Ripe tomatoes form the basis of many hearty recipes, from sauces to delicious stews and soups. Preparing fresh ingredients can be time-consuming, however, and many months out of a year, tomatoes just aren't readily available. Luckily, canned tomatoes are a convenient substitute, and knowing the difference between diced and stewed tomatoes can help you decide what you need for your next recipe.
Dicing a tomato means cutting it into cubes of equal size. Because most of the flavour resides in the meat of the tomato, it is advisable to discard the seeds and the pulp, as too much water can alter the consistency and taste of your final product. Canned diced tomatoes are simply just raw tomatoes that have been cut into small pieces and stored in natural juices. They have no extra flavour additives, unlike stewed tomatoes.
Stewed tomatoes, by definition, are tomatoes that have had their skins removed and have been cooked over low heat until tender. This process retains most of the tomatoes' natural juices, as the seeds and pulp are generally not discarded prior to stewing. Often times, canned stewed tomatoes will include other ingredients that enhance the flavour of the product. Sometimes these ingredients can be as simple as salt and pepper, but some companies add other components, like onions, garlic or green pepper. Carefully reading the packaging on the can will tell you if anything else has been added to the tomatoes.
Choosing the Right Canned Tomato
Selecting the type of canned tomato you want depends on what you want to use it for. For recipes that call for uncooked tomatoes, it's best to use a canned product that has never been cooked --- in this case, diced tomatoes instead of stewed tomatoes. The next step is to consider the consistency of the tomato desired. Stewed tomatoes will be mushier, so they are convenient for recipes in which the tomato will eventually be crushed, like stews and sauces. However, if the only product you have on hand is diced tomatoes, they can be simmered until similarly tender. Lastly, keep in mind that stewed tomatoes often have extra added ingredients. If you plan on substituting fresh tomatoes with the canned, stewed variety, you will need to be mindful of any other spices listed in the recipe so that you don't over-season your dish.
Cooking With Canned Tomatoes
Substituting canned tomatoes in place of fresh ones can drastically cut down on preparation time. Because many companies can their produce at their peak ripeness, the flavour is comparable to what you would expect if you prepared your recipe from scratch. In terms of yield, six large tomatoes is roughly equivalent to 2 cups of drained canned tomatoes.
- "Cook's Illustrated"; Canned Whole Tomatoes; Sept. 1, 2005
- "Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition"; About Tomatoes; Ethan Becker, et. al; October 2006
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