Of all the handy kitchen shortcuts a microwave is able to accomplish, prepping a tomato for quick peeling stands out for doing away with burnt fingertips and the need for fiddly knife work. Peel the tomato in short intervals, if necessary, rather than blasting it outright and cooking it more than intended.
Step 1: Clean the Tomato
Wash the tomato under cold running water and remove any dust particles, as well as the stalk.
Step 2: Make an Incision
Score the base of the tomato by cutting an X in the bottom with the tip of a sharp paring knife, and make some small incisions around the stalk area, too. Since microwaving the tomato rapidly increases its internal pressure as the water turns to steam, it is important to provide a conduit for the vapor to escape.
Step 3: Zap Quickly
Place the tomato on a microwaveable dish and cook it on full power for 30 seconds, then allow it to rest before touching the skin, which will be hot. Depending on the size of the tomato and power rating of the microwave, you might need to zap the tomato again for another 30 seconds.
Ripe red tomatoes will split more easily than green tomatoes, for example. Beware, though, that if you microwave too long, you will end up cooking the tomato rather than just loosening the skin.
Step 4: Allow It to Rest
Remove the tomato from the microwave and carefully lift off the skin, which should be visibly wrinkled and split, with a fork, bearing in mind that the flesh will be hot to the touch.
Drop the hot tomato into a bowl of iced water first to dissipate the heat and make the skin easier to handle.
Step 5: Peeling a Batch
For larger tomatoes, or if you are preparing a big batch, cut the tomatoes in half, place them face down in a microwaveable heatproof dish, and zap them for a minute at a time until the skin is wrinkled. You may need to shuffle the tomatoes between sessions so that each one enjoys a stint both on the edge and toward the center.
Apart from peeling the skin, microwaves rarely bring out the best in tomatoes. Tomato sauce, for example, is likely to erupt in the microwave, splattering the walls in scalding chunks.
However, blanching tomatoes in boiling water to prepare them for a sauce can take a long time and usually results in seared fingers. Chopping up the tomatoes with the skin on to make the sauce is less desirable, as the indigestible skin interferes with the sauce's smoothness.
Zap tomatoes, then, to get rid of the skin, but leave any subsequent cooking for the stove top, where a low, slow cook will release the tomatoes' sweetness and provide the velvety texture.
Always keep uncooked, peeled tomatoes in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. While tomatoes, technically a fruit, can be delicate, they can stay fresh for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. However, once the protective skin is removed, storage time reduces considerably.