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A comal is a griddle that has been traditionally used in Mexican cooking. The term comal is believed to come from the Aztec word comalli, which was also used to describe the cooking tool. It is a very versatile cooking tool that can be used to prepare a number of dishes. It can be used to sear meat, cook tortillas, and even cure spices. It can also be used to toast raw coffee and cacao beans so that they are ready for culinary use.
There is a similar type of cookware that is used in South America. Instead of being called a comal, in South America, the cookware is called a budare.Culinary history indicates that the comal has been used in the region that is present-day Mexico since the pre-Columbian era. The earliest comals were used primarily to cook corn tortillas. The cooking was done over an open fire.
Upon first seeing a comal, a person acclimated to European-influenced Western cooking would probably think that he or she was looking at a cast iron skillet. The designs are quite similar. The differences are that a comal often as a lower lip than a cast iron skillet, meaning that it has a shallower well.
Unlike cast iron skillets, comals are not ideal for making stews or dishes cooked in a great deal of sauce. Furthermore, many comals do not have the kinds of pan handles that cast iron skillets do. Instead, they might just have two short handles, or even no handles at all.
Although the first comal was used many centuries ago, this Mexican kind of griddle has become adopted as a valuable tool in many modern kitchens. The comals that are made today are designed to fit on a modern stove. The round ones are sized to fit over one burner. There are also oval varieties that are designed to fit over two burners on the stove.
The care for comals is quite similar to the care for cast iron skillets. The cast iron must be kept seasoned, which can be done by rubbing olive oil over its entire surface after cleaning it. As comals age, much like cast iron skillets, they become more effective cooking tools because they heat more quickly and are easier to cook with. For this reason, in many families, it is tradition for a comal to be handed down between generations as an heirloom.
A comal is a nice griddle to invest in, if you love to cook Mexican food on a regular basis, like I do! I use mine at least once a week, usually to make different types of soft taco's or quesadilla's.
If you have ever had a tortilla fresh off an comal, especially a comal that has been properly seasoned and passed down through many generations, you will understand why nothing beats a comal in making the best, most flavorful tortillas.
I have used mine to cure spices and cook meats, but I haven't used it to toast raw coffee beans, although this sounds like a good idea to add to some dishes that need a bite to them.