Tomato Types by Use: How to Choose and Cook Them Like a Pro

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Tomatoes are a versatile ingredient that you can use in almost any dish. But how do you get the best flavor?

Tomatoes are great for soups, stews, and sauces. But you can also use them in salads, sides, and even desserts. The secret is knowing how to use them.

In this article, I’ll show you how to use tomatoes in cooking so you can add them to your favorite dishes. Plus, I’ll share some of my favorite recipes using tomatoes.

How to cook with tomatoes

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Tomato Types by Use: Finding the Perfect Variety for Your Recipe

When it comes to making a delicious tomato sauce, you need a tomato that is low in water content and high in flesh. Here are some tomato varieties that are perfect for making sauce:

  • San Marzano: This is a popular variety that is known for its firm flesh and low seed count. It’s perfect for making a simmered sauce.
  • Roma: This is a standard variety that is often used for making sauce. It has a meaty texture and is low in water content.
  • Amish Paste: This variety is similar to Roma but has a sweeter flavor. It’s ideal for making a spicy sauce.

Tomatoes for Grilling

Grilled tomatoes are a great addition to any barbecue or summer meal. Here are some tomato varieties that are perfect for grilling:

  • Big Boy: This is a large tomato that is perfect for grilling. It has a meaty texture and holds up well on the grill.
  • Campari: This is a small tomato that is perfect for grilling. It has a sweet flavor and is easy to slice.
  • Green Zebra: This is a particular variety that is perfect for grilling. It has a tangy flavor that pairs well with grilled potatoes.

The Art of Enhancing Tomato Flavor

Tomatoes are a natural source of water and sugar, which gives them their unique taste. The flavor of a tomato is influenced by various factors, including the variety, time of picking, and special growing conditions. Tomatoes picked at the peak of ripeness have a more flavorful taste than those picked too early or too late. Lack of time for ripening can also affect the taste of tomatoes. Tomatoes grown in soil tend to have a more complex flavor than those grown hydroponically in greenhouses.

Concentrating Tomato Flavor in the Oven

One of the most rewarding ways to enhance the flavor of tomatoes is by concentrating them in the oven. This method involves roasting tomatoes at a low temperature for an extended period, which caramelizes the natural sugars and intensifies the flavor. To do this, cut the tomatoes in half, place them on a baking sheet, and drizzle them with olive oil. Roast them in the oven at a low temperature of 250°F for about 2-3 hours until they are tender and slightly browned. The result is a delicious, sweeter, and more flavorful tomato that can be used in a variety of dishes.

Peeling and Texturing Tomatoes for Puree

Tomato skin can sometimes have a bitter taste, which can affect the overall flavor of a dish. To remove the skin, blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then transfer them to an ice bath. The skin will easily peel off, leaving behind a smooth and pure texture. This technique is particularly useful when making tomato puree or sauce.

Ripening Tomatoes with Ethylene Gas

Tomatoes that are picked green and ripened off the vine lack the same depth of flavor as vine-ripened tomatoes. However, you can ripen green tomatoes by placing them in a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple. The ethylene gas produced by the fruit will help to speed up the ripening process, resulting in a more flavorful tomato.

Gently Warming Tomatoes for Serving

When serving tomatoes, it’s essential to warm them gently to enhance their flavor. Avoid cooking them at high temperatures, which can cause them to lose their flavor and texture. Instead, warm them gently in a pan or in the oven at a low temperature. This will help to bring out the natural sweetness and flavor of the tomato, making it more enjoyable to eat.

Choosing the Perfect Tomatoes for Your Dish

When it comes to buying tomatoes, it’s always best to go local and fresh. Look for tomatoes that are in season and grown nearby. Not only will they taste better, but they’ll also be more environmentally friendly.

Consider the Variety and Shape

Tomatoes come in a wide range of varieties and shapes, from small cherry tomatoes to large beefsteak tomatoes. Consider what you’ll be making and choose the best variety for the job. For example:

  • Small cherry tomatoes are great for salads and snacking.
  • Large beefsteak tomatoes are perfect for making tomato sauce or stuffed tomatoes.

Inspect the Tomato

When choosing a tomato, inspect it carefully for any bruises, cracks, or deep spots. Avoid any tomatoes with pale or purple skins, as these are signs that the tomato may not be ripe. Look for tomatoes that are firm but not hard to the touch.

Check the Stem

The stem of the tomato can also give you clues about its freshness. Look for tomatoes with a green stem that is still attached. If the stem is missing or brown, it’s a sign that the tomato may not be as fresh.

Room Temperature vs. Fridge

Tomatoes are best stored at room temperature, as refrigeration can cause them to lose their flavor and texture. If you need to store tomatoes in the fridge, quarter them and toss them in salads or eat them cold.

