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South Indian Food Fans -- What's the Best Pan/Griddle You've Found For Making Dosa at Home?

For years we were getting by with a well-seasoned flat cast iron skillet, but nothing ever worked as well as the thinner metal dosa pans my grandmother had. Has anyone found a particular make and model of pan that works really well for dosas? Has anyone tried making dosas on a blue carbon steel crepe pan? We'd prefer not to use non-stick (don't think that would work all that well anyway). Any recommendations or notes on technique would be most appreciated. Thank you.

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  1. Would a comal, Mexican steel tortilla griddle, work? If you can find one locally it would a cheap experiment.

    1. Either of my ScanPan frying pans. They are PERFECT for dosa. I don't have to use any oil at all, but the dosa taste better when I use just a small amount.

      They make a crepe pan that would probably suit, but I use my normal frying pan (either of them actually, the one with the low side or the one with the higher side) and they both work perfectly.

      Between dosa I take a damp muslin towel and wipe the hot pan, picks up all the old dosa crumbs and gives me a pristine surface every time. Splot on a small amount of oil and spread it around with half an onion and you have a very fine film of oil ready for the next dosa - again, not needed, but the dosa tastes better if you use a little oil.

      If you're worried about outgassing, I've had Scanpans for over 30 years and never had a problem, including the years I had cockatiels (finally had to leave them behind the last time I moved). If there was a problem, the birds wouldn't have lasted the 8 years I was keeping them. It's my ONLY cookware.

      Now, PLEASE tell me what you use to grind your dal and rice with for dosa and idli? I'm really waffling about replacing my missing food processor, or just trying to do it in my KA blender. I've had no luck with blenders in the past, but they were all CHEAP blenders.

      EDIT: PS - Hunting around my online sources a bit came up with this:

      http://store.indianfoodsco.com/Grocer...

      A bit pricey I think but it may be what you're looking for, if you're dead-set against all non-stick

      3 Replies
      1. re: ZenSojourner

        Thank you both for the recommendations.

        Paulj, I'm definitely going to go look at a comal.

        ZenSoujourner, I really have to avoid coated cookware, so I don't think the Scanpan will work for me, but I've emailed the shop at the link you provided to ask if they can get a flat iron tawa. That would really be perfect. I love the tip about the onion. I saw a friend of my aunt's do that long ago but I forgot all about it until I read your comment.

        We just use the blender for dosa and idli batter. It's a bit hard on the motor, but I've found a blender to work better than a food processor for this purpose. There are a couple of companies, like INNO Concepts, that sell wet grinders expressly made for this sort of thing, but they cost around $300 and hardly seem worth it unless you're cranking out dozens of dosas a day.

        Thank you both again,
        Ninrn

        1. re: ninrn

          You could try this, I don't know if they'll ship to the US - I keep meaning to ask but somehow never get around to it. They look like an Indian version of Amazon.

          http://www.indiaplaza.com/pigeon-hard...

          Last I checked the exchange rate is pretty favorable, about 45 rs to the $, I think that makes that under $15. There would probably be some duty or other taxes, shipping costs, but they're not what they were in the 70s when we were writing letters on both sides of those tissue-paper-thin blue envelopes, LOL!

          Yeah, the wet-grinders are sort of out of my range. Though I've been tempted more than once in the past . . .

        2. re: ZenSojourner

          The wet grinders are good for idli, but not much better than blenders for dosai. Indian online stores will sell you heavy-duty blenders (or mixies!), otherwise you just get the best blender you can find locally, and resign yourself to burning them out every now and then.

          Though it's not the answer the original poster is looking for, we've found heavy-weight commercial nonstick frying pans ideal for dosai. We've tried a lot of alternatives over the years. You can find them In any restaurant supply store. As ZS notes, a tiny bit of oil right at the start helps.

        3. Is there no Indian grocery store anywhere near where you live? They often have inexpensive, basic steel tavas that are probably what you have in mind. I don't make dosas at home, but mine works well for wheat breads. Better than cast iron for those, too, for some reason, and they develop a "non stick" patina of their own very quickly with use.

          10 Replies
          1. re: MikeG

            Nope. Just one Indian grocery in the whole state and they don't have pans (except non-stick electric fryers.) I've emailed Kalustyan's in NYC, though. Maybe they'll have a flat tawa I can order.

            Thanks for all the help, Chowhounds. I really appreciate it.

