This Will Make You Think Twice About Using Diced Tomatoes

If you’re an acclaimed home chef who specializes in Italian food like me, then I bet you are very well-acquainted with canned tomatoes of all kinds. Now, I’ll admit that I’m no purist when it comes to my gastronomic endeavors; there has been many an instance when I’ve reached for the diced variety instead of the peeled-whole to save food prep time. We all have, right?

Well, apparently the choice that we all thought was a smart one is actually a time-waster!  Yup, you heard that right; using diced tomatoes is most likely doing nothing for your pasta sauce!

According to an article from our friends over at Food52, this popular food item is marketed with convenience in mind, but in actuality, the ingredient slows down the cooking time for many sauces.

The science behind this cooking caveat is, not surprisingly, all about the ingredients. Diced canned tomatoes have a harder time breaking down because a firming agent, calcium chloride, is added in the canning process. Brands introduce this additive to mainly differentiate between diced and crushed varieties.

You see, if you take a good look at your canned tomatoes, you should notice that these two assortments have tomato chunks that are of a similar size, but the diced pieces are much firmer and shapelier. This may be the reason why your famous pasta sauce is lacking in consistency. Using whole tomatoes will help yield those smooth results that all diners love.

Close-up of tomato sauce with basilJames Ransom - Food52
Before you go about donating your back stock of these tomatoes, there is a bit of an exception to this specific rule. Experts say that whole tomatoes, particularly ones found in sauces or soups, don’t need any dicing, as they will melt down naturally from long exposure to heat anyways. For chilies, stews, and braises, you may find that diced still works well for you!

It’s also important to note that there is about a half-dozen different types of tomatoes in this canned category, including crushed, paste, puree, and so on. Because there are so many to choose from, it’s best to follow this rule:

When making dishes that call for long cooking times, you should use the more solid variety, like whole-peeled. As mentioned above, tomatoes will melt down on their own when exposed to prolonged heat, so there’s no need to take a knife to them. If your cooking time is relatively short, or you need a quick thickening agent, stewed tomatoes or tomato sauces are the right choices.

To get even more commentary about this common culinary misconception be sure to read Food52’s article here. There you will also find out about a technique that will help you crush and dice your whole tomatoes without making a mess. Your white shirts will thank you for the tidbit!

Have you experienced slower cook times when using diced tomatoes? Do you have a favorite recipe for tomato sauce that you would like to share? Are you aware of any other fallacies surrounding common food ingredients? Tell us all about your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!