirdest point happened: my sister reversed all her choose from the job before, and consistently selected the refrigerated tomatoes together her favorite this time. What?


Confused, i sat down at the table and asked my sister to offer me the samples blind. Here's what's even more weird: due to the fact that I had actually been slicing, smelling, and also tasting the tomatoes as I served them, I had the ability to correctly differentiate the refrigerated and also countertop samples every time by smell alone. Yet even though I can tell lock apart, I had actually to agree through my sister—the refrigerated persons were far better that day, in all cases.


So, in the case of this three varieties of typical supermarket tomatoes, the refrigerator at first made them worse, yet with extra time the refrigerated ones ended up being better than the countertop ones.


What Gives?

One possibility with this initial set of test results is that, since my mom's home was a warmish 75 come 80°F, the warmth started to take it its toy fee on my countertop samples once sufficient time had elapsed.


As I've reviewed part tomato literature, this explanation starts come make part sense, though ns haven't verified that it's correct. What most studies have found is that storage temperature can influence both a tomato's texture and its volatile aromatics (which space responsible for its complicated scent), with cooler temperatures degrading the volatiles much more quickly.


According come this report from the room of Plant scientific researches at UC Davis, firm, ripe tomato are best held at anywhere from 44 to 50°F (7 come 10°C), i beg your pardon is higher than fridge temperature however lower than most rooms. (The report claims to store less ripe tomatoes at greater temperatures, which supports my above observation that riper tomatoes have the right to withstand the cold, while less ripe ones advantage from some warmth.) This French study, meanwhile, found that 4°C (39°F) temperatures are much much more harmful to volatiles in the tomato 보다 20°C (68°F), though it also found the letting refrigerated tomatoes sit out for 24 hours at 68°F reversed several of the ok effects.


But what the studies I've found fail to discover is the result of even higher temperatures ~ above tomato storage. That might not be a difficulty for tomato and also produce service providers with refrigerated trucks and warehouses, yet it is a trouble for those of us at home, due to the fact that not every one of us with air conditioning have actually the thermostat collection as low together 68°F, or also have it running 24/7; several of us, like me, don't have actually air conditioning at all. Offered that tomato ripen in the summer, the difficulty is the we're make the efforts to save them at home during a season defined by intense heat, and also we don't usually have actually storage conditions in the 44-to-50°F range.


This article from Business Insider illustrates my suggest well: The scientist quoted in the piece, who is recommending that we not refrigerate our tomatoes, casually specifies normal kitchen temperature as between 68 and also 73°F (20 and also 23°C). The is a chilly kitchen—colder than many kitchens I’ve checked out in the summertime! unless you"re blasting your AC 24/7 from July with September, it"s probably colder than her kitchen, too.


check 2: In-Season, local Tomatoes

My first test delivered some surprises, however it was based upon just a couple of varieties the lesser-quality supermarket tomatoes, which left some concerns unanswered. Specifically: how does this wisdom use to yes, really good, farm-fresh tomatoes that space perfectly ripe and ready come eat, and are there any an ext useful guidelines for storing tomatoes?


To uncover out, I invested the following several main loading up on all kinds of wonderful tomatoes. Every time I visited the farmers market, I'd buy as plenty of tomatoes as I could carry, then leave half on the respond to and half in the fridge for at the very least a day before tasting them.


Photograph: Daniel Gritzer

You'd think that there'd be numerous studies the end there the look at the impacts of warehouse on really great, ripe-picked tomatoes that have come right from the farm, but as it turns out, most of the research study money the end there go toward studying the results of storage on the average, picked-when-still-green supermarket tomato. Mine tests would try to to fill in the gaps.


In all, i ran 11 different rounds that tests, every of which contained several species of tomato, native hybrids like beefsteaks to countless different heirloom arrays in all shapes and sizes. In every cases, the tomatoes to be bought totally ripe from the farmers market. I kept half the tomatoes on the respond to and half in the fridge. I performed eight of the tastings after a about 24-hour warehouse period, and the remaining four tastings after 2 or much more days of warehouse (with no tastings after longer than four days that storage). Like tomatoes were constantly compared with prefer (so, no pitting a beefsteak against a cherry tomato), and all refrigerated tomatoes were enabled to involved room temperature before serving, to get rid of temperature bias. Once other tasters to be present, which was true the majority of the time, everyone yet the server tasted blind.


