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tagine

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Does anyone here have a tagine?  I'm considering buying one and I did a bit of research into them and it seems that the nicely decorated one that I liked is for serving and the plain ones are for cooking.  I love Moroccan food and already make tagine in my slow cooker but I suspect using an actual clay tagine would give it a completely different flavour. 

 

Any input would be appreciated!

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post #2 of 13

I've got several, Leeniek, and use them often.

 

You're right about what your research has uncovered; the fancy, decorated ones are used primarily for serving.

 

That aside, there are three types of cooking tagines:

 

1. Those made of modern materials, such as enamaled iron. Personally I see no point to them, as they're really no different than any other braising container.

 

2. Glazed tagines. These bring a modicum of aesthetics to the table, but there are some drawbacks. The biggest of these is that unless you use a heat diffuser you cannot use them on top of the stove. The glaze will craze and crack, and the clay, itself, might crack because of the heat differential when put on a hot point.

 

3. Unglazed tagines. These are the most traditional, and the most efficient. They can be used either over direct heat (such as your cooktop, or the traditional charcoal oven), or in the oven. And they take on a patina, over time, that is both pretty and which contributes to the flavor of the tagine (the food, not the container).

 

What makes tagines special is the mechanics of how they work. As the liquid in the dish evaporates it condenses on the conical cover, and, in effect, rains back down on the food. This keeps it moist and flavorsome.

 

Hope this helps.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 13

I remember struggling back from Morocco or Algeria (Can't remember which) many years ago, when airlines gave you generous carry-on luggage allowances, with TWO tagines, wrapped in beach towels...    treating the bag so carefully in order to ensure that they arrived home in one piece....   Only to go to a local store and see the very same things for sale - and at no more cost than buying them in the country of origin.

 

Have to confess, I don't really use them so often nowadays as northafrican/arabic foods are no longer my favourite cuisines to cook.

post #4 of 13

Among blind taste tetst at Cook's Illustrated, they found no difference between cooking containers for tagine.  Whether you taste, perceive or feel better about it is a different matter.
 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 13

I have a glazed, decorated Tajine, and I cook in it, although as KYHeirloomer said, I use a heat diffuser. It's also really large and really heavy, making it very long to heat. Sometimes it's 1 to 2 hours before the broth starts boiling. But I don't mind, Tajine is a dish that takes time, and I don't usually start the process unless I have at least 3 hours in front of me.

post #6 of 13

I'd like to see the test criteria and results, Phil. Do you happen to have a link?

 

Without knowing the details, but knowing how CI works, I'd be willing to bet that the comparisons were made using new, uncured tagines. If that's the case, nobody familiar with them would reasonably expect any flavor differences.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #7 of 13

No link, just from memory. I don't have a membership there anyway to look it up.

 

Phil

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info everyone.  While the nicely decorated ones are very pretty I want to get my hands on an unglazed one... hopefully the kitchen supply store around the corner can help me with that.  KYH I know what you mean about the patina.. I have a clay roaster that I use all the time and it has developed the patina as well.  One question... with my clay roaster it has to go into a cold oven and heat up with the oven.. is that the same with a tagine?

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post #9 of 13

You don't typically put a tajine in an oven. You place it over a fire or on the stove top. Personally I always start it cold, let the meat marinate for about an hour, then turn on the heat very low and let it come to temp very slowly.

post #10 of 13

In theory that's correct, Leeniek. The idea being is that you don't want any drastic and sudden temperature changes.

 

You cure your new tagine by first soaking it in cold water. Once that's dry you rub all surfaces with olive oil, and bake it for about an hour at 350F. This tightens and strengthens the clay. Then you maintain the cure by rubbing with olive oil after every use.

 

I've put a cold tagine directly into a hot oven and gotten away with it. But it's not recommended.

 

Keep in mind, though, that most of the time you'll be starting your dish on the stovetop, slowly bringing the clay to temperature and pre-cooking some ingredients. So by the time you pop it into the oven it's pretty much been heated up.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 13

Here are some sources for tagines. The last one has the best selection, and there's an indepth care & feeding write up at the site.

 

http://www.spanishtable.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=TST&Category_Code=tajinas

 

http://www.bramcookware.com/index.php

 

http://www.tagines.com/

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the links, KYH!  The last one is definitely the most informative. 

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post #13 of 13

>You don't typically put a tajine in an oven. You place it over a fire or on the stove top.<

 

Depends on how "authentic" you want to be, FF.

 

Technically, tagines are used over charcoal braziers. There's a name for them in Morocco, that I alway forget. But, basically, they're confined "stoves," with a top opening that the tagine base fits into. This kind of set-up allows a minimal use of fuel, and slow cooking.

 

In American homes there is rarely an equivalent (although some folks use their charcoal grills).

 

Cooking on the stovetop is the preferred way. And, as you say, you start with a cold tagine, and let it come slowly up to heat over a low flame. But with fully glazed tagines that's a problematical approach unless you have a good defuser. That's when the oven comes into its own. Again, the best approach is to start with a cold tagine. Put it in the oven, turn the heat to 250F, and go away for a couple of hours.

 

The drawback to using the oven is that the tagine doesn't operate in its most efficient way, because the conical hat is heating as well as the base. The whole idea is for the top to be cooler than the base, so that the evaporating liquid condenses on it and runs back down into the food.

 

So, given a choice, it's always better to go with an unglazed tagine and use it on the stovetop.

 

Probably the major difference between tagines and braises we are used to is the matter of browning. Tagine ingredients are rarely browned. And when they are, they are done so after the cooking is complete, rather than beforehand as is usual with braising as we think of it.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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