The seemingly simplest things that have existed in human civilization for more than one millennium turn out to be, in fact, not so simple. An example of this is a cauldron. In Turkic languages, "kazan" is just a saucepan, but in Uzbekistan (and in Russia) this word is used to refer to a thick-walled cauldron with a spherical bottom. They cooked in a cauldron since ancient times, cooking in a cauldron is easy, a cauldron makes food especially tasty!
Taming the fire
Kazan has become very popular in Russian cuisines. In books and on the Internet, you can find hundreds of recipes for preparing certain dishes. It describes a set of ingredients, the order in which they are bookmarked, but does not say anything about fire. Where should the fire burn - under the bottom of the cauldron or on the sides, what intensity should it be? And a recipe without a description of the heating method has no value, since different dishes can be obtained with different heat treatment modes of the same products. Or it may not work at all.
Indeed, in fact, a cauldron (as well as a saucepan or frying pan) is an intermediary between fire and food. The result that we get depends on the correct and timely heating. It must be remembered that the metal has a high thermal conductivity and average heat capacity. The fire instantly heats it up to high temperatures. And products - vegetables, meat - consist mostly of water, the heat capacity of which is high, and the thermal conductivity is low. If, for example, a tomato touches the metal surface of the cauldron during cooking, the side in contact with the metal will burn, while the central part of the fruit will remain barely warm. You can mix food - for this, in the case of a cauldron, a skimmer of a special rounded shape is used. But there is a more effective way - to tame the fire.
The popularity of pilaf in Russia
It can be said without exaggeration that the cauldron played an outstanding role in the history of the Eurasian continent. Nomads rolling from East to West, such as the Mongols, needed a compact kitchen fixture that functionally matched the stove of sedentary peoples. And the cauldron became such a device. The Turks raised flocks of sheep and, leading a semi-nomadic lifestyle, cultivated cereals and ground the grains into flour. The third component is spices: wild onions, roots are available everywhere. Often, the nomads did not have baked bread, they cooked dough together with meat in a cauldron - this is how the ancient beshbarmak dish arose, which became the ancestor of numerous dishes of the “bread plus meat” type - from dumplings to pizza. Nowadays, many believe that cooking in a cauldron requires a special oven. Not at all - the nomads did just fine with the very hole that I talked about at the beginning of the article. One of the walls of this pit was made shallow so that it was possible to put fuel, and the rest were laid out with stones and clay. Stones and clay have a thermal conductivity comparable to water. They slowly absorb heat, and then slowly release it. At the first stage of cooking, when fat was heated in the cauldron and meat was fried, the fire burned directly under the bottom of the cauldron. But he also gradually heated the soil and stones that formed the walls of the pit. When vegetables were laid, and then cereals, a more gentle heat was required. And then the coals were raked out from the bottom of the pit, leaving, perhaps, only a little warm ash, but the cauldron continued to cook - now it was heated by stones and clay. With this mode, the food turned out to be stewed. Which explains the popularity of Uzbek cuisine, especially pilaf, in Russia. Just a few generations ago, Russian people ate dishes from a Russian oven, which, while cooling down, processed food with low-intensity heat. This is very similar to what happens in a cauldron.
How to defeat paste?
So, the main feature of the cauldron as a kind of culinary system is the three-dimensional distribution of heat, which we can never achieve from an ordinary flat-bottomed saucepan standing on the stove. For the upper layers of the dish, we can have a separate, special heat treatment mode. And what kind of regime it will be depends on the dish. The main enemy of good pilaf is starch, of which rice basically consists. No matter how you wash the cereals, some of the starch will still combine with the hot liquid and you will get a paste that will prevent the aromatic fat saturated with the juice of meat and vegetables from saturating the rice. However, at a sufficiently high temperature (98-102 ° C), starch in the presence of acid decomposes into monosaccharides - glucose. When the pilaf is a success, the Uzbeks say: "It is sweet." Indeed, rice fed with oil tastes sweet, of course, due to glucose. How to maintain the temperature? Cover the cauldron with a lid! But if you cover it with a heavy cast-iron lid (like in cauldrons produced by industry), the heat-consuming and heat-conducting metal will take away all the heat from the rice. Moreover, by radiating heat outward, the lid will cool and condense moisture on itself, which will rain on the rice. A good pilaf will definitely not come out. But if you replace the metal cover with a wooden one - hygroscopic and low heat-conducting, and even cover it with a heat-insulating cover (for example, a dressing gown), the pilaf will turn out to be sweet!
But the traditional shurpa soup is cooked without a lid. Moreover, according to the traditions of Central Asian cuisine, someone should be on duty at the cauldron who will scoop up the broth with a scoop and then pour it back into the cauldron in a thin stream. This oriental culinary technique is widely discussed on the Internet, giving rise to numerous, sometimes absurd hypotheses. But in reality, everything is simple: fatty pieces of meat, like a float, rise to the upper layers of the liquid, and it is very important that they are cooked not in boiling water, but in a less hot broth. Then the meat takes longer to cook, but remains juicy, pink and retains its natural texture. This is the same low-temperature cooking that became fashionable among European chefs three decades ago. But with the help of a cauldron, they have been able to do this for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Does all of the above mean that those who want to experiment with a cauldron will definitely have to dig a hole in the country or take care of the construction of a furnace? No, there are other options. For example, a special stand allows you to provide 3D heating on a conventional gas stove. Now, in cooperation with one of the companies that produce restaurant equipment, we have developed an electric cauldron. It is heated by three heating elements - spirals, and each spiral is responsible for its own area - bottom, middle level, top. With the help of such a device, one can quite accurately simulate the traditional cooking method (first intense heating at the top, then gentle on the side), but also experiment - for example, first heating the upper layers, and only then the lower ones. There are almost no recipes designed for this method of heating, but the expansion of possibilities always entails a burst of creativity.
Solving a simple secret
The best option for using a cauldron in a summer cottage would be a special oven
The diagram of such a furnace is shown in the figure. By moving the fuel inside the furnace, it is possible to achieve a gradual heating of the cauldron, first from the bottom, and then on the sides. It is almost impossible to do something like this on a gas stove. A certain result can be achieved by heating the cauldron directly with the fire of the burner at the initial stage, and then using the divider when "gentle" heat is required.
Kazan is a work of art
When smoke stops coming out of the cauldron and the inner surface becomes lighter, you can create carbon deposits anew.
The photo shows an old copper cauldron. The preparation of illustrations for the book has become a separate technological story. It is easy to photograph a dish from the outside, but how to show what is happening inside, in a cooking dish? To do this, an ordinary cauldron had to be cut in half and glued to the half of a special heat-resistant glass. A special elastic glue was also needed, otherwise, due to the difference in the coefficients of thermal expansion of glass and cast iron, the glass could crack. And the result was a photo like the one that opens this article.
From firewood to electricity
This is exactly how the traditional cooking technology in a cauldron looked like, as shown in the figure - it is still used today. The fire at the bottom of the hole not only heats the cauldron, but also allows the sides of stones and clay to accumulate heat, which is used for the next stage of cooking.
Of course, these days we can completely do without earthwork and use the cauldron indoors.
In order to cook in a cauldron using a gas stove, you can construct a simple device (sacrificing a couple of pots). The fire burns inside a small ring that does not reach the bottom of the cauldron. Hot air rises to the bottom of the cauldron and cannot sink down into the gap between the rings until it gives up its heat to the sides of the cauldron. You can organize absolutely uniform and at the same time slow boiling by substituting a divider. In a cauldron standing on such a hearth, water does not boil from the bottom, but from the sides, as in a brick hearth.