Why You Should Think Twice Before Roasting Whole Cherry Tomatoes

Roasted cherry tomatoes are a versatile ingredient to add to your repertoire, especially during the summer months when they're at the peak of freshness. They can bring a delicious punch of umami to an oven-roasted tomato bucatini, or steal the show all on their own as a colorful side dish; however, these little flavor bombs can cause trouble in your kitchen if you decide to throw them in the oven whole. 

Tomatoes are 95% water, and most of that water is held at its center — where the juice is. This means that when you subject them to high temperatures, the interior of the tomato will fill up with steam. The steam expands, and once there is enough pressure, that steam will pop through the thin skin encasing it. As a result, you will end up with a spray of pulp and seeds all over your oven, creating a major mess.

To address this issue, it is recommended that you cover your roasting pan with foil or use an oven-safe dish with a lid. This way, when the tomatoes burst, the chaos is contained to your cooking vessel, instead of your hard-to-clean appliances. Alternatively, you can avoid the problem altogether by slicing up your tomatoes prior to roasting them.

Cut your tomatoes to prevent an explosion

How you prepare your tomatoes to be roasted depends on how you plan to use them. If they are the star of a recipe, like in a bruschetta, you will want to keep them mostly intact to retain the best texture. In situations like these, you can simply cut them in half.

You shouldn't be shy about chopping your tomatoes prior to cooking, though, as this can yield excellent results in a variety of recipes. For example, you can mince them to bring a deeper flavor to your favorite salsa or tomato oil, or quarter them to use as a surprising addition to a roasted tomato salad or pizza. As long as you're preventing the dreaded juice explosion, there is no way that you can go wrong.

If you're absolutely attached to the aesthetic value of whole tomatoes and find yourself without a way to prevent the mess, there is one clever prep hack you can use. Take a small knife or fork and use it to pierce the skin. This will create a vent through which steam can escape while remaining barely noticeable when it comes time to plate.