Tagine Pots: Decorative vs. Utility
By: Lindsey Penn/Arab America Contributing Writer
Tagine (or tajine) is a very popular food native to North Africa, especially in Morocco, where it is the national dish. You can make tagine with fish, chicken, vegetables, lamb, or beef, which shows the dish’s versatility. The name “tagine” comes from the type of dish that the food is cooked in a tagine pot. Tagine pots are made especially for this dish, or as decoration. If you are buying a tagine pot, it is important to know what you are buying, as there are two different types of tagine pots: decorative pots, which cannot be used for cooking, and pots you can use for cooking.
First, a little bit of background on tagine pots. Moroccans make a traditional tagine pot from earthenware clay, flameware clay, micaceous clay, or stoneware clay. Earthenware clay is the most common. Depending on the manufacturer, they might glaze the tagine pots, or might not. In Morocco, some other companies make the tagine pot with aluminum, so that the pot is more lightweight. The pots can come in many different sizes. Some are able to hold enough food to serve 2 people, others more than 6 people.
Tagine pots are unique in the shape of the pot, as it is the best shape conducive to making the tagine food. The clay is separated into two parts: a dish and a lid. The dish is shallow, while the lid is tall and in the shape of a cone with a knob at the top. Sometimes, the lid has a hole in the top, although there doesn’t seem to be a reason for this. As the dish is cooking, the lid collects the steam and moisture, which then falls down the sides of the lid to baste the food.
Non-traditional tagine pots are generally found outside of Morocco. Those companies make them with different materials such as cast-iron or steel.
If you’re looking to make your own tagine pot (or just want to learn more about how it can be made by hand), here is a link with more details.
Pots Used for Cooking
Cooking tagine in a traditional tagine pot can take some getting used to. A glazed tagine pot is going to cook the food differently than an unglazed tagine pot. The glazed pots are easier for beginners to use. The tagine pot that is plain is one that you can use to cook in. Most pots can be used on top of the stove or in the oven, but definitely make sure to check anyways if you are buying a clay tagine pot. If the tagine pot is made out of stoneware clay, it can only be used in the oven.
Another thing to note about traditional tagine pots is that when they are manufactured in Morocco, they might have small amounts of lead in it. This is because of the glaze. There are ways to tell if the glaze has lead, including buying a test or checking to see if the glaze is chalky or dusty after washing. It is difficult to tell just by looking at the tagine pot. In order to combat this, the manufacturers in Morocco are trying to do more to make sure the glaze is safe.
If you’re looking to buy a tagine pot to cook with, many companies will now import the pots from Morocco. There are also options to buy tagines made in France or from companies like Le Creuset. Here is a list of recommended pots from a blogger living in Morocco. Similarly to a cast-iron skillet, there is a certain way to season and take care of your tagine pot. Here are directions to care for your pot.
The biggest difference between decorative tagines and tagine pots used for cooking is that they are decorated and are always glazed. You can use it for serving the tagine, but you cannot put it on top of a stove or in the oven. However, you can use them to serve hot dishes, and they will actually help keep your dish warm. You can even buy very small pots to use for small side dishes. Usually, these pots are easy to spot, as they are decorated with brightly colored paints. Mostly, the patterns on these tagine pots are geometric. This makes them pretty enough to keep around the house just as decorations as well.
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