They perk up a boring salad, are essential for pizza night and give the right amount of juiciness to a sandwich. Yep, tomatoes are pretty awesome. That’s why they’re always in our kitchen—but where they go from there is kind of confusing. Sure, your mom swears by leaving her tomatoes out on the counter, but your partner is adamant that they belong in the fridge. Who’s right? Well, they both are. Kind of. Allow us to explain: The fridge will halt the ripening process, while keeping tomatoes at room temperature will speed things up. So the best method for how to store tomatoes all depends on how ripe they are. Let’s break it down.
How to Store Tomatoes (So That They’re Not Too Hard and Not Too Mushy)
How to Store Underripe Tomatoes
You saw that your favorite tomatoes were on sale at the grocery store and decided to seize the moment and stock up. Good idea—except they’re not quite ripe yet. No problem. Simply leave those juicy fruits out on the countertop for a few days to let them do their thing, ideally keeping them in a single layer and out of direct sunlight. But whatever you do, don’t put unripe tomatoes in the refrigerator (which will basically guarantee that they stay hard and tasteless forever).
How to Store Ripe Tomatoes
If you’re dealing with tomatoes that are in peak condition, what you should really do is eat them ASAP. But if you want to enjoy them in a couple of days, the best thing to do is put them in the refrigerator but then—and this is the important part—take them out of the fridge a couple of days before you want to eat them. That’s because while fully ripe tomatoes lose some of their flavor when chilled, they can actually regain their deliciousness if they’re allowed to recover at room temperature for a day or two before eating.
How to Store Overripe Tomatoes
If your tomatoes are veering on squishy, you definitely don’t want them hanging out anywhere warm (like, say, your kitchen countertop). Instead, place them in the fridge, where the cooler temperature will halt the ripening process. Got tomatoes that are too soft for storing? Toss them into a tomato sauce.
8 Ways to Use Those Juicy Tomatoes
Pasta and pizza are the obvious vessels for your bunch of perfectly ripe tomatoes, and with recipes like this one-pot tomato basil pasta and this breakfast ’za, we’re not mad about it. But if you’re feeling fancy, you could give these eggs baked in tomatoes a try. Or for an easy weeknight dinner, we’re fans of this 30-minute creamy chicken, corn and tomato skillet and this ridiculously simple tomato galette. Tomato soup is a classic, but it doesn’t have to be boring—grilled cheese and tomato soup casserole, anyone? And let’s not forget about all the salad possibilities (hello, Caprese salad with grilled zucchini). We told you tomatoes were awesome.