The Simple Secret To Picking High-Quality Canned Tomatoes

Canned food gets a bad wrap. Sure some canned items are hyper-processed and leave a lot to be desired in the nutrition and flavor departments, but that's not always the case. When it comes to vegetables, the canned variety might just be one of the best choices. But, contrary to popular belief, fresh produce isn't necessarily the most flavorful or nutritious option. As Mana Medical Associates points out, some fresh veggies can sit around the grocery store and lose their nutrients. In contrast, canned and frozen produce is usually harvested at the peak of the season and processed into cans or flash-frozen sometimes as quickly as hours after being picked (via BBC). 

Tomatoes are no exception. Many look forward to tomato season in the late summer because, of course, there are some tasty recipes that call for fresh tomatoes. But this juicy veggie can be a serious let-down for the rest of the year. Canned tomatoes are picked at the height of the season so you can get the taste of an August tomato in January, whereas a fresh tomato in mid-winter often tastes as bland January can be. But with so many brands out there, how do you know you're getting high-quality canned tomatoes?

Check for the tomato variety listed on the label

Picking the best-canned tomatoes is actually easier than you might think. According to Food Republic, canned tomatoes are one of two varieties, plum or standard garden vine. The real hack to knowing if you're getting a good quality canned brand is to take a closer look at the label. If it clearly states the exact variety used, they're probably high-quality tomatoes. 

Take the infamous San Marzano tomato for example. In a market rich with impostors, the only way to know for sure that you're getting the authentic, gold standard San Marzano tomatoes from Italy is to look for the D.O.P. seal, which is an Italian regulation that stands for "designated protected origin." This means that there are specific rules in place like where they're grown and how they're canned in order for something to be labeled San Marzano (per Taste). Any other claims on the label like "Italian Style" or other general statements, Food Republic says, is an indication that quality may not be up to par and likely denotes a blend of tomatoes.

If you're looking for canned tomatoes that stand out above the rest, check the label for a specified tomato type. If San Marzano is what you want, look for the D.O.P. seal, and finally, make sure the best by date is good.