This post covers three methods for how to peel a tomato. Tomatoes are delicious and versatile, but eating their skin is unpleasant and carries little nutritional value. This post covers everything you need to know for peeling a tomato.
Why Peel a Tomato
Once you start peeling your tomatoes, it’s hard to go back. The skin is unpleasant to eat, and it carries no significant nutritional value. The appearance alone is unappetizing, like when you see those little pieces of rolled up skin floating in a soup or sauce. The texture is off putting – kind of like eating little bits of scotch tape.
And maybe those rolled up bits look gross for a reason. For certain individuals, that tomato skin can get stuck in your gut and cause health issues.
I eat a lot of tomatoes. I like them in a can or a jar, but mostly I like to use fresh tomatoes. This means I am peeling lots of tomatoes. Peeling tomatoes is not as straightforward as it seems as tomatoes come in different shapes, sizes, and levels of firmness. The strategy I use depends on the tomatoes and the situation.
Tomato Peeling Starts with Tomato Picking
Knowing that you are going to peel a tomato influences what tomato you choose, especially if you are going to use a peeler to peel the tomato (the easiest of the three methods). Two properties contribute to how easy it is to peel a tomato.
Firstly, the tomato’s firmness is important. Imagine peeling a mushy tomato. It’s basically impossible. Even if you do get the skin of a soft tomato, assuming you don’t destroy it in the process, its very hard to work with it afterwards. The firmer the tomato, the easier it is to peel (and use afterwards).
Secondly, the smoothness of the tomato surface is important. A perfectly smooth tomato is ideal. Consider the opposite, a wrinkled tomato like an heirloom, filled with ridges and crevices. How can you get a peeler in the valleys and crevices along the tomato surface? You can’t, so either you use another method, or you pick tomatoes that are smooth.
Three Ways How To Peel a Tomato
Method 1 – Peeling Tomatoes with a Peeler
In my opinion, this is the best and easiest method – if it is possible. That is why choosing the tomato is important – if you choose a good firm smooth tomato, you can use a peeler and it’s nice and easy.
There are two basic types of peeler you can use – normal and serrated. If the tomato is really smooth and firm (perfect for peeling), then a normal vegetable peeler should work (my favorite vegetable peelers for basically everything). This is the best case scenario for peeling a tomato – completely hassle free tomato peeling with a normal vegetable peeler.
If a normal vegetable peeler won’t work, you can try a serrated vegetable peeler (i use this every day). It’s not as smooth as a normal vegetable peeler, but it is very effective. As long as the tomato is not too soft, it should work on a smooth tomato. However, it cannot remove the skin inside the crevices of a wrinkly tomato.
Method 2 – Peeling a Tomato With Boiling Water
Using boiling water to peel a tomato is another popular method. I used to use this method frequently, but I don’t really do it anymore; tomato peeling with boiling water is kind of a hassle. However, it can be useful for peeling large batches of tomatoes. But if you just have a few tomatoes to peel, then using a peeler is much easier (if possible).
To peel a tomato with this method, bring a pot of water to boil. Cut a large X on the bottom of each tomato you want to peel. Put the tomatoes in the boiling water. Have an ice bath ready for the tomatoes when you take them out of the boiling water. When you see the skin peel back off of the tomato, remove them from the boiling water. This could be anwhere from thirty seconds to two or three minutes (depending on how much your water cooled when you put the tomatoes in). After they cool, use a paring knife to peel the skin off, starting from the bottom at the X. It should come right off.
With this method, you are cooking the outside of the tomato, so be careful not to cook too far if you want to use the tomato for a raw preparation like a salad.
Also, this method still doesn’t guarantee removing the skin from all deep crevices.
I did a variation of this method during a try out for a chef job once at a restaurant. There was no boiling water available but there were deep fryers on. I was instructed to deep fry baskets full of tomatoes with X’s for between 10 to 30 seconds, and then put them in ice water. It worked well; the skins came right off and the tomatoes didn’t seem oily.
Method 3 – Removing Tomato Skin with Blender
When all else fails, you can always put the tomatoes in the blender. Sometimes the tomato is so soft, there is no way to peel it. Or it may be shaped and wrinkled in such a way that you can’t peel it. You can always blend it.
Add the tomatoes to the blender and blend until liquid. Pass the liquid through a fine mesh sieve. You should see little pieces of tomato skins caught in the sieve. The tomato liquid will pass through.
Of course a major drawback to this method is that it liquefies the tomato. So if you need the tomato to have a shape, this method won’t work. However, if you want to use a tomato that is impossible to peel otherwise, then you can use this method. Use the strained tomato juice in sauces, soups, or salad dressings.