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Crushed Tomatoes

Sometimes smooth like puree and sometimes chock-full of chunks, crushed tomatoes can be the most unpredictable product in the canned tomato aisle.

UpdateApril 2017
We recently learned that ConAgra Foods, the company that manufactures Hunt's canned tomato products, has transitioned to BPA-free cans in their American and Canadian facilities. The cans now used to package Hunt's Crushed Tomatoes have a glossy interior similar to the other products in our lineup.

Top Picks

Winner

SMT Crushed Tomatoes

See Everything We Tested

What We Learned

Crushed tomatoes are a convenience product. Rather than haul out the food processor to break down canned whole tomatoes (or messily squish them in your hands) for a quick sauce or soup, you should be able to just pop the can lid, pour the tomatoes into a pot, and savor their flavor, which should be sweet and bright. As for texture, they should walk that line between a smooth puree and chunkier diced tomatoes (which don’t break down easily because they’re treated with calcium chloride to preserve firmness) and be topped off by puree or juice, offering both body and fluidity.

When we last tasted crushed tomatoes, we happily discovered that a product from Tuttorosso offered the chunky yet saucy consistency and vibrant flavor we were after. The only downside was that it was sold in a 35-ounce can while most recipes call for 28-ounce cans. That discrepancy wasn’t a deal breaker at first, but when the product also became increasingly hard to find in supermarkets, we decided it was time to reevaluate the options. This time, we gathered eight nationally available products sold in 28-ounce cans (priced from $1.50 to $4.69) and tasted them plain and in a simple tomato sauce, which we tossed with spaghetti. Tasters evaluated each sample on its flavor, texture, and overall appeal.

Crushing It

More than half the samples boasted bright flavor and good body—particularly our winner, which delivered distinct firm-tender chunks that created a sauce that coated the noodles well. Tasters rejected only one product, which double-faulted with a “watery” consistency and “lackluster” flavor. We docked products that tasted “flat” or “metallic,” lacked distinct pieces—to us, “crushed” shouldn’t mean pureed—or were rife with “chewy” tomato skins.

That wide range of textures isn’t due to a mix of tomato varieties: All manufacturers use plum (or roma) tomatoes since the firm fruit is best able to withstand mechanical harvesting. They’re inconsistent because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the term “crushed” in the tomato industry, so a product that’s chock-full of chunks and another that’s smooth can both wear the label. Processing is what makes the difference.

Industry experts told us that all tomatoes designated for crushing are pushed through a machine called a Reitz Disintegrator, which breaks the fruit into smaller pieces and catches some of the skin and seeds much like a food mill does. For a coarser product, manufacturers use a disintegrator with wide holes and move the tomatoes through slowly. Speeding up the process and using smaller holes results in smaller, stringier tomato pieces, which we found made stringy, liquid-y sa...

Everything We Tested

Recommended

Recommended with reservations

Not Recommended

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.

Kate Shannon

Kate is Deputy Editor of ATK Reviews. She attended BU's culinary program and has worked as a cheesemonger and line cook.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.