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Cooking with clay tagine on induction

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SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 24, 2012 06:55 PM

Hi

I would like to buy a clay tagine for its reputed cooking flavours (vs ceramic or metal). Only problem is, I have an induction stove.

I thought maybe I could use a stainless steel frying pan with a thick base like WMF cromargen as a conversion disk / heating element and put the tagine on it (instead of buying a conversion disk).

Will that work? Though I have read that overheating will spoil the pan, or the overheated pan may spoil the coils in the induction hob.

So if the above is a bad idea, I wonder, can I put water in the pan and use the tagine in a water bath instead?

Appreciate your views and thoughts.

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  1. Chemicalkinetics RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 24, 2012 07:29 PM

    First, you have to make sure that your stainless steel pan is indeed induction compatible. Yes, overheating the pan will ruin the pan since most of these so called stainless steel pans are cladded cookware, so becareful. It may be easier and cheaper to use a cast iron pan as a conversion element. It is cheap. It is thick.

    Using water is a not a bad method because this ensures a better contact.

    There are induction capable tagine (metal dish embedded) if you are interested.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
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      SunshiNe_Sarah RE: Chemicalkinetics Jul 24, 2012 07:33 PM

      Where can I find those? I am in Singapore and so far can only find Le Creuset which costs an arm and a leg. I think there is also Emile Henry but that is almost as expensive as the LC.

      I will be heading to London in November and potentially Paris so I was thinking of getting a clay one while there. Cheaper, and still retains the benefit of unglazed clay cooking.

      Alternatively I will ship one in because it may be cheaper than spending S$330 on one!!

      1. re: SunshiNe_Sarah
        Chemicalkinetics RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 24, 2012 08:07 PM

        Yeah, I think those are fairly expensive. I think your most inexpensive and practical solution is to use a metal pan -- one which you do not care too much of. If you are getting the traditional clay one, then I don't see you have to travel to London or Paris to get one. I am sure you get one in Singapore if not just as good.

    2. kaleokahu RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 24, 2012 07:52 PM

      Hi, Sunshine:

      Yes, you can use any piece of ferrous metal--even a pan--as a converter disc under your tajine.

      You have identified the issues correctly: (1) Will you sacrifice the pan in the process? And, potentially more seriously, (2) Will use of a disc damage your appliance and/or void the warranty?

      My starting point would be the warranty. If that is not a disqualifier, then I would buy a sacrificial pan (cheaper the better) and try it with a conventional tajine. The good news is that your hob settings will be so low that you should not fear huge heat build-up under the Ceran.

      I would be wary of "induction-capable" tajines. Forming the clay around a metal disc sounds intrinsically unstable to me.

      Another option, if you're wedded to induction, might be enameled cast iron.

      Aloha,
      Kaleo

      1. Caroline1 RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 24, 2012 08:12 PM

        I use a clay tagine, and they DO have a flavor that you cannot get with other cooking methods. I also use induction. My induction is a "hot plate" because I stupidly installed a radiant cooktop because I wanted to keep using my copper pots and pans. Okay... Never mind me. On to your question:

        Buy the clay tagine! Then use the very lowest possible setting on your induction cooktop and set the tagine in a large cast iron skillet. NOTHING works as well as a "trivet" on an induction unit. I bought one of those ridiculously expensive (for what you get) adapters that allow you to cook with anything on induction. Save your money! Use a cast iron pan with whatever set inside it. But the biggest problem with ANY induction unit, whether a full cook top or a portable single unit, is that they ALL have built in safety timers that don't allow you to cook longer than a couple of hours before they turn off. You can't cook an authentic tagine (food) in an authentic tagine (vessel) in two hours. Can't be done! So that means you have to be there to turn it back on immediately when it shuts itself down. Bummer.

        That said, in authentic tagine cooking, as in the way they do it in home kitchens in Morocco, NOTHING is browned first and everything is cooked very slowly over very low heat. High heat will crack or ruin a tagine. Soooo... You might want to think about using your oven with the clay tagine instead of any (except low gas) modern stove.

        I intentionally bought a hand built (no potter's wheel) clay tagine because it will never have a tight fitting lid, such as many potters wheel thrown tagines, or (worse yet) the Le Creuset type tagines. The steam from the tagine (the dish, not the container) you're making collects inside the cone shaped lid and drips back down on the food, but the evaporation through the steam that escapes a hand built tagine adds flavor through "reduction," and you don't get that with a tight fitting lid, and this is also part of the traditional flavors of the original method. That, and a really good cure for your tagine before you us it the first time. That's critical!

