How To Prepare & Season A New Tagine

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I have been asked many a time by friends, neighbours and even work colleagues on how to prepare and season a new Tagine before cooking, and I’ve been wanting to do this post for such a long time and somehow never getting around to it. So, today without any further ado, I will do just that.

First of all, just in the very rare case that you might not know what a Tagine is exactly, let me just quickly explain. A Tagine is a traditional North African cooking vessel that is used to slow-cook stews and braised dishes. The unique conical shape of the Tagine helps to trap moisture and enhance the flavours of the food, making it an essential tool for traditional North African cuisine. Preparing a Tagine correctly is essential to ensure that the food cooks evenly and retains its flavour.

Types Of Tagines

There are various types of Tagines so it’s important to ask and somehow confirm the type you are buying. Some are already prepared for cooking, so they will not need any further preparation. Some are not for cooking at all and are for decoration purposes only. And some are for storage purposes and therefore wouldn’t need preparing for cooking use.

A decorational Tagine that is used for special occasions filled with Moroccan cookies.

Choosing the Right Tagine

When choosing a Tagine, it’s important to consider the type of Tagine you want to purchase. There are traditional clay Tagines, cast iron Tagines, and even modern electric Tagines. The material of the Tagine you choose will affect how it retains heat and how well it seasons over time. The size of the Tagine should also be considered, depending on how many people you plan to feed.

A selection of Tagines laid out in a Moroccan Market (Souq).

How to Prepare & Season a New Tagine

Before cooking with a Tagine for the first time, it’s important to clean it thoroughly. If the Tagine is new, it may need to be seasoned before use. Proper maintenance of the Tagine will help to ensure it lasts a long time and a well-cured and seasoned tagine is essential for evenly cooking food and preventing it from sticking or absorbing unwanted flavours. So, here’s how to cure and season a new tagine:

Curing your New Tagine:

  1. Wash the tagine with warm water and mild dish soap to remove any dust or residue. Rinse well and let it air dry completely.
  2. Rub the entire surface of the tagine, inside and out, with a thin layer of olive oil.
  3. Place the tagine in a cold oven and set the temperature to 300°F (149°C or gas mark 2)
  4. Bake for 2 hours.
  5. Turn off the oven and let the tagine cool inside for an hour. Repeat this process two more times.

Seasoning Your New Tagine:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Fill the tagine with water and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Pour out the water and dry the tagine thoroughly with a clean cloth.
  4. Rub the entire surface of the tagine, inside and out, with a thin layer of olive oil.
  5. Place the tagine in the oven and bake for 1 hour.
  6. Turn off the oven and let the tagine cool inside for an hour.

Your new tagine is now ready for use. It’s recommended to season your tagine once a year or as needed to maintain its non-stick qualities. To clean your tagine, hand-wash it with warm water and mild dish soap and avoid using abrasive sponges or metal utensils to prevent scratching.

Is Curing a Tagine the same as Seasoning a Tagine?

No, it’s not the same thing, curing and seasoning a new tagine are two different processes.

Curing a new tagine involves washing it with warm water and soap to remove any dust or residue, and then coating it with oil and baking it in the oven several times to harden the surface and prevent it from cracking or absorbing unwanted flavours.

Seasoning a new tagine involves boiling water in the tagine and then coating it with oil and baking it in the oven to build up a non-stick surface and enhance the flavour of the food cooked in it.

Both curing and seasoning a new tagine are important steps in preparing the vessel for cooking, and it’s recommended to repeat these processes periodically to maintain the tagine’s quality and performance.

Cooking with the Tagine

To cook with a Tagine, it’s essential to prepare all ingredients first. The key to a successful Tagine dish is to build the layers of ingredients in the right order. The cooking process is slow, but the results are well worth the wait. The temperature and cooking time will depend on the dish you are making and the type of Tagine you are using.

A selection of storage tagines filled with spices.

Here’s a general guide for layering ingredients in a tagine:

  1. Start with a thin layer of olive oil & vegetables on the bottom of the tagine, such as onions, carrots, and garlic.
  2. Add any meat or protein to the tagine, such as chicken, lamb, or beef. If using more than one type of meat, add the tougher cuts first and the more delicate cuts later.
  3. Sprinkle spices and herbs, such as cumin, paprika, ginger, and cinnamon, over the meat.
  4. Add any liquid ingredients, such as broth, or tomato sauce, to the tagine. The liquid should cover about two-thirds of the ingredients.
  5. Add any additional ingredients, such as dried fruit, olives, or nuts, and top with another layer of vegetables if desired.
  6. Cover the tagine and place it over low heat on the stovetop or in a preheated oven. Slow-cook the dish, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid or water if needed, until the meat is tender and the flavours have melded together.

It’s important to note that this is just a general guide, and the exact layering of ingredients will depend on the recipe and personal preference. Experimenting with different ingredients and seasonings is part of the fun of cooking in a tagine!

Serving and Storing a Tagine

Tagine dishes are often served with bread to help soak up the delicious sauces. The Tagine can also be stored with leftovers, but it’s important to let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator. When reheating leftovers, it’s essential to heat the Tagine slowly to prevent cracking.

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A Tagine of beef and potato preserved lemon & olives.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, preparing a Tagine correctly is essential to get the best results. From choosing the right Tagine to cooking and serving, there are several steps to follow. With its unique shape and cooking method, a Tagine is a great way to add a touch of North African flavour to your cooking. Whether you are a seasoned cook or just starting out, here are some Tagine recipes definitely worth a try!

Happy cooking!

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