Why You Should Always Have Canned Tomatoes In Your Pantry

Oh, the joy of fresh tomatoes clinging to tangled vines, ripe and ready for plucking. If only we could do that year-round, right? From Roma to Campari, Brandywine, cherry, and loads more luscious tomato varieties, they all scream summer, lingering in our memory long past the last picking. Fortunately, we don't have to say goodbye to our plump little friends over the long winter months, thanks to the ingenuity of home preserving and commercial canning techniques.

There are lots of reasons to keep canned tomatoes in your pantry, and some may surprise you. But first, let's look at how the canning process works, as explained by the Food Network. As tomato pickers release the juicy morsels from their stalks, canners are waiting to process them right away in order to preserve the ultra-ripe fresh flavors. The skins come off by hot steam or water, leaving the inner flesh ready for the can. Depending on the processor, salt or other ingredients join the waiting canned tomatoes for sealing, heating, and sterilization, which also partially cooks them in a safe environment for extended use.

That extended shelf life is definitely one advantage of canned tomatoes. Here are some more reasons your kitchen will thank you for keeping that tinned goodness stocked throughout the year.

Freshness at your fingertips

The most obvious advantage to cooking with canned tomatoes is convenience and ease of use, notes Healthy Food Guide. They're affordable and readily available in every season. They also last for 12 to 18 months in home storage and are higher in lycopene antioxidants than tomatoes consumed fresh off the vine. An exploration of canned tomatoes by Food Network's Healthy Eats reveals that at least 700 studies showed lycopene has beneficial impacts on inflammation and cancers of the heart, breast, and prostate. The science behind that centers on canned tomatoes being at least partially cooked, allowing your body to better absorb lycopene from opened cell walls of the tomatoes.

Since tomatoes go from field to canning right away, they're typically fresher than what you buy from grocery stores. Even months later, you have access to the fresh-field flavors. In fact, Bon Appétit states that canned tomatoes are superior to fresh ones 99% of the time and that it's best to refrain from purchasing so-called fresh ones outside the summer and early autumn months. They also opine that added salt in canned versions enhances the tomato flavor.

Now for the most common complaint about canned tomatoes: that metallic taste that infuses your food. Healthy Food Guide suggests adding honey, sugar, or concentrated tomato paste to counteract that tinny taste on your tongue, while MyRecipes recommends straining canned tomatoes, drizzling with olive oil, and baking for a few minutes to achieve a fresh, robust flavor.