In one the end of 11 tests, tasters unanimously made decision the countertop tomatoes end the refrigerated ones. This was one of the batches stored because that 24 hours.In 5 out that 11 tests, tasters unanimously preferred the refrigerated tomatoes—the countertop tomatoes taste flat and dull in comparison.The remaining 5 tests surrendered either separation votes or an i can not qualify to differentiate between the two samples. In all instances wherein the votes to be split, no tasters had solid convictions about which tomato to be better, so I'm considering all 5 of these situations in i beg your pardon the refrigerator and also the countertop tomato were basically indistinguishable from every other.

These results jibe with my original theory: since peak-season farmers sector tomatoes are already perfectly ripe, they advantage very tiny from extra time in the heat, and in many cases they space harmed by it, if the refrigerator walk minimal injury once tomatoes space ripe. Also the structure of the ripe tomato was no noticeably affected by the refrigerator.


Let me leave you with one lasting photo that, every on its own, should illustrate my point. Below, you can see the family member merits of respond to versus refrigerator storage at the four-day note on a pair of tomato that started out just about equally ripe. The countertop tomato is degrading an ext quickly due to its high-heat environment.


Photograph: Daniel Gritzer

Great, you might be thinking. You just showed the tomatoes rot faster at room temperature than in the refrigerator. Big whoop... but that’s specifically the point: If you're buying her tomatoes ripe (which we need to all it is in doing!) and also need to save them for an extra job or two, you're often better off storing castle in the fridge 보다 on the countertop.


Where do We stand Now?

The question of whether to refrigerate tomatoes or no is yes, really a inquiry of i beg your pardon is the lesser of 2 evils. I have little doubt the food researchers are right, and also that the appropriate storage temperature for tomatoes is somewhere between 55 and also 70°F (13 and 21°C)—at least for supermarket tomatoes. But I likewise know that couple of of us preserve such repetitively cool temperature at home. If you have a it will be cold cellar or a wine fridge, then counting yourself lucky. If her thermostat is always collection that low, then i don't desire to view your electrical bill. The rest of us have actually a choice: warmth (or even sweltering) counter, or too-cold fridge. When your tomatoes room ripe, the fridge is normally your ideal bet.


If at all possible, buy just as countless perfectly ripe tomatoes together you deserve to eat in ~ a job or two, save them stored stem side under on a level surface in ~ room temperature, and make sure to eat them every within the very first day or two.If girlfriend buy underripe tomatoes, leave them the end at room temperature until they're totally ripened, then move them to a cooler point out for longer storage.If you have a wine refrigerator or cool cellar, store all ripe tomatoes the you can't eat within the first day there.If girlfriend don't have a wine refrigerator or cool cellar, keep all ripe tomatoes the you can't eat within the very first day in the refrigerator.If you're storing tomato in the refrigerator, it may be much better to find them on a height shelf close to the door, which is often warmer 보다 the bottom and ago of the fridge.If you're the type of person who can't stand eating fridge-cold tomatoes and also doesn't have actually the time or patience to let lock warm back up on the counter, climate you've acquired some tough decisions ahead of you, I'm afraid.

test 3: In search of an ext Data

My tomato test were daunting the long-held idea the a tomato need to never check out the within of a refrigerator, yet I quiet needed more data.


After all, more data is always a good thing, and also reproducibility is the foundation of any kind of reliable speculative result. I determined to run more tests, and asked Kenji to operation some over on the West Coast, simply to see if he would certainly get comparable results as mine. Either my initial monitorings would hold, or I'd have to revise them.


Kenji and also I separation up the tasks. Here on the eastern Coast, I went to the farmer market and bought a huge load of both consistent red tomatoes and a range of heirlooms.** My plan was to perform one gigantic blind tasting in the office, v as many people as I could wrangle, and an ext quantitative procedures (as opposed to the strict qualitative assessments I had done earlier in the summer). Then I'd follow that through some triangle test to check out just exactly how well tasters might really differentiate in between refrigerated and also room-temp samples.


