As summer draws to a close, many home cooks and gardeners find themselves with a bounty of fresh tomatoes. While delicious eaten raw, tomatoes can be used in endless recipes from sauces to salsa to soups. Before cooking with tomatoes, they often need to be processed or broken down in some way. The best tool for processing tomatoes depends on factors like quantity, final use, and personal preference. In this post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of different tomato processing tools to help you determine the best option for your needs.
If you plan to peel a large quantity of tomatoes, a tomato peeler can save you time and frustration. These handheld tools consist of serrated edges that you rub the tomato against to remove the skin. Models like the Neo Tomato Peeler, Kuhn Rikon Tomato Peeler, and Zulay Premium Tomato Peeler have excellent reviews for quickly peeling tomatoes without digging into the flesh.
- Very efficient for peeling many tomatoes
- Leave tomato flesh intact without digging in
- Easy to use with a simple back and forth motion
- Affordable prices, often less than $10
- Only useful for peeling, cannot core or break down tomatoes
- Serrated edges may need occasional sharpening to stay effective
- Not ideal for peeling just a few tomatoes
Food mills are handy devices for breaking down cooked tomatoes into a smooth liquid or pulp. They typically feature a hand crank, hopper to hold tomatoes, and interchangeable disks with holes to control texture.
- Yield tomato sauce or pulp with desired texture based on disk used
- Efficiently processes larger quantities of cooked tomatoes
- Little effort required besides cranking handle
- Models like OXO Good Grips Food Mill are high quality but reasonably priced
- Requires tomatoes to be cooked first
- Can be tricky cleaning food trapped between disk and screen
- Hand cranking and changing disks is tedious for some
- Not great for seeding raw tomatoes
Tomato corers provide an easy way to core tomatoes for stuffing, creating tomato rose garnishes, or other preparations needing the inner core removed. Basic models are shaped like a corkscrew that you twist into the top of a tomato. Upgraded options also slice the tomato into wedges while coring.
- Simple to core tomatoes with little effort
- Affordable prices, with basic models less than $5
- Easy to clean reusable design
- Advanced corers core and cut wedges efficiently
- Basic models only core, requiring additional knife work
- Moving slowly helps avoid tearing tomato flesh
- Not useful for peeling, seeding, or breaking down tomatoes
For chopping or slicing raw tomatoes, devices like the Prepworks by Progressive Tomato Cutter provide an easy option. These tools have blades that slice vertically and horizontally in a single motion. The tomato halves are then ready for chopping or dicing as needed.
- Cuts tomato into evenly sized halves instantly
- Razor-sharp blades make clean cuts through tomatoes
- Much faster than using just a knife to slice
- Easy hand-held operation with comfortable grip
- Only slices tomatoes, does not peel, core, or remove seeds
- Must position tomato correctly or slices can turn out uneven
- Occasional blade sharpening needed for optimal performance
- Not ideal for tomatoes on the vine, cherry tomatoes, etc.
For recipes needing seeded tomatoes with pulp removed, tomato seeders offer an easy option. These handheld devices feature metal prongs that scoop and remove seeds, leaving just pulp behind. Highly rated models include the Norpro Tomato Seed Remover and Zulay Tomato Seeder.
- Very efficient for seeding tomatoes destined for salsa, sauce, etc.
- Leaves behind desired tomato pulp and juices
- Easy handheld design with comfort grip handle
- Dishwasher safe stainless steel common for durability
- Pulp left behind may still need draining or processing
- Serrated edges can tear larger tomato pieces
- Not ideal for small tomatoes like cherry or grape
- Only removes seeds, does not peel or cut
Electric Tomato Strainers
For seeding or juicing large batches of tomatoes, an electric tomato strainer can save hours of work. These appliances pulverize tomatoes then separate seeds and skin from juice and pulp. Popular options like the Squeezo Strainer and Victoria Cast Iron Tomato Press get excellent reviews.
- Very efficient for processing high volumes of tomatoes
- Yields peeled, seeded pulp and strained juice/puree
- Motorized operation minimizes physical effort
- Dishwasher safe stainless steel parts common
- High cost around $150 to $200 for powered appliance
- Bulky unit requiring storage space
- Some learning curve to use the device properly
- May get jammed by skins if not fully pulverized
For an all-in-one tomato processing tool, a food processor is hard to beat. With interchangeable blades for shredding, slicing, chopping, and pureeing, food processors make quick work of tomatoes. Leading models like the Cuisinart Elemental Food Processor offer versatility.
- Versatile appliance can peel, core, chop, puree, etc.
- Multiple blades tailored for different tasks
- High powered motor speeds processing
- Dishwasher safe parts on most models
- Higher cost for appliance with all features
- Takes up significant counter or storage space
- Some learning curve to master different techniques
- Smaller capacity than dedicated tomato tool
Standard and immersion blenders provide an easy way to puree seeded tomatoes into smooth sauces and salsas. With multiple speed options, tomatoes can be pulverized to the ideal texture.
- Creates perfectly smooth tomato purees and sauces
- Allows customizing texture based on blend time
- No need to precook tomatoes first
- Basic blenders are inexpensive starting around $25
- Does not peel or core tomatoes
- Seeds and skins need removal for smoothest texture
- May need to work in batches for standard blenders
- Requires water or broth for blending
Comparison of Tomato Processing Tools
To summarize the pros and cons of the various tomato processing tools:
|Tomato Peeler||Yes||No||No||No||No||$5 – $15|
|Food Mill||No||No||No||Yes||No||$25 – $50|
|Tomato Corer||No||Yes||No||No||No||$5 – $15|
|Tomato Cutter||No||No||Yes||No||No||$10 – $20|
|Tomato Seeder||No||No||No||No||No||$10 – $15|
|Electric Strainer||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||$150 – $200|
|Food Processor||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||$50 – $200|
|Blender||No||No||No||Yes||No||$25 – $100|
With so many options for processing tomatoes, choosing the right tool depends on your needs and goals. For peeling and coring raw tomatoes, specialized tools like peelers and corers get the job done quickly and affordably. If you’re cooking tomatoes for sauces, salsas or juice, electric strainers and food mills efficiently separate out seeds and skins. For broader functionality, food processors and blenders handle most tomato processing tasks in one versatile appliance. The bottom line – think about your intended uses, quantities, and budget to select the best tomato processing tool for you.