The variety of canned tomatoes products on the grocer’s shelf is enticing and overwhelming. Neat rows of red cans labeled with a baffling terms like crushed, diced, whole, fire roasted, stewed and paste leave many home cooks scratching their heads and wondering which is the best choice for their recipe. Canned tomatoes are a wonderful product, allowing us convenience and the taste of fresh tomatoes even when none are available. Don’t let their canned textural differences intimidate you.
Diced tomatoes are the closest to fresh and can be used straight from the can in pasta salads, guacamole on in any quick cooking sauce. Petite diced are just smaller pieces of tomatoes.
Stewed tomatoes are best used in recipes where some tomatoes chunks along with the juice is desired, like in pasta sauce.
Whole or crushed tomatoes will break down and are best when used in recipe which require a long cooking time, like stews and soups. These forms of canned tomatoes are also used in meat sauces.
Tomato paste and purée is concentrated and is used as a thickening agent in sauces, soups, stews and chili. Tomato paste comes canned or in a tube, and a little bit goes a long way.
Fire roasted, with onions, peppers or chilies, etc., all refer to flavors added to the tomatoes either via a cooking process or an ingredient added. Low sodium or no salt added is self explanatory, but read the label to discover what may have been added as a replacement flavor (sometimes extra sugar is added).
Canned tomatoes are one of those oddities that actually better for you than the fresh version. Tomatoes contain lycopene , which is responsible for their red color and is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. The processing method used in canning forces the release of greater amount of lycopene from tomatoes, increasing their health benefits and nutritional value.
Storing Canned Tomatoes
An unopened can of tomatoes can be stored in a cool dry place for up to one year. After a can has been opened, the contents will need to be transferred to a glass or plastic container to prevent the product from taking on the metallic taste from the can. Store in refrigerator up to one week. Leftover tomato paste can be spooned into an ice cube tray, frozen, then pooped out and stored in a Ziploc freezer bag. Don’t heat tomatoes or food containing tomatoes in plastic containers as it the acidity will stain plastic.
American Cancer Society