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The Cazuela

Updated: Jul 26, 2020


Cazuelas are terra cotta dishes used for cooking and serving food. They’re typically glazed on the inside which provides (if not non-stick) a sort of stick-resistant coating, that also mostly seals up the porous surface. You see cazuelas all over Spain in sizes that barely fit a few olives, up to several feet in diameter that require two people to lift when they are full of food. Cazuelas and their similar ancestors have been common cooking utensils in Spain going back at least as far as the Romans, and possibly longer than that!


You don’t need to cook anything (or everything) in a cazuela. BUT, there’s a big reason that every Spanish home I’ve been in contains at least a few cazuelas in various sizes. They really do a great job at cooking a lot of different kinds of foods using various techniques on the stovetop or in the oven. They are also great for displaying and serving food, with a high thermal mass that keeps hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold. It sure doesn’t hurt that they cazuelas are beautiful and surprisingly inexpensive.

They take a little bit more special care than your typical stainless steel cookware, but nothing too difficult. Never pour cold liquid into a hot cazuela, or take a cazuela directly from the fridge to the stovetop, because the sudden, extremed temperature change can cause cracks. They can’t be banged around as haphazardly as metal cookware for the same reason. They also need to be seasoned before use, but that’s easily done.

I’d recommend not putting a cazuela directly onto a hot burner. Let it heat up on the burner, with the burner, just to be safe. Rosa’s sister Joana suggests always wetting the bottom before heating, to assure a more slow even heating up as that moisture burns off.

Seasoning a new cazuela

First, clean it out with sponge and warm, slightly soapy water to get rid of any residues left from it’s manufacture. Rinse well to get rid of any soap residue, then dry it well. Some people don’t ever like to use soap in a cazuela because they claim it can get into the pores and give a funny taste to food. Just don’t leave yours soaking in soapy water and rinse out any soap immediately, and you’ll be fine.

Soak the cazuela, completely submerged, in cold or room temperature water for at least an hour. Some people say as many as 8 hours, but I have found an hour to be plenty. Remove from the water and dry it.

Next, everyone always peels a raw garlic clove and rubs it all over the inside of the cazuela. I’m really not sure why. Maybe it helps cover up any funny smells the cazuela has absorbed during manufacture or storage? Maybe it helps seal the pores in the glaze? I really don’t know, and have never heard a good explanation. At best, it really helps. At worst, it’s a completely harmless superstition/tradition that adds a little mystique, with a whopping two minutes work, so I suggest you do it.

After rubbing with garlic, fill the cazuela with water and put it in a preheated 375F oven. Leave it in the oven until the water comes up to a boil. When the water reaches a boil, CAREFULLY take out the cazuela, pour out the water, let it slowly cool down.

Voila, your cazuela is seasoned and ready for use.

I’ve also heard it said that the first few times using a cazuela, you shouldn’t use it on higher heat, such as to boil water. I’m not really sure whether this is superstition or has something to do with allowing a little further seasoning to take place, but, to be safe, I follow this rule.

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