In many cases, it’s perfectly fine, if not preferable to leave a tomato’s skin and seeds intact. They add flavor and texture to sandwiches and salads.
But, when you want the smoothest tomato sauce or you’re canning the last harvest of tomatoes from your garden, peeling and deseeding them is the way to go.
Luckily, this is a quick and straightforward task, with equipment that you probably already have in your kitchen. So stick around and learn how to peel and deseed a tomato in 6 simple steps.
But First, Choose The Best Tomatoes For The Job
Tomatoes come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. And while you can technically peel and deseed any of them, certain ones are better suited for the job and will make the whole process a lot easier.
The best tomatoes for peeling are ones that are firm, smooth, and uniformly shaped.
That means you should save those wild and wrinkly heirlooms for eating raw on sandwiches or in salads. While undoubtedly delicious, the ridges and wild shapes of those make peeling very difficult.
Gather Your Mise En Place
Before you get started with the peeling and deseeding process, it’s important to gather all of the equipment that you need for the job. In professional kitchens, we call this mise en place.
Spending just an extra minute or two getting yourself organized ahead of time will ensure the process runs smoothly. That way, you’re not frantically setting up an ice bath as your tomatoes overcook in your boiling water.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A large pot filled with water for boiling.
- A slotted spoon, tongs, or spider to retrieve the tomatoes.
- An ice bath (large bowl or another pot filled with ice and water).
- A paring knife.
How To Peel And Deseed A Tomato In 6 Steps
Before you get started, thoroughly rinse your tomatoes under cold water.
Even though you’ll be cooking the tomato, albeit very briefly, it’s important to remove any residual dirt or bacteria that may be on the exterior of the tomato.
In the next step, you’ll be making a shallow incision in the tomato. If it wasn’t cleaned, there could be dangerous bacteria on the tomato skin that you just opened the door for and allowed to spread to the tomato flesh.
On the bottom of each tomato, use a sharp knife to make a very shallow “X”. You only need the incision to be deep enough so that it goes through the skin of the tomato.
Making this shallow cut creates 4 points of skin that will get ever so slightly more cooked than the rest of the tomato. The result is that these points will separate from the tomato flesh, giving you a place to easily start the peeling process.
Place the scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and leave them for 15 seconds. The goal here is to cook the tomato as little as possible.
You want to cook the layer of tomato flesh directly under the skin, but nothing more. By cooking only the very outer layer, you’ll make the skin easy to remove but the tomato will essentially remain raw.
Not enough time in the water, and your tomato will be difficult to peel. Too much time and the tomato will overcook and turn soft and mushy.
After 15 seconds, immediately transfer the tomatoes to your ice bath to stop the cooking process. Be sure that the tomatoes are completely submerged so that no areas continue to cook.
Shocking ties directly into the blanching process by allowing you to use very exact cooking times. An ice bath almost immediately stops the cooking process so that you don’t have to worry about carryover cooking.
Be sure that you use enough ice so that the hot tomatoes don’t melt all of your cubes and leave you with a bowl of lukewarm water. Try to make your ice bath at least ⅓ ice, but using half ice, half water is ideal.
Once the tomatoes are completely cooled, remove them from the ice bath.
Starting at the scored “X” peel away the skin with your fingers. Or, use a paring knife and pinch a corner of the skin between the knife blade and your thumb, then peel down towards the stem.
The very brief cooking time should have released the skin from the flesh of the tomato. If the skin does not easily peel away, repeat steps 3 and 4.
In many cases, tomato skins become tough and paper when cooked. By removing them, you’ll be able to achieve better texture and consistency in many recipes.
6. Destem and Deseed
Remove the tomato stem by inserting a paring knife on one side of the stem, angled down towards the center of the tomato. Continue to cut around the stem until it comes out.
To remove the seeds, cut the top quarter of the tomato off and use a teaspoon or other small spoon to scoop the seeds out.
While not essential for all applications, removing tomato seeds gives you better control of the consistency of a recipe. Tomato seeds are generally very soft, but they are surrounded by a lot of liquid that can end up watering down or thinning out a dish or sauce.
Storing Prepped Tomatoes
Once your tomatoes are peeled and deseeded, they’re ready to be used for soups, sauces, salads, or whatever your heart desires.
If you won’t be using them right away, store them in an airtight container. Plastic containers will work fine, but I prefer using glass for this as it’s less likely to be affected by the color or acidity of the tomatoes.
Try to use your prepped tomatoes within 5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze them in thick zip-top bags, or you can try your hand at “canning” for preservation and use in the months ahead.
You can also peel your tomatoes but skip the deseeding step if you’ll be canning them whole, or processing them in a blender where the seeds won’t make a difference.
A Quick And Dirty Alternative
If the final destination of your tomatoes is a soup or sauce, you can skip the whole cooking, peeling, and deseeding process altogether.
Instead, clean and remove the core of your tomatoes. Then, cut them into quarters and run them through a food mill equipped with a fine disk.
All of the tomato juice and flesh will pass through the mill, leaving the skin and seeds behind.
Tomato Skin And Seed Uses
A lot of the vitamins and nutrients in tomatoes are located in the skin and seeds. So, if you process your own tomatoes, it makes sense to save and use as much of the fruit as you can.
In most cases, tomato seeds are very soft and can easily go unnoticed in most applications. For that reason, it often makes the most sense to simply skip the deseeding step and leave them in.
Tomato skins, on the other hand, can have a more noticeable effect on the consistency of a dish. And while there aren’t a ton of uses for tomato skins, there are at least a couple that you can try out at home.
The easiest use for tomato skins is to add them to your next batch of stock. They’ll add both flavor and color to chicken, vegetable, beef, or fish stock.
And if you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, you can dehydrate tomato skins and pulverize them in a food processor or spice grinder to make a tomato powder that you can use as a dry spice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Remove Seeds From Tomatoes?
Tomato seeds are usually removed so that they don’t affect the texture or consistency of a dish. But, when left intact, tomato seeds add additional flavor and nutrients.
What Is The Easiest Way To Remove Seeds From Tomatoes?
Cut the top quarter of the tomato off, and use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds.
How Do You Peel Tomatoes Without Boiling Them?
To peel a tomato without any cooking involved, first split them into 4 long quarters. Place each quarter skin side down and use a sharp knife to cut as close to the skin as possible, removing all of the flesh.