** because that those wonder if I had bought crappy tomato from a wholesaler in ~ the market, it"s worth pointing out that NYC Greenmarket permits vendors to market only produce they"ve get an impressive themselves, and that I had actually talked come the farmers to check the tomatoes had actually not been previously refrigerated.


Meanwhile, over yonder in the just Area, Kenji went and also picked his own tomatoes directly from the vine, just to remove any lingering question around the handling practices that the middlemen. He climate did his very own blind tastings v those tomatoes. He likewise examined the refrigerated tomato for indications of mealiness.


So, what to be our results? Shocker! The frozen fridge still isn’t together evil as the never-refrigerate rule makes the seem.


my East coastline Tests

When ns ran mine initial collection of tests, it to be at the height of summer in new York City, with temperatures well over 80°F (27°C). Without air conditioning in mine apartment, I uncovered that an ext often than not, refrigerated ripe tomatoes tasted far better than persons that continued to sit out on the counter, saying that in instances in i m sorry room temperature was above roughly 80°F, refrigeration was regularly preferable.***


*** Remember, ns had discovered several clinical studies that contrasted refrigeration to "room-temperature" conditions, in i beg your pardon the room-temp conditions were all below 70°F (21°C), chillier than many summertime rooms in real life; ns hadn't found a solitary study that contrasted refrigeration come warmer warehouse conditions. I also found no research studies that examined important ripe tomatoes—they seemed to have all to be designed through the comes to of massive tomato growers, that pick their tomatoes while still green, in mind, and not the involves of those of united state at home.


But when I went the end to run this recent round that tests, temperature in brand-new York had actually fallen considerably, down to the 60s and also 70s. Mine whole debate revolved around really hot summertime conditions, and also I had actually made no claim that the frozen fridge was same to or much better than temps in the 70s and also below. With conditions shifting, i wasn’t sure what I’d view this time.


The blind Tasting

As I pointed out above, ns bought a selection of tomato at the farmer market. Most of them were continual red slicing tomatoes; the rest were one assortment the heirlooms. Their high quality was variable. I put half of each type of tomato in the refrigerator and also the other half out on the counter. The next day, ns took the refrigerated people out and also let lock come ago up to room temperature.


I then cut up each tomato and also assigned the a number. I had 10 tasters occupational their way through the samples, each in a various order, to ensure the no solitary tomato to be disadvantaged as result of tasters' palate fatigue. Tasters evaluate the tomatoes on a scale of one come 10 on four criteria: as whole preference, flavor, aroma, and texture. The overall-preference score aligned practically exactly v the various other scores, for this reason the below chart mirrors the overall-preference score, because the rather look pretty much the same:


Tasters' all at once Preference the Refrigerated versus Unrefrigerated Tomatoes.

Before going right into the specifics, I want to reiterate the this test contrasted tomatoes save on computer at temperature in the low 70s come refrigerated ones, basically pitting refrigerated tomatoes versus much an ext ideal problems than in my previous tests.


Instead of seeing a clear and decisive difference in between refrigerated tomatoes and also counter tomatoes, the differences were an extremely small. On average, the respond to tomatoes simply barely edged out the refrigerated ones, except with the tiny yellow heirloom tomatoes, in which situation the refrigerated ones obtained the greatest average score. That was also the greatest average score of every the tomatoes, which method that even when contrasted with much more ideal conditions, refrigerated tomatoes are capable of coming out on top: absolutely not what we'd intend if refrigeration were really as poor as the common wisdom claims.


Of all the tomato in the tasting, every one of us (the 10 tasters to add me) agreed, unanimously, that the little yellow tomatoes—the ones the scored greatest in the fridge and also out—were the best.


Meanwhile, the an easy red tomatoes to be the worst in terms of as whole quality, and also they likewise were the collection in i m sorry the refrigerated tomatoes score the lowest. This lends more support to my theory that the higher-quality and riper the tomato, the less damage the frozen fridge will do to it.


Simply put, yes, really good, ripe tomatoes often tend to execute well in the refrigerator, while lower-quality tomatoes remain poor or get worse in the fridge: Underripe tomatoes proceed to be underripe, and mealy tomatoes end up being mealier.


