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Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

We Tried 7 Ways to Store Strawberries and the Winner Outlasted Them All

published Aug 19, 2023
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There’s nothing quite like eating a perfectly ripe strawberry on a hot summer day. The sweet, floral aroma practically screams summer. Every year I look forward to their tart punch that’s perfectly balanced by their alluring sweetness. The mere thought of them is enough to get me through the cold, berry-less winters.

But fresh strawberries are expensive, and there’s nothing worse than buying a pint of perfectly ripe strawberries only for them to go bad within a day or two. It’s a disappointing situation I’ve experienced one too many times, and a problem I was determined to help solve. So in an attempt to never let my fresh strawberries go to waste again, I put seven popular methods of storing them to the test with the hopes of making them last longer. I purchased a flat of fresh strawberries and stored them in seven different ways.

So, What Is the Best Way to Store Strawberries?

Some of the storing methods worked better than others, but there was one clear winner that kept the strawberries perfectly fresh for an entire week: soaking them in a vinegar-water solution. Read on to learn more about why this is the best method, the other methods we tested, and to learn about a super-simple solution that’s almost as good as our top pick if you’re pressed for time.

Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

How We Tested the Methods

The first thing I did was search the internet for the most reliable and trusted methods of storing fresh strawberries. Some methods were all about the containers they get stored in, while others focused on washing and processing techniques that are said to extend their shelf life. After landing on the seven popular methods below, each one was put to the test. I purchased my strawberries (all from the same market and on the same day) and stashed them in my fridge after storing them via their respective methods.

The judging criteria was simple: Each morning I would check in on the berries to see how they were looking. Any strawberries that started to soften, darken, or turn a burgundy/brown-ish color I considered “spoiled” for the sake of the test. (But don’t worry — these ones were put to use in a homemade jam.) At the end of the week I tallied up how many berries spoiled and determined a winner. The winning method has now become my go-to method of storing any variety of fresh berries I purchase.

Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Storing Method: Pre-hulled and stored in the fridge cut-side down.

  • Spoilage: 100% of the berries
  • Rating: 1/10

About this method: In an attempt to make prepping strawberries as easy as possible, I tested the impossible and pre-hulled an entire pint of strawberries to see if they would last. If I could store strawberries already hulled so they were truly grab-and-go, I certainly wouldn’t be mad. To mimic similar experiments online, we hulled the strawberries and stored them cut-side down. I grabbed a pan that allowed enough space to store an entire pint of berries in it and lined them up. I popped it in the fridge uncovered and checked on it daily. Sure, it was a wild idea, but I just really wanted ready-to-eat-strawberries.

Results: After seven days all of the berries went bad. The berries dried up, shriveled, and the cut-end turned a horrible gray color. I knew this test would be a toss-up, but I was disappointed nonetheless.

My takeaway: Hulling strawberries in advance is a bad idea. The cut sides end up turning brown, softening, and looking very ugly. Some methods online recommend storing pre-hulled strawberries in zip-top bags or stored on top of a paper towel, so it could have been a misstep on our part, but either way I don’t foresee hulled strawberries lasting over a week in the fridge.

Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Storing Method: Dunked in a hot water bath and stored on paper towels in an airtight container.

  • Spoilage: About 60% of the berries
  • Rating: 3/10

About this method: This method came from noted food writer Harold McGee, who focuses on the intersection of food science and cooking. His book On Food and Cooking is hailed as one of the ultimate culinary science resources, so I knew we needed to include his method as part of the lineup. His method includes dunking berries in a pot of 125°F water (which is hot but not quite simmering) for 30 seconds, then transferring them onto a paper towel-lined sheet tray in the fridge. The hot water bath is said to suppress mold growth, thus making the berries last longer.

Results: By day seven a little more than half of the strawberries had spoiled — which was surprising given how much effort (and science!) went into this storage method. It didn’t really seem like the hot water bath did all that much, and the majority of the strawberries looked rather sad.

My takeaway: This method was a bit of a project, and I don’t think it was worth the extra time and effort it took. I didn’t see much of an improvement (if any) in terms of how long the berries lasted and don’t recommend taking the extra time to do this. My guess is that the berries were too wet, which caused them to spoil faster. By the end of the week the paper towel was damp and seemed to be contributing to the spoilage, so it’s possible I didn’t let them dry enough before popping them in the fridge.

Read more: This Nerdy-but-Brilliant Trick Keeps Berries Fresh for Longer

Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Storing Method: Rinsed and stored on paper towels.

  • Spoilage: About 40% of the berries
  • Rating: 5/10

About this method: One of the most popular methods for storing berries is simply rinsing them off and storing them in a paper towel-lined container. This way you can eat your strawberries whenever you’re craving them without having to wash them off — a meal-prepper’s dream! For this test we sorted through a pint of strawberries (discarding any berries that were on their last leg), rinsed them off, placed them in a container lined with paper towels, popped a lid on, and stashed them in the fridge.