        Lots of good information on the web. Unfortunately, there's a lot of bad information too! If you're looking for traditional tagine flavors, beware of "tagine in pressure cooker" recipes! Paula Wolfert's recipes are all pretty authentic (when she doesn't "adapt for American kitchens"), but her historical and culinary knowledge of Morocco grew as she aged. But doesn't that happen to all of us? There are some really good recipes on the web as well, but you have to develop a "sixth sense" for what is authentic and what is not. For starters, you can pretty much assume that ANY tagine recipe that tells you to brown the meat, whatever kind of meat it is, is NOT authentic. Tagines will crack with high heat, and the traditional method of assembling and cooking in a tagine is to add the olive oil to the cold tagine base, place the meat/poultry/whatever in the center of the pan, add the other ingredients around it, then add whatever liquid, and THEN place the tagine cooking vessel over low heat and let it do its thing for HOURS! So I don't bother with any tagine recipes that start out with browning anything!

        Get the tagine, and have fun....!

        8 Replies
        1. re: Caroline1
          Chemicalkinetics RE: Caroline1 Jul 24, 2012 08:23 PM

          I think we should expand this into Home Cooking for tagine. Yes, clayware is unique in their own ways.

          <or (worse yet) the Le Creuset type tagines>

          Tell me more. What don't you like about the design aside from the non-porus aspect. Is it because of the air-tight seal, and no hole on the top (ok, not really air tight)

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            Caroline1 RE: Chemicalkinetics Jul 24, 2012 08:49 PM

            It's not just because it' "non-porous." It's also because it forms a fairly tight seal between the cone shaped lid and the bottom part of the tagine. Both the Le Creuset and the Emil Henry "vessels" are SHAPED like a tagine, but they are about as authentic for true Moroccan tagine cooking as a teflon wok is for authentic Chinese cooking. It's a whole different animal, and it doesn't come even close to qualifying as "authentic."

            IN ADDITION, a really good north African tagine, whether it be Moroccan or Algerian or whatever, because they are so porous, will absorb and retain oils and spices and contribute those to each successive dish you make in them. It adds a layer of richness you cannot hope to accomplish with a non-porous tagine interior. Because of that, when I cured my tagine, in addition to just soaking it for a couple of hours, rubbing it well with olive oil and baking it in a slow oven, I cured it a second and third time, adding some ras al hanout to the olive oil rub before baking so it would "go forward" with a little more "authenticity."

            But clay tagines do have something in common with Rommertopf clay pots in that you have to soak them before each use UNLESS you cook in them every day. Some even advise re-curing them (soak, coat with olive oil and bake) if you haven't used them in a week or more.

            It all depends on what you're after, and what you're willing to put into it to get what you want. For me, I don't do Teflon woks or Le Creuset/Emile Henry tagines. And I haven't tasted margarine in about fifty years...! I do like the real thing. '-)

            1. re: Caroline1
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              SunshiNe_Sarah RE: Caroline1 Jul 25, 2012 12:08 AM

              thanks so much for all your replies.

              I just went to check out an induction disk from Emile Henry - I understand it is less harmful for the induction cooker since there are rivets beneath it (unlike any normal pan) but it is still costly! (and kaleokahu, the warranty for my hob is over so I am not keen to do it any harm and potentially incur the cost of servicing it later!) else that would have been ideal, cos at level 2 settings on my induction, the plate can stay on for 6 hours before it turns off! (i'm guessing that's enough time to cook a tagine?)

              so, the way it is going right now, I will probably just buy a clay one, and use it on a separately purchased hot plate, or put it in the oven!

              does it matter if it is glazed or unglazed? I probably won't use it 2-3 times a week, probably 1-2 times a month (since I will also be doing my chinese soups, and non-tagine stews on other days).

              I just saw Emile Henry going for S$160 and wondering if it is a good deal or should I just get one off tagines.com and season it myself anyway?

              1. re: SunshiNe_Sarah
                Chemicalkinetics RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 25, 2012 04:14 AM

                <does it matter if it is glazed or unglazed?>

                Yes. Glazed clay cookware will not absorb on the glazed surface. So if the interior is glazed, then it won't absorb the foods or spices flavor. Unglazed clay cookware is obviously the opposite, and requires curing.

              2. re: Caroline1
                Chemicalkinetics RE: Caroline1 Jul 25, 2012 04:10 AM

                <because they are so porous, will absorb and retain oils and spices and contribute those to each successive dish you make in them>

                Agree. Thanks.

            2. re: Caroline1
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              SunshiNe_Sarah RE: Caroline1 Jul 25, 2012 12:11 AM

              Hi Caroline! I just reread this.

              could you elaborate on this a little more:

              "Then use the very lowest possible setting on your induction cooktop and set the tagine in a large cast iron skillet. NOTHING works as well as a "trivet" on an induction unit."

              does this mean that I can set a cheap pan on a low trivet, put it on an induction top, and then set the tagine on top?

              I've got one of those low rivet thingies. just never thought of setting a pan on top of it so that it is a little distance away from the hob and won't harm it!

              1. re: SunshiNe_Sarah
                Caroline1 RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 25, 2012 11:16 AM

                Hi, Sarah! I see from above that you live in Singapore, as well as that your induction unit will allow you to cook for six hours on setting 2. So let me open by saying that in my research, all induction cooking equipment in Asia is more sophisticated than what is available in the U.S. Where you live, you can even get (or may already have) an induction on-demand hot water heater! Needless to say, I'm jealous.