One an ext very vital detail: What the chart above shows are average scores. Yet within every group, there was a notable variance. Because that the red tomatoes, because that instance, I had actually individual refrigerated samples the scored together high as 5.5, and countertop tomatoes that scored as low as 3.6. Therefore while the countertop tomatoes contempt edged out the refrigerated ones as soon as averaged together, the circulation of separation, personal, instance tomato scores was much much less consistent, nevertheless of warehouse method. This, too, suggests that the fruit chin is the bigger aspect in how it will take care of storage conditions, not some blanket rule about the storage conditions themselves.


The Triangle exam

Next up, the triangle test, i beg your pardon determines even if it is blind-tasters have the right to pick the weird sample the end through countless rounds of tasting. I wasn"t totally convinced there was an benefit to this test: I had never claimed that refrigerated tomatoes to be going to constantly be indistinguishable from room-temp ones. In my earlier tests, us were can not to differentiate between refrigerated and unrefrigerated about fifty percent the time. However in the various other instances, the differences were apparent; it"s just that in those cases, we often tended to favor the refrigerated persons more.


Still, i figured there to be no harm in do the efforts a triangle check out. I did a test operation on Max one night, using much more of those not-so-great red tomatoes that i had set aside. Max has actually a very an excellent palate, so ns was curious to see just how he would certainly do. In each tasting round, i presented Max with three slices the tomato in random order (either 2 refrigerated and one countertop, or 2 countertop and one refrigerated), and also his task was to view if he can figure out which that the three was the strange one out. After ~ 12 rounds, Max had correctly determined the strange tomato 6 times, which is slightly much better than chance. (In a triangle test, random guessing should yield correct answers one-third the the time, i beg your pardon in this instance would be 4 out of the 12 rounds.) when he had the ability to correctly recognize the tomato samples, he likewise picked the respond to sample(s) as his preference.


But when he got it wrong, he sometimes picked refrigerated slices together his preference. This is continual with the blind-tasting outcomes above: also though the red counter tomatoes edged out the refrigerated people overall, there were individual refrigerated samples in ~ the mix the scored higher than few of the counter samples.


But 12 ring isn't enough, for this reason the next day ns bought even much more tomatoes, refrigerated fifty percent overnight, and also then inside wall up five different tasters because that a brand-new session of triangle testing, with 24 ring total. The end of 24 rounds, we'd suppose random guessing come be exactly eight times (one-third the the total variety of rounds). By the end of mine session, mine tasters had been exactly nine out of 24 times, performing simply a hair above the random-guessing rate.


I'll be honest: together I to be slicing the tomatoes for these tests, i felt that the distinctions were much more apparent, however then again, i knew which to be which. (In some cases, I believed the respond to tomatoes were better; in others, I thought the refrigerated persons were.) What this test mirrors is that when that understanding is removed, the distinctions can it is in subtle sufficient that tasters have actually a really hard time telling refrigerated and also countertop tomato apart. So, while ns don't believe that room-temp and refrigerated tomatoes are entirely indistinguishable, this tests suggest that the insurance claims of horrible results of refrigeration top top ripe tomatoes are exaggerated.


Kenji's exam

Out in the bay Area, Kenji additionally ran his tests, v tomatoes the picked straight off the vine himself. Just similar to my many recent tests, Kenji's residence is in the short 70s and also mid-to-high 60s—theoretically right tomato-storage conditions. I'm going come let Kenji tell you in his very own words:


"The tomatoes that i picked were totally ripe. I organized them for two days, half in the fridge, half on the counter. Ns let the refrigerated tomatoes come ago to room temp before tasting, then i did a blind taste test with six people. The those six, two did an easy side-by-side choice tests: they both picked the refrigerator tomatoes as superior. The other 4 did triangle tests: that those, three appropriately picked the weird tomato out, and all picked the refrigerated tomatoes as superior. The fourth person that did the triangle test selected the strange one out incorrectly, but she still picked the refrigerated tomato as her favorite.
"I likewise did a check slicing tomatoes open and also checking them (subjectively) because that mealiness together they warmed up. Ns didn't an alert any mealiness indigenous a completely ripe tomato that had actually been put in the refrigerator."

Kenji's outcomes support what I argued above: Refrigerated and countertop tomatoes won't constantly be indistinguishable, but even as soon as they are, the frozen refrigerator isn't through any method guaranteed to be worse.


