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Feb 23, 2013 09:05 AM

Canned Tomatoes Rated

The editors of the Daily Meal published a list of their ratings of canned tomatoes incuding some real San Marzano's, the California San Marzano brand, and the popular Muir Glen organics. While I wish they had given more details about their test panel and test methodology, I always enloy reading some side-by-side comparisons. The slide show notes details for each sample.

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  1. The Hunt's result is interesting to me. I just heard a story about canned tomatoes on an old episode of America's Test Kitchen. I think they said that one of the most important elements to look for in canned tomatoes is whether the first ingredient is tomato puree or pureed tomatoes, because it adversely affects the flavor.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bidnezz

      Agreed! The first ingredient in tomatoes should be TOMATOES!!!!

    2. The one I've been using for sauce came in right in the middle of the pack. I'm cool with that. But they're wrong about the shape. The ones I've bought are elongated, not round.

      They didn't include the other brand I use (Strianese). That's ok — I don't need a rating.

      1. If you read several different reviews of canned tomatoes, your head will spin. The rankings are all over the place. I would not place too much stock in this review. San Marzanos, in particular, are not eating tomatoes. It doesn't make sense to evaluate tomatoes meant for cooking by tasting them raw, as the Daily Meal did. The proper way to do a comparative review would be to make a sauce with each brand to the same recipe.

        6 Replies
          1. re: cheesemaestro

            This type of comparison is also unreliable because of the seasonal variability of the main ingredient. There's only so much control the farmer has over the quality of the harvested produce. One year's may or may not taste the same as the next.

            1. re: cheesemaestro

              That's what I was thinking, who eats raw canned tomatoes? How important is 'texture' if they are going to be cooked down anyhow? Now if they are really watery and you end up with 1/3 less sauce from each can, that is important information.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Many brands of canned tomatoes, including San Marzanos, contain calcium chloride. This chemical firms up the texture and makes the tomatoes look plump and appealing. Moreover, producers can get away with putting fewer of these "fattened" tomatoes in a can, so they make more money. Unfortunately, calcium chloride prevents tomatoes from breaking down completely, no matter how long a sauce is simmered. I'd much rather buy canned tomatoes without this additive.

            2. Cooks Illustrated rates Muir Glen Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes and Hunt’s Whole Plum Tomatoes tops. Diced: Hunts comes in first, Muir Glen second. Crushed: Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes In Thick Puree With Basil, then Muir Glen, Hunt's Organic, and Redpack and Progresso.

              San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes was recommended with reservations. "What’s in a name? In this case, not much. These impostor 'San Marzano' tomatoes were grown domestically with seeds from Italy’s famous varietal. Some tasters picked up on their high level of sweetness and complimented them for it, but without equally high acidity, the tomatoes’ flavor was also 'muted.'"

              The Italian Cento San Marzano Certified Peeled Tomatoes was also recommended with reservations. "Although these non–DOP certified San Marzano tomatoes scored highest for sweetness, they lacked acidity, and tasters found their flavor merely “average”—even 'untomatoey.' That said, they fared best of all the Italian brands, particularly because their texture “held up” relatively well in sauce."

              1 Reply
              1. re: John Francis

                Yeah, but Muir Glen's cans don't have BPA. That puts them on top for me.

              2. I notice my go-to brand, 6in1 by Escalon, wasn't listed and is, in a lot of folks opinion, equal to or better than some of those that were rated. Is this because they aren't considered a national brand?

                4 Replies
                1. re: grampart

                  Cooks Illustrated says they test only national brands, and they ignore nationally distributed house brands like Trader Joe's as well. Just because a product isn't among those tested doesn't mean they think it's no good. I'd never heard of Escalon, a California product, but it looks like they have a distribution deal with Heinz for 6 in 1, so maybe CI missed the boat.

                  1. re: grampart

                    I think that 6 in 1 by Escalon, like Stanislaus, are brands sold mainly wholesale to professionals and are hard to find outside of speciality retail stores.

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      I can't find them here in Georgia so I order them from the Escalon site. (6) 28 oz. cans for $16.50 with shipping included.

                      1. re: grampart

                        That's a very decent price for good tomatoes!