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The Essential Facts of Cooking with Tomatoes

Tomatoes Release Water

When heated, tomatoes release water, which means that whatever dish you’re adding them to is going to see an increase in how much liquid it has. Even if you chop up tomatoes nice and small and throw them in with some scrambled eggs, they will release water. You can just cook the dish a little longer and let the excess liquid boil over. If you’re making a Panini or grilled cheese sandwich, you are out of luck, however. Sliced tomatoes in a heated up sandwich will release water, but not much. If you want to avoid the release of water, add the tomato after the rest of the sandwich has been heated.

As a side note, if you like adding some chopped tomato into your scrambled eggs, try this combo: tomato, shallots, parsley and feta cheese.

Cook-Worthy Tomatoes

Not all tomatoes are ideal for cooking. Depending on what you are actually making, certain ones may be better than others. For example, when making stuffed tomatoes, also called “dolma” in Middle Eastern and other cuisines, you want to use a tomato that is as wide as it is tall to optimize the tomato-to-stuffing ratio. A beefsteak tomato, for example, may be on the wide side, but could still work well. A vine tomato, on the other hand, is fairly well proportioned and would be a good choice for stuffed tomato (but is smaller than a beefsteak).

If you want to make a pasta sauce, you should go for “paste” tomatoes, like Plum and Roma, which are meatier with smaller seed cavities. These types of tomatoes are also favorites for canning and tomato paste.

Ripe, Canned, Frozen

Finally, when cooking with tomatoes, you can use them in just about any stage of ripeness or processing. Canned ones are easy to toss into a dish (and won’t release water anymore). Fresh, ripe tomatoes can also be used, but these will release water and take a little more preparation. You can also freeze them to cook with later. Keep in mind that if you freeze them, they should only be used for cooking when thawed. The freezing ruins the texture and it won’t taste very good in a fresh dish.

Noelle Renee Allen