            1. re: ninrn

              Would the tawa that you want to find to make dosas, the same tawa that one would use to make chapati? Any other breads that you know of that one could use a tawa for?
              Thanks. Let us/me know if you find anything suitable. I can't seem to make a chapati come out good enough to want to eat. I've tried using atta (flour), too, but nothing helps when it gets to the pan.

              1. re: Rella

                A well-seasoned cast iron griddle should work fine for chapatis. (You'll still have to use a little oil or ghee both in the dough and on the pan.)

                Are you letting the dough rest at least half an hour before forming the chapatis?

                1. re: ninrn

                  Yes, I do.
                  I think I'll just have to keep on making them until I get it right. I follow instructions and watch the youtube videos,
                  Thank you.

                  1. re: Rella

                    Recently I made this recipe for Spanish Tortas de aceite.
                    http://spanishfood.about.com/od/desse...
                    The dough like a chapati or flour tortilla, but richer in oil. Also after rolling they are baked till crisp. But found that the dough was much easier to handle than the other flat breads - both because of the oil and less kneading.

                    You might want to practice with it, or something similar, and then go back to a more traditional chapati dough.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Thank you soooo much. I WILL give it a try.
                      Looking forward to it.

                2. re: Rella

                  What flour are you using, and what's going wrong? Actually, what's the recipe you're using as well?

                  It occurred to me reading this that it's actually been years since I made chapati. My son loves puri and somehow I always end up making puri instead. But if you can give me the recipe you're using and what you feel is going wrong, I could whip up a batch or 2 and see what's going on.

                3. re: ninrn

                  Is this any help:

                  Ganesh Indian Grocery 6320 Linn Ave NE Albuquerque, NM 87108 Ph:(505) 268-3342
                  India Grocery 3140 Cerrillos Rd Santa Fe, NM 87505 Ph:(505)424-3120
                  India Kitchen 49-12 Calle Del Cielo NE Albuquerque, NM 87111Ph 505-884-2333
                  Indopak Store 3904, Central Ave SE Albuquerque, NM 87108Ph 505-254-8199
                  (I've seen the Indopak store also referred to as "Convenience Store" on a couple websites)

                  I use 2 web sites to locate Indian Groceries (plus google searches since as hard as these guys try they often don't get all the Indian groceries in an area)

                  http://www.searchindia.com/search/gro...
                  http://www.thokalath.com/grocery/inde...

                  I checked one of the local Indian shops here a couple of days ago and the only tawa they had was a plain steel one (probably not stainless) that was painted black. I wouldn't cook on that, who knows what's in that black finish and whatever that coating is, it typically peels off with use. I've seen them in people's homes occasionally. Think I'll stick with the ScanPan, LOL!

                  It was perfectly flat though so you might yet come up with what you're looking for.

                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                    ZenSoujourner,

                    Thank you so much for going to all this trouble, but I'm afraid IndoPak is all we've got. Ganesh closed years ago, and India Kitchen and India Grocery are only small alcoves off restaurants selling a few condiments and incense. The "convenience store" aspect of IndoPak, in this case shelves and shelves of porn, cigarettes and smoking apparatus, appears to be what keeps them in business. They don't stock much in the way of cookware.

                    Good to know about the black paint. I'm going to ask about that before ordering anything from online Indian groceries.

                    Thanks again,
                    Ninrn

                    1. re: ninrn

                      I'm planning a trip to "little India" in the next few weeks - I'll keep an eye peeled and post back here if I see anything that looks likely.

                      I was just thinking recently that so many things have gotten easier to find - but apparently not everything yet, LOL! I need a ghee pot myself and I keep forgetting to look for one.

              2. This may sound weird, but here's what I did when I needed culture-specific foodie help once: I called their local embassy. "Where can I find...." And you know what, the person called me back with three different sources their chef recommended.

                13 Replies
                1. re: E_M

                  Were you able to find your item?

                  1. re: Rella

                    i hope this is helpful:

                    I found a flat (absolutely flat) tava for making dosa in an indo-pak grocery store, but Houston has plenty of those. The tava is different form the usual in its flatness - other tava are slightly curved (concave?) but not this one.The curve would cause some batter to collect in the middle which would make a dosa with a thicker center, so the flatness is key.

                    If you cannot find such a tava, look for a welding shop near you. Ask them what it would cost to cut a steel disc of the size thatyou are looking for. As for blenders, every South Indian friend I have swear by Sumeet mixies! i think they make them with lawnmower motors... jk

                    1. re: caliking

                      I've heard about Sumeet. I think you must be correct.

