Tagines (the cooking vessel, not the stew) have lately enjoyed a fashionable comeback in cookware catalogs and food magazines. A shallower take on the Dutch oven, a tagine has a distinctive conical lid that makes for a dramatic presentation at the dinner table. According to tradition, the conical shape helps cooking performance as well: As steam rises during cooking, it condenses in the tip of the relatively cool lid (it's farther from the heat source than most lids) and drips back into the stew, conserving water in the process. Less steam loss means you can start off with less liquid to begin with and thus end up with more-concentrated flavors. Or so the story goes.
To put this theory to test, we brought equal amounts of water to a simmer in three tagines—a traditional terra cotta model and two modern versions—put the lids on, and let the water "cook" over low heat. We included our favorite Dutch ovens for comparison. After one hour, we measured the water left in each of the pots, and it was clear that the tagine's conical shape was not such an advantage after all. The big losers—literally—were one of the Dutch ovens and the traditional terra cotta tagine, which lost 16 percent and 30 percent of their water, respectively. (By contrast, the others lost only 8 to 9 percent.) More important than the shape of the pot were the lid's weight and fit: The leaky Dutch oven had the lightest lid, while the base and lid of the handmade terra cotta tagine simply didn't fit together as precisely as their machine-made counterparts.
What does all this loss mean when it's more than water cooking? Not much, said our tasters, after sampling five batches of Moroccan chicken. Although the amount of liquid left behind in the stews varied, that variance translated to little discernible flavor difference. If you're a stickler for tradition, choose a tagine with a heavy, tight-fitting lid. But a Dutch oven will do the job just as well.
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasn’t sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|Recommended with Reservations|
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.
For complete access to the results,
start a 14-Day Free Trial.
Start Your 14-Day Free Trial Membership
Every Recipe. Every Rating. Every Video from
Every Magazine & Every Episode!
- 8 years of Cook’s Country Foolproof Recipes
- Complete Cook’s Country TV Video Library
- 2,900+ Equipment Ratings and Ingredient Taste Tests
- Step-by-Step Technique Photos
- Save Favorites, Create Menus, Print Shopping Lists