How to Peel a Tomato

August 22, 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: Whether you find tomato peels to be harmless or nightmarish, there are 3 ways to get rid of them. 

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We've shown you how to core, slice, seed, and crush fresh tomatoes, but now we're moving into more controversial territory: tomato peels. A certain type of eater will happily devour a tomato like an apple, skin and all. For others, however, the thin, resistant skin is, tragically, enough of a reason to avoid tomatoes entirely.

Even if the tomato skin doesn't offend you, recipes for sauces and soups often call for peeled tomatoes. It's safe to say that no one wants to come across a tough piece of tomato skin in a creamy soup.

Peeling tomatoes sounds like a task, but it's easier than you think (and for a video tutorial, head here). Depending on how many tomatoes you need to peel -- and how far in advance you’ve thought -- you can use one of three methods:

Method One -- Boiling: To peel a large quantity of tomatoes quickly, bring a big pot of water to a gentle boil and cut an X in the bottom of each tomato.

Drop three or four tomatoes into the boiling water and leave them for about 20 seconds, until you see the tomato skin beginning to shrivel away from the flesh where you’ve scored the tomato. Don't leave your tomatoes in for longer than 25 or 30 seconds -- they'll begin to cook.

(It's important to use ripe tomatoes with this technique -- the skin of unripe tomatoes will take so long to pull away that the flesh will cook before the skin separates. Unripe tomatoes can be peeled with a sharp paring knife instead.)

Submerge the tomatoes into an ice-cold water bath to stop the cooking process. 

When the tomatoes have cooled, peel away the skin by grabbing hold of it at the X. If the skin is stubbornly clinging to the flesh, place the tomato in a kitchen towel and rub lightly.   

Method Two -- Blistering: 
If you only have a few tomatoes to peel, you can use the stove and avoid boiling a large pot of water or waiting for tomatoes to freeze. 

Using kitchen tongs, hold the tomato over a gas or very hot electric burner (or you can even use a kitchen torch). Hold the tomato until it just blisters, then rotate so that the whole tomato is eventually exposed to the heat. The blistered skin should slip right off. 

Method Three -- Freezing: This final technique involves a little more planning -- and a little more patience. 

Cut an X in the bottom of your tomatoes, as you would if blanching them, and stick them in the freezer. Once they're frozen through, run hot water over the X.

Starting at the X, peel the skin away in translucent strips, just as with blanched tomatoes.

Of course, your peeled tomato is now a frozen tomato. Frozen tomatoes are fine for using in sauces, soups, and other cooked dishes, but not eating raw. We'd guess that someone repelled by tomato skin is likely to find a frozen tomato similary unappealing. 

Now there's nothing -- not even a pesky peel -- between you and your favorite tomato recipe. 

Photos by James Ransom

How do you feel about tomato skins? Tell us in the comments below! 


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Rafaella
  • Tim Ong
    Tim Ong
  • Tedi
  • 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.


Smaug July 20, 2016
All methods depend on how ripe the tomatoes are- a peeler or knife may, in fact, be your best bet for a supermarket tomato. AS very ripe tomato can sometimes just be peeled like a grape. If you just want pulp, the grater method works pretty well for small quantities. A food mill is really the only way to go for larger quantities, such as for sauces. I usually spear the tomatoes on a large fork for peeling over a fire- tongs sounds really clumsy, and the tongs will serve as a heat sink. You don't have to blacken the whole skin- usually after a few seconds it will split, and is then ready to come off. I have never cut xes in the ends of tomatoes- absolutely unnecessary. I read an Indian book once that recommended boiling them in vinegar, God knows why.
Rafaella August 22, 2013
Use a serrated peeler... that's the easiest way! :)
Sarah J. August 22, 2013
Does that work with super ripe tomatoes too?
Rafaella August 25, 2013
it might be tricky with super ripe tomatoes... when I have very ripe tomatoes on hand, I make a tomato sauce, and use it as a simple pasta sauce, or as a base for a dish that requires tomato sauce.
Cook the tomatoes with onions and few garlic cloves and a little bit of water... sieve them using a food mill. That way the tomato skin will stay out of your final product. Return the tomato, onion, garlic purée/sauce to the pan. Add salt, pepper, a little bit of sugar (to balance the tomato acidity) and fresh herbs (basil. thyme...) and let it reduce to the desired consistency. Bon Appétit! :)
Tim O. August 22, 2013
The methods above work, but they all damage the texture of the tomato by exposing it to extreme temperatures. Best way is to practice your knife skills by peeling with a pairing knife, or a vegetable peeler should do the job.
Sarah J. August 22, 2013
Hi Tim,
I've found that if the tomatoes are ripe enough that they only have to be boiled for 10 to 20 seconds, the change in texture is practically imperceptible (at least to me!). But I'll have to try using a paring knife -- though that can be kind of a mess with ripe tomatoes.
Tedi August 22, 2013
I abhor tomato skins. I use the boiling method. Works like a charm! And you're one wants skins in a sauce.