Cutting tomatoes are just like cutting potatoes, right? Think it doesn't really matter how you do it? Think again!
If you're just cutting tomatoes up to cook them, how you do it isn't that big of a deal, as long as you end up with the size of pieces you desire. But if you are cutting up tomatoes to serve fresh, let me walk you through the best ways to do it so that you end up with perfect pieces that stay together.
Use the Right Knife
First off, let's talk knife choice. Unless you have razor-sharp regular knives, a serrated knife with teeth that can grab and cut through the thin skin of a tomato is your best bet. Any serrated knife, like a bread knife or even a steak knife, is a good choice.
After you have the right knife, it's time to think about how a tomato is structured. There's a fleshy core than runs from the top of the tomato where the stem is all the way to the bottom. From the core, more flesh grows out to the edge of the tomato like spokes on a wheel. Finally, the tomato's seeds and jelly-like substance (sometimes called "caviar") fill in the gaps between the spokes.
More complicated than you realize, right? The good thing is, knowing how these parts come together means you can cut the tomato the right way so that the different sections of the tomato stay together and don't fall apart.
Here are the three most common ways to cut up fresh tomatoes and the best way to do them:
1. Tomato Slices
Want perfect slices for a BLT, burger, or caprese salad? Cutting against the core is the key here so that each slice has the "spokes" of tomato flesh holding it together.
- Place the tomato on its side so that the stem end faces to the left or right. Face it right if you're right-handed, left if you're a lefty.
- Cut off a small slice of the tomato parallel to the stem and top of the tomato to trim that part off.
- Keep making parallel cuts toward the bottom of the tomato to form slices. How thick you want your slices to be is up to you!
2. Tomato Wedges
Next up, wedges for salad. The goal here is to keep the tomato jelly and seeds in their little pockets, so the method of cutting is just like how you would cut an apple or orange into wedges.
- Place the tomato stem-side up on the cutting board and remove any green stems.
- Cut straight down through spot where the stem was to the bottom of the tomato, cutting it in half.
- Halve each half through the stem again so that you now have four equal pieces.
- Depending on the size of your tomato or how many wedges you want, cut each quarter into 2 pieces or more, always making sure to cut through the part where the stem was.
3. Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
Last but not least come our small friends, grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. It's doubtful you would ever need to cut these into tiny slices since they're usually halved or quartered.
Whether you halve or quarter them, though, always cut through the stem end — this makes for uniform-looking pieces. Don't cut them in half the other way (parallel to the stem), because that means one half has the unattractive stem part while the other half doesn't.
Once you get the hang of cutting tomatoes, it'll become second nature and you'll end up with gorgeous pieces every time without even having to think about it!
(Image credits: Christine Gallary)