The tagine is a two piece cooking vessel that is traditionally used in North African cooking, and principally in Morocco or Algeria. Traditional tagines that are used in Morocco or Algeria are made of clay or ceramic. They can be plain like Terra Cotta pots, or they can be glazed.
The bottom of the tagine is a shallow pan that can double as the serving dish. The lid is shaped like a cone and it has an opening at the top to allow steam to escape. Stews, meats and vegetable dishes are typically cooked in a tagine.
The moisture from the ingredients creates condensation throughout the tagine, and it is that moisture that aids the cooking process, preventing the food from drying out. It is believed that because of them manner in which food is cooked in a tagine, it develops a richer flavor.
Tagines are sold in a variety of sizes and the materials from which they are made will vary as much as the tagines themselves. The prices are highly variable as well. As one would expect, the larger the tagine, the more expensive it is.
The traditional tagine that is used in North Africa is either ceramic or Terra Cotta. In either case, both types are made from some sort of clay.
All-Clad Tagine –
Among the most expensive tagines on the market are two made by All Clad, one of which is an All Clad product on its own, and the other is a product that All Clad created for the Emeril Lagasse line of cookware.
The advantages of these two models is that they are the only ones that feature side handles, one of the characteristic trademarks of all All Clad cookware.
Le Creuset tagine –
Le Creuset, another high end manufacturer of cookware offers a slightly less expensive tagine. It is constructed out of the same materials that characterize all of the Le Creuset cookware – enamel over cast iron.
Orka Silicone Tagine
On the cheaper end of the spectrum, is the Orka Silicone tagine. At about $20, it’s definitely a good deal since the Le Creuset product averages close to $150 and the All Clad models are about $200 at the cheapest.
The thing about the Orka tagine, however, is that because it’s made of silicone, it is designed more for microwave and conventional oven use. This is not the manner in which traditional North African tangine cooking is done
Staub (from Alsace, France) Earthenware Tagine
For slightly more than the Orka silicone tagine, one can purchase a beautiful 7 inch model that is made by the Staub company in Alsace France. It is made from earthenware which is much closer to the ceramic or Terra Cotta tagines that are characteristic of what one would use in North Africa. The Staub version is just under $30.
One feature that is unique to Staub pots is that they have self basting spikes. The manner in which a tagine is supposed to cook food makes this seem unnecessary. Nonetheless, this is an outstanding product that is fairly priced in a manner that would make it impossible for anyone to argue that it was over priced.
Authentic Handmade Moroccan Tagine from Treasures of Morocco.
One last tagine worthy of mentioning is the Authentic Handmade Moroccan Tagine. This ten inch model is priced at $40. It is hand made by Moroccan artisans for Treasures of Morocco.
For anyone looking for an authentic tagine that is hand made by true North African artisans and wants to find a tagine that can be used in the manner for which it was intended, (stove top as opposed to oven or microwave oven,) this model is reasonably priced and about as authentic as one can get.
The website cooking treasures.com has a wide selection of tagines from a range of manufacturers. The Le Creuset models are made in France, but there are many authentic Moroccan tagines that come in assorted sizes and that are considerably cheaper than the well known high end brands.
Aside from the price of the various tagines that are on the market, the price is another critical consideration. There is something to be said for going with a lesser expensive Moroccan made tagine.
If one is looking for authenticity, there is no other way to go. But since the design of the tagines that are used in North Africa is such that they can be used on top of the stove, and that they can withstand whatever heat they get, and maintain that heat for a long period of time, there is something strange about investing in a tagine that is designed to be used in the oven. That seems to contradict the principle behind this method of cooking.
Tagine cooking is very versatile. This vessel lends itself to a variety of different dishes that can be cooked for different amounts of time. The one thing that one would hope to find with all tagines is that the manner in which each different model cooks food is consistent with traditional Moroccan and Algerian cooking practices.