How to Know When a Tomato Goes Bad

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Cooks are faced with a mixed bag when it comes to storing tomatoes. Those kept at room temperature taste better than those stored in the refrigerator. But chilled tomatoes can last twice as long as those kept on the counter or in a pantry. Reconcile the dilemma without seeing red, knowing that wherever you keep tomatoes, they won’t last forever. No one wants to contract a foodborne illness, so learn to recognize when tomatoes have gone bad.

Step 1

Check the condition of the tomato skin. Fresh tomatoes are firm and taut; bad tomatoes look puckered and wrinkled, and the skin may be cracked or split in places.

Step 2

Inspect the tomato for signs of mold, including black or dark green splotches and white fuzz. A waxy film on the tomato can also be a sign of trouble.

Step 3

Pick up a tomato to see whether it’s leaking liquid from the bottom. Like a once plump balloon, bad tomatoes often go soft and limp, then ooze a liquid that might resemble vegetable oil.

Step 4

Smell the tomato. A bad tomato may exude a putrid, bitter or otherwise foul aroma, especially near the stem.

Step 5

Throw away tomatoes that look or smell bad. Trust your instincts and err on the side of playing it safe.