What Is A Comal And How Do You Use It?

Nothing hits the spot like authentic Mexican cuisine. Whether it's a slow-cooked mole, pork posole, or classic carnitas, the unique flavors of these time-tested dishes go far beyond your typical tacos and burritos (via Taste of Home). For many home cooks who have struggled to make their own tortillas, it may seem that restaurants capture the spirit of the cuisine in a way that a home kitchen can't. However, it all comes down to having the right tools.

If you can get your hands on a comal, your Mexican cuisine can easily compete with any of your favorite restaurants. According to The Spruce Eats, the comal looks similar to a regular cast iron pan, but once you start cooking in it, you'll find there are a few key distinctions. The comal is a flat griddle with thin edges. Due to its weight and the heat it can retain, you don't typically move it like you would a frying pan. Unlike non-stick cookware, these circular or oblong pans impart a special flavor to carne asada and vegetables that you can't easily replicate. A comal is often used to prepare and warm up tortillas, bake items in the oven, and can generally handle very high heat. 

Since a comal also consists of cast iron, you have to season the pan. To do an initial seasoning, you start by rubbing the exterior in oil and setting it in a preheated oven at 350 F for an hour. It also doesn't handle moisture well and can develop rust if not cleaned in a similar fashion to a cast iron pan.

The best items to cook in a comal

According to MasterClass, the comal first saw use as far back as 700 B.C. in Mexico and Central America, and street vendors have used the pan to serve up food for generations. While you could use a comal to quickly heat up tortillas, Central American cooks have used this special pan to toast chiles for salsas, heat up quesadillas, and sear meat for a variety of dishes. If you love deep, spicy flavors and always wanted to get the perfect carne asada flavor at home, a comal is the way to go. You can treat it as you would a griddle pan, and it can even stand up to the grill. As MasterClass suggests, to cook meat with a comal, you first heat the pan to medium-high heat, add some oil, and finally, place the meat in the center of the pan.

When you want to pick up a comal, many Latin American food stores keep them stocked (via The Spruce Eats). One bite of the perfect asada made with your new cookware can easily win over anyone who might doubt the importance of this time-tested pan.