Using Tomatoes in Cooking

Tomatoes are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, from roasted tomato panzanella to tomato confit. Here are some tips for using tomatoes in your cooking:

  • To soften tomato skins, blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds and then transfer them to an ice bath.
  • For cooked dishes, such as pasta sauce or roasted tomatoes, remove the skins by trimming off the stem and making a small X on the bottom of the tomato. Then, blanch the tomato in boiling water for a few seconds and transfer it to an ice bath. The skin should peel off easily.
  • For a classic caprese salad, slice fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and top with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Add diced tomatoes to a toasted sandwich with feta or cream cheese for a tart and savory twist.
  • Use fillo pastry to make a tomato tart with roasted tomatoes and feta cheese.

Prepping Tomatoes: The Essential First Step

Peeling tomatoes is an essential step in many recipes. Here’s how to do it:

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  • Cut a small “X” on the bottom of each tomato.
  • Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and immediately place them in a bowl of ice water to cool.
  • Once cool, the skin should easily peel off.

Removing Seeds and Stem

Removing the seeds and stem from tomatoes is important for a smooth texture in many dishes. Here’s how to do it:

  • Cut the tomato in half horizontally.
  • Use your finger or a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stem.

How to Fry Tomatoes to Perfection

  • Heat a shallow pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom.
  • Once the oil is hot, carefully place the tomato slices in the pan using a spatula.
  • Fry the tomatoes for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown and crunchy.
  • Use the spatula to flip the slices and cook the other side.
  • Remove the tomatoes from the pan and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.

How to Saute Tomatoes: A Flavorful Addition to Any Dish

  • Begin by washing your tomatoes thoroughly and patting them dry with a paper towel.
  • Depending on the size of your tomatoes, chop them into halves, quarters, or even smaller pieces.
  • For added flavor, chop up some garlic and set it aside.

Heating Up Your Pan

  • Heat a large pan over medium heat and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, add your chopped tomatoes and garlic to the pan.
  • Sprinkle some salt over the tomatoes to help them release their juices and cook evenly.

The Sauteing Process

  • Stir the tomatoes and garlic occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan.
  • Allow the tomatoes to cook for a couple of minutes until they begin to blister and soften.
  • Toss the tomatoes occasionally to ensure that they cook evenly on all sides.
  • If the pan becomes overcrowded, opt to saute the tomatoes in batches to avoid steaming them versus blistering them.

Adding Your Sauteed Tomatoes to Your Dish

  • Once your tomatoes are perfectly sauteed, remove them from the heat and let them cool for a couple of minutes.
  • Sauteed tomatoes are a great addition to any dish, from pasta to salads to sandwiches.
  • For a sweet and tangy summer vegetable dish, try sauteing cherry tomatoes with some fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.

Watch Out for These Things

  • Make sure not to overcrowd the pan, as this will cause the tomatoes to steam versus blister.
  • Keep an eye on the heat of your pan, as cooking at too high of a temperature can cause the tomatoes to burn.
  • Stirring the tomatoes occasionally helps them cook evenly and prevents them from sticking to the pan.

How to Create Super Grilled Tomatoes

Grilled tomatoes are a versatile dish that can be served as a side or as a topping on a main course. Here’s how to make them:

  • Preheat your grill to high heat.
  • Cut large, firm tomatoes (such as Roma or beefsteak) into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Brush both sides of the tomato slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper.
  • Place the tomato slices on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until grill marks form and the tomatoes are slightly charred.
  • Remove from the grill and let cool slightly.

Add Toppings and Serve

Grilled tomatoes can be served in a variety of ways, depending on your taste preferences. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a Caprese salad by layering the grilled tomato slices with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a classic Italian dish.
  • Serve the grilled tomatoes alongside other grilled vegetables, such as zucchini or bell peppers, for a colorful and healthy side dish.
  • Use the grilled tomatoes as a topping for burgers or sandwiches. They add a smoky, sweet flavor that pairs well with grilled meats.
  • Add the grilled tomatoes to a pasta dish for a burst of fresh flavor. Try tossing them with spaghetti, olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, and a little garlic for a simple and delicious vegetarian meal.

Tips for Making Perfect Grilled Tomatoes

Here are some tips to ensure your grilled tomatoes come out juicy and delicious every time:

  • Use firm, ripe tomatoes for the best flavor and texture.
  • Slice the tomatoes thinly to prevent them from becoming too mushy on the grill.
  • Preheat your grill to high heat to ensure the tomatoes cook quickly and evenly.
  • Brush the tomato slices with olive oil to prevent them from sticking to the grill.
  • Don’t overcook the tomatoes- they should be slightly charred but still firm to the touch.
  • Depending on the size of your grill, you may need to work in batches to grill all of the tomato slices.
  • Grilled tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. They’re great for meal prep or for adding to salads and sandwiches throughout the week.

