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Equipping a Moroccan Kitchen

Useful Kitchen Tools, Appliances and Essential Moroccan Cookware

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Although a great number of Moroccans are adept at turning out memorable meals using only a modest assortment of cookware and tools, it's a different story in middle and upper class kitchens. There, you'll likely find a wide range of tools, appliances and cookware used to prepare not only Moroccan food, but dishes adopted from other lands.

The following list includes both traditional and modern cooking equipment, all of which are helpful in preparing and serving Moroccan food. I don't bother to include a basic set of pots and pans (I assume most home cooks already have them), or standard cutlery and table service, but I do draw attention to specific pieces which may be worth acquiring, as well as some traditional items of interest.

Do you have other suggestions for what should be included? Share your own top picks in Readers' Favorite Kitchen Tools and Gadgets.

Also see Essential Ingredients in Moroccan Cooking.

1. Tagine

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

A tagine is both a type of Moroccan cookware (the base doubles as a serving dish) and the name of the dish prepared in it. Although many of the recipes on this site include instructions for cooking in a conventional pot, if you plan to make tagines even only occasionally, you'll probably want to purchase tagine cookware. They're almost effortless to use, but do know you'll need to allow ample time for the traditional, slow-cooking process. If you purchase a clay or ceramic, the tagine will need to be seasoned before its first use.

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2. Diffuser (Simmer Ring or Flame Tamer)

Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber

These thin, round sheets of aluminum protect your clay or ceramic tagine from direct contact with the heating element, which can cause the tagine to crack. They also help to distribute the heat more evenly. You don't need an expensive one, but definitely plan to buy a diffuser if you have a traditional tagine which you intend to use stovetop.

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3. Charcoal Brazier (Majmar)

Photo © Tagines.com

Although tagines can be used stovetop or in a slow oven, charcoal is traditionally favored as a heat source. Clay Moroccan braziers usually sport three "arm" supports, which hold the tagine high over the coals. If using a brazier that's relatively shallow like the one shown here, temperature can also be controlled by using a small amount of charcoal and "feeding" additional pieces as needed. Moroccan braziers can also be used to display tagines, or as portable grills for cooking other foods such as brochettes. Note that small metal braziers, both round and rectangular, are also used in Morocco.

4. Skewers (Qodban or M'Ghazel)

Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber

Many homes have a sizable stash of skewers, enough to accommodate large extended family meals or holiday cookouts. Although they're easy to find year round, you're most likely to see skewers prominently displayed in stores in the days surrounding Eid Al-Adha, when brochettes and other grilled meats are especially popular.

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5. Grill Basket

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A grill basket with handle is important to have in Morocco, since most mejmars (charcoal braziers and grills) are modest set-ups without built-in racks. Once you start using one, you'll find it essential to many of your grilling needs, since it allows you to hold food securely over the coals and easily flip everything over as needed.

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6. Tangia

Photo © Tagines.com

This urn-shaped cooking vessel may look like a decor item, but it also has a practical use – to make slow-cooked oven stews. As with a tagine, the name tangia refers both to the vessel itself and the Marrakesh-style stew prepared in it.

7. Tagra

Photo © Tagines.com

These shallow, unglazed cooking vessels are primarily used to make fish tagines in the oven or over charcoal. While you can certainly use a tagine base for this purpose, a tagra is the cookware of choice for fish tagines in the north of Morocco.

8. Couscoussier

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

In Morocco you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who uses instant couscous. Instead, the proper way to prepare the tiny grains of pasta is to steam the couscous several times in a couscoussier, which might be made of aluminium, clay, ceramic or stainless steel. This two-piece traditional Moroccan cookware consists of a base pot (called a gdra, barma or tanjra) for stewing and a large, deep basket (kessksss) for steaming. In addition to being essential to the preparation of couscous dishes such as Couscous with Seven Vegetables, couscoussiers are also used in Morocco for steaming rice, spinach or mallow leaves (to make khoubiza), broken vermicelli (to make seffa), and shredded msemen or meloui (to make rfissa).

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9. Gsaa

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

These large, heavy, shallow vessels are invaluable in Moroccan kitchens, where they double as work stations and serving dishes. A beautifully crafted wooden gsaa is increasingly hard to find; now clay and ceramic are the standard (and more affordable) materials. The flat interior of a gsaa makes a terrific work surface for kneading doughs, shaping msemen or other pan fried or baked treats, and the vessel itself is ideal for tossing and containing couscous in between steamings.

10. Tbeq

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

I'm not sure if you can find a tbeq for purchase outside of North Africa, but a list of Moroccan cookware wouldn't be complete without showing this traditional woven platter. It's used primarily as a work surface for hand rolling couscous from semolina flour and water, a process that can also be accomplished in a gsaa (see item above), in a large plastic basin or bowl, or on a large round platter. Lined with a towel, a tbeq can also be used to hold and transport freshly baked breads.

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