Most food websites scream at the top of their lungs that we should not put our tomatoes in the refrigerator, but are they wrong? Who made up this rule? Alton Brown says to do him a favor and never put tomatoes in the fridge, because “if they drop below 50 degrees F, a flavor compound called (Z)-3-hexenal is just going to flip itself off like a chemical switch… permanently.” But, maybe, just maybe, it’s a good thing for the switch to flip.
Daniel Gritzer, culinary director at Serious Eats, did an experiment at home that will make you want to throw your tomatoes in the fridge from this point forward (at least during the summer heat). He bought three different types of tomatoes — hothouse, plum, and cherry — and set half of the tomatoes on the counter in 80-degree weather and the other half in the refrigerator. After one day, he began to notice differences in the tomatoes — the hothouse varieties had turned a deeper red sitting out on the counter than the ones that had been cooled. The initial taste-test showed that the tomatoes on the counter tasted better than the ones kept in the refrigerator, but that was only on day one. By day two, the tomatoes in the fridge tasted better than those on the counter.
Research shows that tomatoes should be in a room that is between 68 and 73 degrees F, but this becomes problematic during the summer months. Unless you plan to keep the air conditioner on all day long, your best bet is to put them in the fridge. Sorry, Alton Brown, but there are some flaws in your theory.
To keep your tomatoes flavorful and delicious, place them in the fridge if your kitchen storage area is over 70 degrees F. You can even run your own experiment with different tomatoes to see if refrigerating this summer staple is worth it.