Tagines—those teepee-shaped clay cooking vessels from Morocco that have lent their name to a whole category of North African stews—are now common in cookware shops. And while the new enameled metal tagines are fine to use on the stovetop, what about traditional clay tagines? On Chowhound, Kate Cortesi reports that she loves her clay tagine from Le Souk Ceramique, and has had good results using it in the oven. But on the stovetop, with a heat diffuser to keep from cracking the tagine from direct heat, she can't achieve a respectable simmer. So, she asks, is it safe to use her clay tagine directly over the flame?
But does she need to? Chowhound chefj is able to simmer just fine with a heat diffuser, which the tagine manufacturer recommends. Meanwhile, paulj uses a portable gas burner when cooking in clay, even inexpensive Spanish cazuelas and Chinese sand pots, no diffuser needed. He simply starts out over a low flame, gradually increases the heat, then turns it down once he's achieved a simmer.
Follow the manufacturer's directions, rasputina says. Just as unglazed non-flameproof clay is fine over a diffuser, flameproof clay tagines should be fine without one, as long as you remember paulj's rule: Start low, then gradually increase the heat.