How to Make a Beautiful Homemade Stewed Tomato Dish

  • In a pot, add the chopped tomatoes and a little bit of water (about 1/4 cup per quart of tomatoes).
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Allow the tomatoes to cook for a total of 30-45 minutes, or until they fall apart and produce a thin sauce.
  • Add salt and any herbs or flavors to taste.
  • Carefully handle the hot pot and allow the stewed tomatoes to cool completely before serving.

Serving Suggestions

  • Stewed tomatoes can be enjoyed as a main course or as a side dish.
  • They can be used in a variety of recipes, such as pasta sauces, stews, and soups.
  • Serve the stewed tomatoes over rice or with a piece of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

In view of the above, making a homemade stewed tomato dish is easy and can be a great addition to any meal. By following the right steps, you can produce a beautiful and flavorful sauce that goes well with a variety of dishes.

Steaming Tomatoes: A Quick and Convenient Way to Cook Fresh Tomatoes

Steaming is a specific way of cooking vegetables that offers a quick and easy way to cook fresh tomatoes. Steaming is ideal for beginners who are just starting to learn how to cook, as it is a gentle process that requires little attention. Steaming is also a great way to preserve the nutrition of the food, as it does not require any oil or butter, making it a healthy way to cook.

Using an Electric Steamer or Instant Pot

If you have an electric steamer or an Instant Pot, steaming tomatoes is even easier. Here’s how:

  • Wash and peel the tomatoes as described above.
  • Place the tomatoes in the steamer basket of your electric steamer or Instant Pot.
  • Add a little salt and butter for flavor.
  • Follow the specific instructions for your steamer or Instant Pot to steam the tomatoes.
  • Check the tomatoes with a fork to see if they are cooked to your liking.
  • Once the tomatoes are steamed, they are ready to be used in your favorite recipes.

Benefits of Steaming Tomatoes

Steaming tomatoes offers several benefits, including:

  • It is a quick and convenient way to cook fresh tomatoes.
  • Steaming preserves the nutrition of the food, making it a healthy way to cook.
  • Steaming does not require any oil or butter, making it a low-fat way to cook.
  • Steaming is a gentle process that does not require much attention, making it ideal for beginners.

Tomato Serving Ideas: Get Creative with Your Tomatoes!

Tomatoes are a key ingredient in many salads and sandwiches. Here are some ideas to make your dishes even better:

  • Add fresh, chopped tomatoes to your salads for a sweet and slightly tangy flavor.
  • Sliced tomatoes are a great addition to any sandwich, especially when paired with bacon or grilled pork.
  • Spread some tomato sauce on your sandwich for a Southern twist.
  • For a light and refreshing salad, combine seasoned spinach with diced tomatoes, minced garlic, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Grilled and Broiled

Grilling or broiling tomatoes can offer a delicious twist to your summer dishes. Try these ideas:

  • Brush slices of homegrown heirloom tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with dried rosemary for a tasty side dish.
  • Top your grilled steak with a tomato concassé for a savory addition.
  • Broil salmon fillets with a seasoned tomato topping for a light and refreshing dinner.
  • Greg Steele recommends sautéed tomatoes as a side dish for grilled chicken thighs.

Pizza Toppers and Base

Tomatoes are a must-have ingredient for any pizza lover. Here are some ideas to make your pizza even better:

  • Use a tomato sauce base for your pizza and sprinkle with parmesan cheese for a tasty twist.
  • Add sliced tomatoes as a pizza topper for a fresh and delicious taste.
  • Antonis Cox recommends adding chili flakes to your tomato sauce for a slight kick.
  • Torie gives a twist to her pizza by adding sliced tomatoes and fresh basil on top.

Drinks and Tea

Tomatoes can also be used in drinks and tea for a unique and refreshing taste. Try these ideas:

  • Prop up a tomato slice on the rim of your glass of Pinot for a fun and tasty garnish.
  • Combine fresh tomatoes with olive oil and garlic for a delicious tomato tea.
  • Lutzflcat recommends adding tomato juice to your Bloody Mary for a savory twist.

Endless Possibilities

These are just a few ideas to get you started with using tomatoes in your cooking. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try new recipes! With the wide variety of tomato types and flavors, the possibilities are endless.


So, there you have it- all the tips you need to use tomatoes in cooking. 

They’re a versatile ingredient and can be used in everything from salads to pasta to sauces. Just remember to use fresh tomatoes, don’t overcook them, and don’t forget the salt and you’ll be cooking delicious dishes in no time!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.