Results: By the end of the week a little less than half of the strawberries had spoiled. The paper towel was wet and the parts of the strawberries that were touching it seemed to be spoiling faster.

My takeaway: Storing wet strawberries in the fridge is proven to be yet again a recipe for disaster. The paper towel ended up getting damp and the berries went bad fairly quickly. By day five I could tell that this method wasn’t working that well. However you store your strawberries, make sure they are completely dry before stashing them in the fridge.

Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Storing Method: Stored in an airtight glass jar.

  • Spoilage: About 30% of the berries
  • Rating: 6/10

About this method: One method I had seen a handful of experts suggest is storing fresh strawberries in an airtight glass jar (like a Mason jar). You just place your unwashed strawberries straight into the jar, screw the lid on, and pop it in the fridge. Some sources claim this method would keep the berries fresh for up to two weeks (!), so I was excited to give it a try.

Results: By the end of the week only a third of the strawberries showed any signs of spoilage. The airtight jar seemed to keep the berries much fresher than storing them on an uncovered sheet pan. The strawberries towards the bottom of the jar seemed to spoil the quickest, probably because they were bearing the weight of the other berries on top of them, but they overall stayed quite fresh.

My takeaway: Although the berries were a bit hard to get in and out of the jar, this method worked surprisingly well. It kept the berries relatively fresh, but was a bit of a pain. The jar couldn’t hold an entire pint of strawberries, so although it was successful, the method is not that practical.

Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Storing Method: Unrinsed and stored on paper towels.

  • Spoilage: About 20% of the berries
  • Rating: 7/10

About this method: If we were going to test if storing strawberries on paper towels would help keep them fresh, we needed to try it out on both rinsed and unrinsed berries. This test was the latter method. We simply sorted through the strawberries, picking out any that looked bad from the start, and placed them in a paper towel-lined container with a lid and stashed it in the fridge.

Results: By the end of the week the paper towel had absorbed a decent amount of liquid and was stained red in some places — suggesting that it had absorbed some of the excess liquid that would have otherwise contributed to making them spoil quicker. By day seven only about a fifth of the berries had spoiled. This method worked significantly better than storing rinsed strawberries on paper towels, suggesting that keeping the berries dry plays a significant role in how long they stay fresh for.

My takeaway: This method worked well and only resulted in a small amount of spoilage. About 20% of the strawberries spoiled, which was significantly less than storing them on paper towels after rinsing, but still not a revelation.

Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Storing Method: Sorted and placed back in their original carton.

  • Spoilage: About 15% of the berries
  • Rating: 8/10

About this method: We included this method as a control to judge the rest of the tests. We simply sorted through the container of strawberries and discarded any that were already going bad, then added them back to the container and stored them in the fridge. That’s it.

Results: To my surprise, by day seven hardly any of the strawberries had spoiled. Almost all of them were still fresh and vibrant, and only a few of them showed any signs of spoiling.

My takeaway: This method was by far the easiest, and the results were pretty great. The container kept the berries much fresher than most of the other storage containers, and it took practically no time. Not rinsing the berries made sure they they were dry, and the container seemed to give them enough air circulation without being exposed. If you’re pressed for time, storing berries in their original containers works just fine.

Credit: Photography: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Storing Method: Soaked in a vinegar solution and dried in a salad spinner.

  • Spoilage: About 5% of the berries
  • Rating: 9.5/10

About this method: This is one of the most common methods I saw on the internet, and I was eager to give it a try. You dunk strawberries in a water bath made with 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water, drain them, then dry them as thoroughly as possible. Food52 suggested drying them in a salad spinner lined with paper towels for added insurance that they would get dry, so that’s exactly what I did. Once dried, you transfer the strawberries into a paper towel-lined container, loosely place the lid on (do not seal it), and pop them in the fridge.

Results: By the end of the week practically none of the strawberries had gone bad. I didn’t have to discard a single one and the only noticeable spoilage was a few dark spots here and there. And because the berries were thoroughly dried in a salad spinner, the paper towel was still practically completely dry by day seven.

My takeaway: This method takes time and effort to do, but depending on how many strawberries you have (or how expensive they were) it’s definitely worth it. The strawberries stayed fresh, vibrant, and firm the entire week and showed practically no signs of spoilage. They looked as if I had just taken them home from the store and were (almost) as fresh as day one.

The Biggest Takeaways

When it came to storing strawberries, moisture seemed to be the biggest enemy. You want to make sure your berries are completely dry before stashing them in the fridge, so I suggest holding off on washing them until you’re ready to eat them or thoroughly drying them in a salad spinner. If you’re pressed for time, simply storing the strawberries in their original container after discarding any that are on the brink of spoiling is a great option — but if you have extra time, soaking them in a vinegar-water solution and drying them afterwards is a great way to extend their shelf life.

Your turn: What’s your go-to method for storing fresh strawberries? Let us know in the comments!

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: We Tried 7 Methods for Storing Berries and the Winner Outlasted Them All