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Have You Been Throwing Away the Best Part of the Tomato?

For the most flavorful tomato dishes, you might want to skip this common prep step.
By Published July 6, 2022

The juiciness of a ripe summer tomato is part of its glory—and also its bane. These juices can flood a dish, ruining texture. That's why many recipes try to cut back on liquid by removing the tomato’s gel (and the seeds suspended in it). 

There’s just one problem: When you scoop out the gel, you're tossing the most flavorful part of your perfect tomato in the trash.  

Why Tomato Gel Tastes So Good

Tomato gel is packed with acids, sugars, and amino acids. Most importantly, the substance actually contains three times the amount of flavor-enhancing glutamic acid as the fruit’s flesh. Glutamic acid is the compound responsible for the savory quality known as umami. When these glutamates are removed from the tomato, the fruit tastes flatter and less dynamic. 

What Happens When You Take Out the Gel

To get a better understanding of tomato gel’s impact on flavor, we set up a quick experiment. We prepared two summer vegetable gratins, one with intact tomatoes and another with tomatoes from which the seeds and gel had been removed.

The results were clear: The gratin with the intact tomatoes had a decidedly richer, deeper flavor than its stripped-down counterpart.

For Peak Tomato Flavor in Tomato Sauce, Keep the Skin Too

Many recipes for homemade tomato sauce call for removing the fruit’s skins for a smoother consistency. But we found that keeping the skins, in conjunction with preserving the gel, made a significant difference, delivering fresh tomato sauce with an optimal balance of bright, savory-sweet flavors.

Eliminating the skins, on the other hand, led to a sauce so sweet and one dimensional that tasters likened it to “tomato candy.” That’s because the skins are full of aromatic compounds that lend complexity. (The seeds didn’t contribute any noticeable flavor, but their texture was distracting, so we strained them out.)

Here’s a breakdown of the dominant flavor and aroma compounds in tomato flesh, skins, and gel.

Of course, it’s not always possible to retain all of the elements of the tomato—but if your recipe can work with the extra texture and moisture the skin and gel provide, by all means, skip the extra prep step keep them in. 

And if you do have to excavate that gel (to ensure the crust on your upside-down tomato tart is crisp, for example), don’t toss it: It makes for a refreshing, summery snack spooned over crusty bread and sprinkled with sea salt.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.