Technique: Peeling Tomatoes

Tomatoes on the vine

Peeling your own tomatoes is an excellent way to improve the freshness of a recipe, control your salt intake, and avoid consuming unwanted chemicals found in some cans.  If you live in a place like California, you can probably get excellent tomatoes year round.  Where I currently live in New York, as is the case in other places that reach below freezing, this may not be the best use of my time during the cold winter months.

Many recipes call for cans of diced or peeled tomatoes.  I usually substitute about the same amount in weight as compared to the size of the can.  When I first read about this technique in a Mexican cookbook years ago, I thought, “God, that sounds like a lot of work and time.”  It really isn’t.  Before you start cleaning and chopping your vegetables, put out a pot of water to boil, and before you know it, your tomatoes are ready to be thrown in.  It really doesn’t add much time to your overall preparation, and in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the time, especially when your tomatoes are fresh.

Tomatoes criss cut

First criss cut the bottom of your tomatoes making a long incision from one side of the tomato to the other.  Try your best just to pierce the skin.

Tomatoes added to boiling water

Next, add the tomatoes to a pot of boiling water.  Depending on the tomato and its temperature, it will take just a few seconds to a couple of minutes before the skins start to peel.  These were ready to be removed after just 15 seconds.  You will notice the skins will start tear toward the top.  You don’t want to cook the tomatoes in the boiling water, but you also want the skins to be easy to remove.  I left these in a little too long because I wasn’t expecting them to be ready to go so quickly.  Not the end of the world, though.  You live you learn!

Tomatoes cooling in a colander

When they are ready to be removed, take the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and allow them to cool until they are able to be handled easily by hand.  Yours should look a little less “done” because you’ll take them out sooner than I did!

Tomatoes peeled

Next, you should be able to remove the skins fairly easily.  Some tomatoes might fight back a little, but you should still be able to remove them without too much trouble.  Use the tomatoes now as the recipe calls.  If making a soup, stew, curry, or something similar, I try to add these in earlier when the recipe allows me to or I will just let the tomatoes cook a little bit longer since canned tomatoes tend to be more tender straight out of the can.

You’ve just peeled your own tomatoes!

What do you think?  Did it improve your recipe?  Was it too much work?  Can you not believe that you had never tried this before?  Leave your comments below.


3 thoughts on “Technique: Peeling Tomatoes

  1. I really need to try this out. The next stew or soup that requires diced tomatoes is getting this treatment. I’m so lazy sometimes, but you make it look so simple and I have seen you do it before. It only adds a little bit of extra time.

  2. Pingback: Il Ragù alla Bolognese | Adventures of a Gastrophile

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