What Are Tagines and How Do You Use Them?

updated Mar 16, 2021
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tagine sits on a table with food in it
Credit: Liudmila Beliavskaia/Shutterstock

Tall, conical tagines manage to catch my eye every time I walk through a kitchen store. They’re used for cooking the North African dish by the same name — and I’ve been putting serious thought into whether or not I should buy one.

The tagine’s conical shape makes a uniquely moist, hot environment for the dish being cooked. The base is wide and shallow, and the tall lid fits snugly inside. As the food cooks, steam rises into the cone, condenses, and then trickles down the sides back into the dish.

The idea is similar to cooking in a Dutch oven or a slow-cooker (which, admittedly, doesn’t help my cause very much, as I already own both of these). Less liquid is needed overall and food cooks slowly, until completely tender.

Tagines generally range in size from one quart, a good size for something like steaming couscous, to four quarts, which is ideal for stews and roasts. Like Dutch ovens, tagines can also go from stovetop to oven with ease — eliminating the need for a serving dish and minimizing cleanup.

While stews are definitely the most popular and well-known dish to make in a tagine, it can be used for much more. Rice, couscous, and beans all do fabulously. With the lid off, a tagine could be used as a roasting dish and then be carried straight to the table. I also wonder if it might be easier to make the no-knead bread in a shallow tagine than a high-sided dutch oven, as you wouldn’t have to avoid any tall walls when adding and retrieving the loaf.

As for whether or not you need one, I think it’s a matter of deciding how a tagine would fit into your cooking style and the cookware you already have. I’ve been thinking of buying a smaller, 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven for casseroles and have also gotten more and more intrigued by clay-pot cooking. For me, buying a mid-sized tagine would satisfy both of those urges.

Do you own a tagine? What do you cook with it?