How to Chop or Crush a Can of Tomatoes Without Making a Mess

August  1, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: How to keep canned tomatoes and their dangerous juices in their proper place. 

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We've sang the praises of fresh summer tomatoes time and time again. As much as we love tomatoes -- those colorful globes bursting with sweet, seedy juice -- we can't say the same about tomato stains (especially in this season of white pants). 

With fresh tomatoes, you can (try to) control their juice spillage -- but canned tomatoes always seem to be peskier. Many of the recipes that call for canned tomatoes require them to be crushed or cut, meaning that red juice inevitably squirts into the air and onto the countertops, the walls, and worst, your clothes.

Practical cooks might take preventative measures and wear an apron for this task, but thanks to Cook's Illustrated and their brilliant reader-submitted tips, we've solved the problem by going right to the source. Here's how to crush and chop canned tomatoes with no mess (and no apron). 

How to Chop -- The Scissor Method

Tomatoes from Food52

First, open your can of tomatoes. Those shriveled lumps are fire-red and practically waiting to stain you, but stay calm. 

Stick your scissors in there and have at it. If you want to separate the tomatoes and their juice, simply strain the chopped tomatoes using a metal sieve. 

How to Crush -- The Submergence Method 

Tomatoes, Food52

Dump the can of tomatoes in a large bowl. Careful: fatal splattering has been documented at this stage.

Tomatoes from Food52

Submerge each tomato under the juice and then use a masher (or your hand) to crush the tomatoes one by one. Make sure to keep the tomatoes beneath the surface of the liquid as you crush them: the juice that bursts out of the tomatoes does not have enough force to rupture the surface of the liquid, so all splatters are contained. 

You've chopped or crushed your tomatoes without making a mess, which means less cleaning and more cooking. Now you're ready to put your newfound skills to use: 

How do you handle messy canned tomatoes? Share your best tips in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kristin Ta
    Kristin Ta
  • Emma Wartzman
    Emma Wartzman
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Kristin T. August 1, 2013
I just dunk my immersion blender right in the can.
Sarah J. August 1, 2013
Is all the splattering contained by the liquid? That is amazing -- and daring!
Emma W. August 1, 2013
The Scissor Method!!!