                However, I'm not sure why you think you can harm your induction unit by what you cook on it with. All of the induction cooking hotplates and cooktops sold in the U.S. have built in features that will pretty much prevent you from doing harm. For example, if a pan isn't induction friendly, my unit (and all that I've read about) will not initiate/excite the magnetic coils but does sound an annoying beep so I know I'm trying to use the wrong pan.

                The other thing I have discovered (trial and error, but not really any errors of consequence so far) is that how well a pan or other cooking vessel will perform on an induction unit is DIRECTLY related to how ferrous the metal is. And that's the problem with my induction adapter for non-induction pots and pans. It is made of "induction friendly" stainless steel, which by definition is NOT 100% ferrous metal, but a lower percentage, with the end result that it does not perform at the level of a cast iron skillet, or as well as DeBuyer's pure iron pans from France.

                So... I use my cast iron frying pans as adapters, and because cast iron is porous, I add an inch or so of water when I use them as an induction friendly trivet. Actually, the inch or so of water helps the pan I'm adapting to cook better because the water brings the heat source (hot water) up the sides of the pan a bit. BUT....! I always use the temperature setting for this purpose and not the power setting because the temperature setting is more accurate with less fluctuations. I don't see why this wouldn't work with a clay tagine.

                If I'm envisioning the "trivet" you are talking about using on your induction unit correctly, I'm not sure it would work all that well because it is my understanding it is pierced, as in not a full flat surface. That won't work well with a clay tagine because it will give little hot spots at the contact points, and clay is porous and not a good heat diffuser.

                Good luck! Most of all, have fun.

                1. re: SunshiNe_Sarah
                  kaleokahu RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 25, 2012 03:09 PM

                  Nota Bene 1: I would be cautious of using a carbon steel pan as an induction converter. I have never forgiven myself for suggesting this, since learning another Hound took my advice and warped his new pan in precisely this way.

                  Nota Bene 2: I do not recall where I read this, but I'm about 95% confident that I read somewhere that some induction appliance manufacturers caution NOT to use converter disks lest their units overheat and fail. That particular devil would be in the details of the detection circuitry, the fans and semiconductors, so may vary between appliances. As with much of this mode of cooking, you may not know until it is too late.

                  Nota Bene 3: The suggested workaround, i.e., a water bath, cannot be a traditional tajine use. I leave it to experts of tajine cooking like Caroline to compare the results, but common sense tells me this technique might not drive off enough moisture.

                  Kaleo

              2. s
                SunshiNe_Sarah RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 25, 2012 07:27 PM

                Actually, come to think of it - how different would cooking in a Chinese type unglazed claypot be from a tagine?

                Would I be able to achieve similar effects?

                I could get Chinese unglazed claypots more easily from around here but can't say the same for a tagine!

                4 Replies
                1. re: SunshiNe_Sarah
                  Chemicalkinetics RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 25, 2012 08:16 PM

                  <how different would cooking in a Chinese type unglazed claypot be from a tagine>

                  In term of cooking style or in term of taking care of it. In term of cooking techniques, they are different. In term of care taking, they are not very different.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                    s
                    SunshiNe_Sarah RE: Chemicalkinetics Jul 25, 2012 08:55 PM

                    in terms of the end result of cooking, taste - would i get the same flavour, results?
                    logically, they are both claypots. if i get a taller sandpot, that will give the steam sufficient space to rise (and cool) on the cover and trickle back down (albeit slower since the cover isn't as tall and conical as a tagine). am just wondering if that would work

                    1. re: SunshiNe_Sarah
                      paulj RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 25, 2012 09:44 PM

                      Sure, go ahead an experiment with the Chinese clay pot, especially since it is available and cheap.

                      When you say 'unglazed', I assume you mean unglazed on the outside, what is sometimes called a 'sand pot'. It's glazed on the inside. That's similar to the Spanish cazuela, which I believe is similar to the tagine, except it does not come with a conical lid.

                      I believe the tagine developed as a way of braising meat over a low charcoal fire, and that is the same idea behind a sand pot (and many other clay pots).

                      1. re: SunshiNe_Sarah
                        Chemicalkinetics RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 26, 2012 07:25 AM

                        I agree with Paul. The Chinese sandpots are usually glazed inside.

                        http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/images/c...

                        http://www.meilengloh.com/wp-content/...

                        It is a very nice tool, but it is different from the fully unglazed tagine. I have used Chinese clay pot, but never to try to mimic a tagine, so I cannot be sure the difference.

                  2. paulj RE: SunshiNe_Sarah Jul 26, 2012 01:17 PM

                    According to
                    http://www.chefzadi.com/2011/04/press...

                    a tagine like dish cooked in a well sealed vessel like a pressure cooker is called
                    a marqa (sauce). The same might apply to one cooked in a Chinese sand pot (which looses very little moisture through the small vent hole).

                    http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/main...
                    has 3 versions, one using pressure cooker, another regular pot, 3rd using the earthenware tagine. Note the difference in timings, and the difference in browning (or not).

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