Some cooking skills, such as slicing tomatoes, sound simple. But squished tomatoes, with juice running over your counter, demonstrate that the job requires some finesse. Whether you like thin or thick slices for your burger or want medium-sized slices for a sliced-tomato salad, certain knives and knife-wielding techniques help to ensure success.
Cut odd-shaped heirloom tomatoes or small cherry tomatoes with the same techniques you use for regular tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are easier to eat in salads if you cut them in half instead of serving them whole, where they have a tendency to roll off your fork.
With a Serrated Knife
A serrated knife digs into any tomato, firm or soft, with its multiple, sharp points, working perfectly each time. Here's how to perfect your technique:
- Using a paring knife, cut out the stem of the tomato.
- Lay the tomato on its side on a cutting board, with the stem end facing to the side.
- Place the knife on top of the tomato about 1/8 to 1/4 inch from the end of the stem.
- Begin cutting gently with a sawing, back-and-forth motion, letting the knife do the job instead of applying pressure to the tomato.
Cutting with a straight-edged knife goes easier if your knife is as sharp as it can be. James Peterson, a food writer on the Fine Cooking website, recommends sharpening your knives on a stone two or three times a year and sharpening them with a steel rod every time you cook.
With a Straight-Edged Knife
If your knife is absolutely sharp, you may be able to simply slice with a single motion once your knife hits the tomato. But if your knife is only somewhat sharp, follow these tips:
- Cut out the stem from the end of the tomato and lay the tomato on its side.
- Pierce the tomato with the tip of your knife at the top of the tomato that is facing up, anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch from the stem end.
- Begin slicing where the small cut is, using gentle pressure and a slight sawing or back-and-forth motion if necessary.
- Continue to pierce the top of the tomato as it lies on its side before proceeding with each slice.
Cold temperatures, such as those in your refrigerator, destroy the flavor and texture of tomatoes, turning them bland and mealy. If you accidentally refrigerate them, they will recover some flavor if you leave them at room temperature for one to two days, according to Jennifer Armentrout, an editor at the Fine Cooking website.