Why You Shouldn’t Store Tomatoes In the Fridge

Words: Crush

If you’ve watched Netflix’s From Scratch, you’ll know that “Italians don’t put tomatoes in the fridge.” It’s basically sacrilege! Guilty of this culinary crime? You’re only robbing your pasta of flavour. Here’s why you should think twice before you store your tomatoes in the fridge.

When tomatoes are refrigerated, the balance of sugars, acids and volatile compounds that develop over time are destroyed.

Tasty Tomatoes

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is one of the world’s most widely consumed fruits, especially in Italian cuisine. Commonly used in marinara ‘red sauce’ pasta, this juicy fruit gets its bright red colour from lycopene – a natural pigment and antioxidant found in red fruits and vegetables. Pectic polysaccharides in tomatoes are also widely used in the food industry to enhance flavours and stabilise food ingredients.

Due to natural enzymes, particularly those responsible for flavour production, tomatoes are highly sensitive to temperature and hate cold environments. When tomatoes are stored at temperatures below approximately 13°C, the activity of these enzymes drastically diminishes. This enzymatic activity is essential for the development of the complex flavours that give tomatoes their distinctive taste.

There are a few exceptions to the no-fridge rule, though…

If you’ve ever bitten into a ripe tomato, you’ll know what we’re talking about. When tomatoes are refrigerated, the balance of sugars, acids and volatile compounds that develop over time are destroyed. The cold temperature halts the ripening process and suppresses the synthesis of these compounds, which are crucial for the tomato’s aroma and taste.

Then There’s the Texture Tragedy

Refrigeration doesn’t just dull the flavour of tomatoes, it also ruins their texture.

Tomatoes are made up of water-filled cells. When exposed to cold temperatures, the water inside these cells can freeze and expand, causing the cell walls (pectin) to rupture. As a result, when the tomato is brought back to room temperature, the once-firm flesh becomes unpleasantly mealy and mushy. This textural change can be a dealbreaker, especially in dishes where the tomato’s natural juiciness and firmness are essential.

So, Where Should Tomatoes Go?

In Italian cuisine, tomatoes hold a place of honour – right on the kitchen counter.

Whether making a Caprese salad or marinara sauce, you want the full tomato flavour to be the highlight of the dish. The best way to do this is to avoid putting tomatoes in the fridge, instead, make sure that they are stored at room temperature. A cool, shaded spot, where they can continue to ripen and develop their full flavour potential, is best. Store your tomatoes in a fruit bowl in the kitchen.

Fully ripe tomatoes are best used within a few days…

There are a few exceptions to the no-fridge rule, though – if you’ve cut into a tomato and have leftovers, it’s best to store the cut tomato in the fridge to prevent spoilage. However, bring it to room temperature before using it to allow the flavour to return as much as possible. Similarly, if you live in an extremely hot region, refrigerating overripe tomatoes for a short period might be necessary to prevent them from going bad. The bottom line is that you should get them to room temp before consuming them.

How To Store Tomatoes

Here are some tips for storing tomatoes:

Keep Them Cool, Not Cold: Store tomatoes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. A kitchen counter or pantry shelf works well.

Stem-Side Down: Place tomatoes stem-side down to prevent moisture from entering the stem scar and causing spoilage.

Use Ripe Tomatoes Quickly: Fully ripe tomatoes are best used within a few days to enjoy their peak flavour.

Separate Overripe Ones: If some tomatoes are overripe, keep them separate from the others to prevent them from accelerating the ripening of the others.

Want more? Try these 26 delicious & easy pasta recipes

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