How to Make Sun-dried Tomatoes on the Barbeque or Smoker

With the first few red leaves poking their heads out at me through my den window, I realize it’s a bit late in the season (for those of us in southern Ontario at least) to post about using up a tomato harvest. However, the bulk of our garden tomatoes are still sitting in a Rubbermaid tub in our dining room, waiting to be processed, so maybe our plans to dry these Italian tomatoes (aka Roma, Plum or Paste tomatoes) can help you too.

Drying tomatoes in the dehydrator

Mike has attempted to can tomatoes in the past, only for me to be greeted home after work one day to a torrent of rotten tomato juice forming a mini-Niagara Falls from our highest kitchen shelf all over the counter…and me.

Bushel of Italian paste tomatoes

You can see then, why drying tomatoes holds a little bit more appeal to me than canning at this point.

Plus, the taste.

If you’ve only had sun-dried tomatoes dried or packed in oil from the store, I can confidently assert you are missing out on these gem-sized flavour explosions. They’re soft enough to slice onto crostini or plop into pasta and they taste like summer, especially if you throw in some homegrown basil or oregano.

Finally, by making your own sun-dried tomatoes, you’re avoiding the preservatives that usually come with the store-bought varieties that are canned in oil.

Halved tomatoes

Drying tomatoes takes time – days, sometimes – but luckily most of that time is hands-off. I’m lucky that my hubby has patience for the process; he’s definitely the tomato-dryer in our house. If you want to do them in the oven instead, this easy recipe for oil-packed oven-dried tomatoes from Eating Rules is the way to go. We usually take advantage of the (residual) summer heat and dry them most of the way in the barbeque, or, this year, on the smoker. It’s best to have an oven or dehydrator on standby, though, in case of bad weather.

How to Make Sun-dried Tomatoes on the Barbeque or Smoker


Tomatoes on the outdoor smoker

Ingredients and equipment:

  • Bushel of plum/paste/Italian tomatoes
  • Baking sheet
  • Barbeque or smoker
  • Oven or dehydrator (in the case of bad weather)
  • Optional: olive oil, salt, fresh herbs like basil or oregano

Halved sun-dried tomatoes for drying


  1. Remove stems and cut all tomatoes in half.
  2. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and dust with fresh herbs/salt, if using.
  3. Move your barbeque into the sun and pre-heat to its lowest setting.
  4. Place tomatoes in barbeque. Turn barbeque off.
  5. Let tomatoes sit for a few hours or until they get cool.
  6. Repeat, using oven instead on cold or wet days, until the tomatoes are shrivelled and mostly dry (other bloggers call this “like a plump raisin” so I’ll go with that too).
  7. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Disclaimer: We kept very dry tomatoes in the fridge for several months; however, I’m not sure what the potential for spoilage organisms to grow is. It would depend on how dry your tomatoes are. Please be cautious. Also, consider freezing so you can taste the sunshine all winter.


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