Smoked Tomatoes add unmatched flavor complexity to any tomato meal
If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably eaten more than a few tomato products. Tomatoes are one of those core ingredients that touches most of western cuisine in some way or another. They’re ubiquitous, and you think you know what to expect when you put tomatoes in a meal.
Smoked tomatoes turn that commonality on its head. Smoky tomatoes have a dynamic contrast in flavor, with smoky sweetness up front and present, followed by the acidic tomato goodness behind it. They will spice up your same old spaghetti, enhance your pizza nights, and generally change the flavor profile wherever you use tomatoes.
Should I blanch my tomatoes?
Blanching removes the peels from the tomatoes. I have smoked tomatoes both with the peels attached and the peels removed. I overall prefer the tomatoes with the peels removed first. The tomatoes will still smoke nicely with the peel attached, but I think it’s more visually appealing to cook with tomatoes that have their skins removed. If you leave the skins on when you make sauce or some other dish, you’ll end up with a lot of rolled up tomato skins in your food.
If time is of the essence and you don’t mind some tomato skins in your food, you can skip the blanching.
How should I slice my tomatoes before smoking?
Slicing tomatoes before smoking creates more surface area for smoke to adhere to, but you should keep a couple things in mind. More surface area is better, but the more you cut the tomato, the more juice the tomatoes lose. This is why I like to use wide slices of tomatoes, about ¾ – 1 inch wide when I smoke tomatoes. For small tomatoes, like roma, I’ll even just cut the tomatoes in half and smoke them that way. Keeping the pieces of tomato so large prevents them from releasing too much juice during the smoke. For instance, if I diced the tomatoes and then smoked them, they would end up submerged in juice, making it harder to put them into jars.
What temperature should I smoke tomatoes at?
I smoked my tomatoes between 150F and 200F, but the temperature isn’t really the important metric for smoked tomatoes. The purpose of smoking tomatoes is to give the tomatoes a smoky flavor, so the smoke is really what’s important. Since I use a pellet smoker, this means that my handy smoke tube is really critical to the recipe. Using the smoke tube, I can create just the right amount of smoke, while the smoker does all the work of maintaining temperature. If you’re using a traditional smoker, make sure you add enough logs to produce a good amount of smoke, as that will be the main source of flavor.
How can I store my smoked tomatoes?
My favorite way to store smoked tomatoes is to can them. Once canned, the tomatoes can be stored at room temperature for at least a year or more in my experience. I’ve been canning tomatoes for years, so much so that a can of tomatoes is a standard unit of measure in my kitchen. If canning isn’t for you, or you don’t have the equipment for it, you could just as easily freeze your tomatoes. I freeze many other vegetables, like cabbage and potatoes. I recommend using gallon size bags that specifically call themselves “freezer bags”, as these are higher quality and will better protect your smoked tomatoes from freezer burn.
What to do with smoked tomatoes?
The answer is very simple, anything! If you would use tomatoes in a dish, you can just as easily use smoked tomatoes, and the flavor will be instantly amplified. And even better, it’s a 1:1 substitution, so it’s as simple as can be! I like to use my smoked tomatoes anywhere tomatoes are used, like sauces, chilis, and pastas.
Some recipes that are great with smoked tomatoes:
- Smoked pizza sauce – create a truly unique and delicious pizza
- Smoked tomato Tikka Masala – these tomatoes go great in Indian dishes too!
- Smoked tomato baked ziti – just use smoked tomatoes in the sauce
- Smoked tomato chicken parmesan – Or really any parmesan dish that uses a tomato sauce, like zucchini or eggplant parmesan
- Smoked tomato Bolognese sauce – mixed with ground beef and a sofrito
- Smoked Turkey Cabbage Rolls – Turkey and rice stuffed cabbage with tomato sauce on top
Save the juice after smoking!
After I smoke my tomatoes, I like to dice them before canning. This makes for easier cooking throughout the year, and it produces a lot of smoked tomato juice! When dicing my tomatoes, I set up a large mixing bowl with a small Tupperware dish in the bottom, and then place a colander on top of the Tupperware. As I dice tomatoes, I use my knife to scrape the diced tomatoes and their juices into the colander. Then, before adding the diced tomatoes to the jars, I use my hands or a spoon to mix them around in the colander so that all the juices fall into the mixing bowl. Then, once the tomatoes are in their jars, I transfer the smoked tomato juice to a pitcher or Tupperware for storage.
Things to do with smoked tomato juice:
- Smoked Tomato Bloody Mary’s – a fun twist on a classic cocktail. If you like your bloody Mary’s spicy, you can add some of my hot pepper powder.
- Smoked tomato paste – I’ll have a post on tomato paste later in the summer, but if you slow cook your tomato juice with the lid askew for 24-72 hours, it will thicken into a delicious tomato paste that you can freeze and use until the next harvest season.
- Smoked tomato juice ice cubes – freeze your smoked tomato juice into cubes and add them to all of your favorite beverages and cocktails.
How to make smoked tomatoes
- 1 Smoker
- 5-10 lb Fresh Tomatoes (as much tomato as you want)
- basil optional
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and fill another large pot or large mixing bowl with cold water.
- While the water is boiling, wash all of the tomatoes, core them, and slice an X in the bottom of each. The X will make them easier to peel after blanching.
- Once the water is boiling, add about 5-10 tomatoes to the pot. The tomatoes should all be submerged in the boiling water, so the number you can fit in at a time will depend on how large the pot is. Let the tomatoes boil for 1 minute.
- After 1 minute, take 1 tomato out of the boiling pot and check its skin. The skin should be separating from the flesh around the core and around the X at the bottom. If you can’t tell, take a fingernail or the handle of a hard spoon and poke the skin around the X. If it moves easily, transfer all of the tomatoes to the secondary pot of cold water. If the skin is still tight, return it to the pot and boil for 1 more minute. It should not take more than 3 minutes at a boil for the skin to release from the flesh.
- Give the tomatoes a minute or so to cool down in the cold water, then remove them from the water and pull the skin off. The skin will come off easily, but if it is sticking around some parts (especially the core), just take a sharp knife and shave that part off.
- Repeat this process until all of the tomatoes have their skins removed.
- Slice the tomatoes in ¾ - 1 inch slices. For smaller tomatoes, just cut them in half. Place the cut tomatoes in a single layer in a 9x13 foil pan. You can layer the tomatoes tightly and slightly on top of one another to avoid wasting space in the pan.
- Preheat your pellet grill to between 150F - 200F. Fill your smoke tube with pellets and light some of the pellets so that it begins to smoke.
- Once smoking, add your smoke tube to the pellet grill, then add your trays of tomatoes. Every hour, taste a bit of a tomato to gauge how smoky they’ve become. I smoked my tomatoes for 3 hours, but you can smoke for as long (or as short) as you want until you are happy with the flavor.