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We recently got an earthenware tagine. However, being earthenware, it can't be directly exposed to the stove flames. The manual calls for a heat diffuser, but those are apparently impossible to find (there's a store 45 minutes away in another city that might have some).

I know you can use a cast-iron skillet as a heat diffuser in a pinch, but we don't have one large enough. What we do have, however, is a large cast-iron grill pan. I initially thought that the ridges inside it would be a problem, causing uneven heating, and thus dismissed that idea -- but after some searching it looks like the overwhelming majority of heat diffusers actually have ridges, domes, holes, or other surface features that would produce uneven heating anyways!

So...can I safely use a cast-iron grill pan as a heat diffuser? If not, why not? In either case, what's the purpose of the various surface features on heat diffusers that prevent them from uniformly contacting the cookware on top of them?

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I see absolutely no reason not to do that. As you say, the very nature of diffusers is that they aren't smooth. Keep in mind that it's not just extreme heat that you want to avoid, but also extreme changes in temperature. So you want to heat the tagine with the implement that you are using as a diffuser.

Also, unglazed earthenware tagines are usually seasoned. Is your tagine glazed? Apparently that process can also be called "healing" and involve garlic, although the term is from a different culture. Is it necessary to "heal" clay pots?

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  • Thank you, that's very helpful! It is glazed, and the manual that came with it says nothing about seasoning, but it's pretty barebones. – ToxicFrog Jan 3 '15 at 3:30
  • @ToxicFrog Then you should be fine, just keep the heat moderate and changes gradual. You may want to buy a diffuser someday, 'cause it'll be a lot lighter, but in the meantime, your grill pan will do the trick. – Jolenealaska Jan 3 '15 at 8:26
  • It's simmering on the stove now and smells delicious. No problems using the grill pan as a heat diffuser. Thanks! – ToxicFrog Jan 3 '15 at 22:52
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If you want a purpose-made diffuser, you can buy it online instead of trying to substitute something else. For example, Amazon has a large selection.

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