                      Yes, I have been wondering about the concave configuration -- what's that all about?

                      1. re: Rella

                        usually tavas (tavae?) are concave - i think so that when you put some oil/ghee on the it collects in the center, or if cooking on a bigger tava, the food can collect in the center more easily. Most tavas are concave and it works well for most applications, except for dosas. At least that's how I look at it. Many folks make do with the concave tava for dosas, since that is what most folks have already. It is harder to make dosas in frying pans, because of the sides/rim of the pan, but many make do.

                        To really find out, make me some dosas and I'll let you know! :)

                        1. re: caliking

                          Hi, I'm the original poster. I've had no trouble finding the concave tawas, but they're really not so great for dosas. A cast iron griddle is better. Right now, I'm leaning toward just replacing my Lodge griddle and seasoning it until it works. Very tempted to email the embassy on Monday, though... : ) Caliking, could you tell me the name of the place in Houston where you saw the totally flat tawas? Maybe they'd ship me one. Was it teflon-coated? Thank you, ninrn

                          1. re: ninrn

                            ninrn, where you are located?

                            1. re: MoCoMe

                              Albuquerque, NM. We have a great Asian store that gets all sorts of Indian groceries, but they don't have a relationship with any Indian ktichenware distributors. The only full-fledged South Asian store is a bit sketchy as mentioned above.

                              1. re: ninrn

                                Years ago, while on an extended camping trip, I bought a cast iron skillet/comal in Santa Fe. I still have it, though these days I am more likely to use a carbon steel comal. For batter based breads (or pancakes) I use a well seasoned French crepe pan (also carbon steel).

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Yes, i loved your comal suggestion. Just haven't found non-nonstick ones in the few stores I've checked. I'm sure they're here, though. I've been wondering about the carbon steel crepe pan. Is that what they call "blue steel" sometimes? I think that's basically the same as a dosa tawa. And do you season it as you would cast iron? Thanks, Paulj.

                                  1. re: ninrn

                                    What I call carbon steel is also blue steel. No nonstick ones?

                                    This is the kind of thing I found various small Mexican groceries in the Seattle area
                                    http://www.mexgrocer.com/50409-87146....
                                    http://www.mexgrocer.com/comales.html
                                    cost is only around $10. The loop handle is fine for hanging on the wall, but not much else.
                                    Seasoning is like cast iron, though I find that tortilla making tends to burn off the seasoning in the middle of the pan.

                          2. re: caliking

                            I make dosa in my Scanpan frying pan and there's no trouble. I don't know why there would be, unless you're trying to make the giant paper dosa, in which case you need a big commercial grill, LOL!

                            The slight concavity of a tawa is really no impediment either - since you pour the batter in and immediately spread it out from the center, and the dosa cook quickly enough that it doesn't flow back down to the center.

                            Uttapam might be a different matter though.

                        1. re: E_M

                          Another country's embassy - not India?

                    2. A few years ago, I bought my mom a 16" cast iron griddle at Crate and Barrel to make dosas on. Works great. We always use oil as that adds to the flavor of the dosa, so sticking is never an issue.

                      For me, I bought an electric crepe griddle last year. I heat it up, pour the batter on, and use the crepe batter spreader that comes with it to spread it out quickly. Works amazingly well, but it is nonstick, which I know you said you didn't want.
                      http://www.amazon.com/CucinaPro-1448-...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: boogiebaby

                        ninrn: I bought it at Savoy (they also have a restaurant attached). Your cast iron skillet may still be a good option, especially since you are used to cooking with it.

                        There are 1000+ ways to season cast iron and many debates have raged over the best way. Cook's Illustrated posted their new way earlier this year. It involves flaxseed oil. Heat the oven with the cast iron pan/griddle in it, about 15-20mins at 220°F. Pour 1 tbsp (or less) of the flaxseed oil in the pan and wipe the pan with the oil using a paper towel. Wipe again with a fresh paper towel to remove the excess. put the pan back in a cold oven, crank it up to 500°F and bake (pan upside down) for 1hr. Turn off the oven and let it cool with the pan inside. Repeat 5 times. They did advise to strip the orginal coating/seasoning off with oven cleaner before starting this whole process.

                        Sorry for th tangent, but thought it might be helpful. I'm sure others have great ways for doing the same that may be less tedious/time consuming.