Many tomato-based recipes like sauces or salsas, call for tomatoes to be peeled, but if you’ve ever tried to remove the thin, well-adhered skin from a tomato, you probably found it quite difficult to do with mangling the tomato.
Fortunately, there is a time-honored chef trick to make removing the peels from tomatoes easy. As well, this method will work for peaches and apricots, both of which are about as difficult to peel as tomatoes.
I will include a good video of the method from foodell.com, below, but the basic steps are as follows below. Keep in mind that plum tomatoes can often be peeled without using this method, as the flesh is firmer. It is usually reserved for “round” tomatoes or firm tomatoes. If you don’t know whether your tomato is a firm variety, and you don’t want to remove a bunch of the flesh while peeling them, it’s advisable to go ahead and use the steps below.
Also, this method is for peeling tomatoes without affecting the texture or taste of them. For fresh salsa or salad, where you want a nice fresh tomato taste without the texture of the skins ruining the dish, this blanching method is best. However, when tomatoes are going to be cooked, other methods such as exposing the tomatoes to a gas flame, grill heat, or oven roasting, will effectively remove the peels from the tomatoes, but will also cook the tomato flesh partially or fully, and affect flavor.
Chef’s Method for Peeling Tomatoes
1. Get a large pot of water boiling on the stove and have a large bowl of ice water ready. Also, have on hand a large slotted spoon or a shallow wire-mesh handled strainer/remover handy for removing the tomatoes from the boiling water.
2. With a small paring knife, score a shallow “X” shape into the end of the tomato opposite the stem. Some cooks remove or cut out the stem piece, but this is not strictly required. Some cooks also skip the scoring, but it helps speed up the skin loosening process.
3. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water, working in small batches so that you can remove them all quickly enough (you don’t want your tomatoes to cook). Try for about three at a time. Let the tomatoes sit in the boiling water for about 15 seconds. You may need to use the spoon to turn them, so that all sides come into contact with the water.
4. Carefully remove with the slotted spoon or handled wire-mesh basket, and place the tomatoes into the ice water, allowing them to cool down several seconds. Don’t leave them in the ice water too long, though, or they will become water-logged. Do NOT skip the ice water bath! This is necessary to stop the cooking process, plus to quickly cool the tomatoes down for handling so that they are not cooking while you’re struggling to peel them without burning your fingers. If you do not cool them down in the ice water, they will continue too cook so that a portion of the outer flesh will be mushy or otherwise affected in texture.
5. Once removed from the ice water, pull the skin away from the tomato in strips, starting at the scored in where the peel is already loose. Some of the skin may be cracked on the tomato. You can use the edge of the paring knife to help you grip the skins.
NOTE: Some people advise to blanch the tomatoes for 45 seconds to one minute, or to wait until the skins become wrinkly and cracked, and start peeling away by themselves. This is too long and not necessary. You will end up starting to cook your tomatoes. Fifteen to thirty seconds is standard, and it is not really necessary to wait until the skins are cracked and peeling away by themselves. In the video below, Chef Odell probably is being a bit over-zealous by leaving the tomatoes in until they start to crack. But this is a minor point.