Our results from these recent tests are, frankly, together surprising come me as I imagine they space to plenty of of you reading this: before these tests, i never, ever would have said that tomatoes kept at a mild 70°F could be to win by or mistaken for refrigerated tomatoes.


Yet here we have multiple tests, performed on two different shores by two different people, with numerous different arrays of tomato, and that's exactly what we're seeing.


on the worth of Science and also the peril of Misusing that

Throughout this tomato-tasting experience, I've reflected quite a little on the duty of scientific research in all of this.


Science itself has done naught wrong: It's a beautiful system—the ideal one we've got—for answering questions about how pretty much everything in the observable universe works. However it's simple for us to misuse it, and I think it's just such a misuse that produced this inflexible rule about tomato storage in the very first place. If you'll bear v me, I'll explain:


As I've written above, all of the scholastic studies I found on tomato warehouse were based on a narrow collection of conditions: namely, tomatoes picked as soon as underripe, and also stored in temperatures listed below 70°F. Those research studies concluded—and I'm willing to think that they're correct—that those tomatoes space harmed through refrigeration and are much better stored at slightly greater temperatures, in the 50s and also 60s. The researches I found didn't research tomatoes that were choose when completely ripe, and they didn't consider warmer warehouse temperatures, certainly not above 80°F.


So what happens v these studies? This is just a script I've made up, but it's plausible to me, and also it shows how the additional we obtain from the original data, the an ext likely the is that the data will certainly be misinterpreted: The big-ag tomato growers follow the research and begin storing their underripe tomato in cool temperature (but no as cold as a refrigerator), and also wholesalers perform the same. Word it s okay to the create vendor: Don't refrigerate these tomatoes, it's poor for them. Then the produce merchant tells the customer: Don't refrigerate her tomatoes, it's bad for them.


But the last action is the problem: The don't-refrigerate wisdom was great throughout the it is provided chain and kept the tomato in the best possible condition, yet it doesn't necessarily use to the retail customer with different storage conditions at home, or to tomato that are picked once ripe—conditions that had not been tested in any kind of scientific study I found.


Another example of the misuse of science is in this Alton Brown on facebook directive: "Do me a favor: never ever put tomato in the refrigerator," he implores. "If castle drop below 50 degrees F, a flavor compound called (Z)-3-hexenal is just going to upper and lower reversal itself off choose a chemical switch ... Permanently." Uh-oh, (Z)-3-hexenal it s okay switched off permanently? that sounds really bad.


Let’s i think this thing around (Z)-3-hexenal is true. My inquiry is: So what? In a complicated biological structure prefer a tomato, am I an alleged to believe that due to the fact that one solitary aroma molecule go dormant, that's as such a good enough factor to never ever refrigerate a tomato? What about all the thousands and also thousands that other complex processes that are taking place in a tomato as it ages? How have the right to we possibly attract an plot conclusion from one solitary factor in such an detailed system together a tomato?


This is a difficulty in a the majority of science-based journalism: Scientists execute a study and publish their results. Place publications, spring to do that info relevant come the lay person, shot to discover some sort of handy advice buried in the findings. Researchers have discovered that vitamins are important to the person body? Take them together a pill! scientists have discovered that fat is bad? Stop eat fat! researchers have discovered that fat isn't as poor as they thought? Stop eat carbs!


The difficulty isn't necessarily with the scientists; it's v the human being trying to give concrete advice around how to live and act based on the occupational of the scientists. That puts united state in hot water much too often.


Tomato Storage: Conclusion

None of my tests, nor Kenji's, room rigorous sufficient for publishing in any kind of kind of scientific journal, however I think we've each had actually clear sufficient results the no one must at this allude continue to believe that the no-refrigeration ascendancy is constantly true. At the an extremely least, the rule exaggerates the damage that a refrigerator does to ripe tomatoes, while not considering the sometimes higher harm that can befall that very same tomato if left in ~ room temperature—especially the warmer that room gets.


As because that me, next time tomato season rolls around, I'll stick them in the fridge once it seems choose they're ripe enough.**** and I won't feel a smidgen the shame about it.


**** While ns at it, I’ll also be storing castle in the refrigerator upside down, for factors Kenji defines here.

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Editor’s Note: This contents was originally published as a three-part series. It has due to the fact that been condensed right into a single article.