Kitchen

Cast Iron Comal (Tortilla Pan)

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Heats tortillas and toasts bread

This Mexican pan is one that my wife and I have had for over a decade, and in the last few years we have been using it daily. It’s a simple 7″ diameter round piece of steel with a shallow lip and a loop welded on one side for handling and storage. Being simple, it’s nearly indestructible, though you have to ensure that you don’t leave it somewhere wet, because it will form rust if not dried. Clean up is simple however, with a quick scrub with just plain water or simply wiping off the crumbs usually sufficient to get it clean.

The pan is intended to heat tortillas to their proper temperature for eating, since cold tortillas are stiff, can be crumbly and not as flavorful. But when you live in California (as we did at the time we purchased this pan) and can get a stack of two or three dozen tortillas for a couple bucks at a local tiendita, this is the thing you want to get them ready to eat.

However, my wife and I recently downsized significantly from a large house to a 600 square foot apartment, and in doing so, we rid ourselves of lots of countertop appliances to save space. To our delight, we found that this little comal serves perfectly as a low-tech toaster for bread. We just put the slice of bread on a cold comal, and then heat it using medium-low heat. It takes a few minutes to toast the first side of toast, but once heated up it makes quick work of toast, toasting sides quickly, evenly, and for as long as you like. It’s difficult to overheat a piece of steel! We have even used it for heating mildly greasy things like cold pizza slices and crab cakes, though you need to ensure that you don’t let things burn on it, as this makes it a bit of a chore to clean. But the slight amounts of grease have seasoned it nicely, and make it easier to clean.

The thing I love about this, for anyone who has owned many, many toasters and toaster ovens knows, is that it is dead simple, and will never break. As long as you haven’t allowed it to rust and you have access to a heat source, this little comal is going to keep doing what it does.

You can find these on the internet for $10-15. Do NOT pay more. If you go into a local tiendita in your area, you should be able to pick one up for under $8.

-- Kurt Ankeny-Beauchamp 10/26/15