Cataplana is both the name of a food and the pan it is cooked in. The best way to describe the Portuguese Cataplana pan is as two copper bowls hinged together at one end. This creates a tight seal that allows the steam from cooking to remain in the vessel thereby keeping all the aromas inside the pot, creating an intense flavor. The seals allows recipes to use less fat and therefore results in healthier cooking.
Our Portuguese Cataplanas are hand hammered copper with copper hinges, handles and closure clamps. The inside of the Cataplana is lined with tin and the bottom is flat which make the pot very sturdy while cooking. Because of copper’s excellent heat conducting abilities and the pot's concave shape, the heat is distributed up the sides very quickly making the Cataplana more efficient and thus requiring less energy. In addition the tin-lined interior reduces foods from sticking to the bottom of the Cataplana.
The Cataplana is not only a beautiful piece, but it will soon become your favorite piece.
How we measure
Portuguese Cataplana is not only used throughout the Algarve region in Portugal where it first gained popularity, but has become a popular tool in the many Portuguese kitchens. In yesteryears, Cataplanas were carried by fishermen in their fishing vessels where they would steam their catch right on their boats. Portuguese hunters were also known to carry onion and other vegetables in their cataplanas, to later use the same vegetables in their cataplanas on an open fire to cook the wild animals they caught.
Today it is used to cook many Mediterranean dishes, including mussels, clams and scallops or seafood in general.
The Portuguese Cataplana is meant for use on a stovetop or open flame, but can be placed in a conventional oven (not microwave) if desired. Despite the shiny appearance of our Portuguese Cataplana, there is no glaze or polish used, so simply wash it with mild soap and water prior to its first use.
To use the Cataplana, remove the pin that comes attached to one of the halves of the cataplana. Invert one of the sections and place the two sections next to each other at the hinge, aligning the two hinges in position. Insert the pin across all sections of the hinge. Close the two halves keeping the flat side as the bottom. Once the ingredients are placed in the pan according to the recipe, to seal in the flavors, close the lid of the Cataplana and secure it with the locking clamps on either side. You should never place an empty Cataplana onto heat or fire in order to ensure the long life of the tin-lined interior.
To clean after cooking, hand washed with mild soap and a soft sponge or washcloth, drying it immediately to avoid stains. You should not use steel wool or scouring pads as they may damage or scratch the surface. You should also avoid harsh detergent or dishwashers as these may accelerate the oxidation process of the outer copper lining and reduce the life span of the vessel. For food that is stuck on, allow the pan to soak overnight in water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid. For especially tough stains on the inside tin surface, use a paste made of vinegar and baking soda. Apply the paste with a soft cloth or sponge and let it sit for a short while. Rub the stain until it is gone the wash completely with mild soap and water and dry immediately. Do not any use metal utensils while cooking as these could scratch the surface.
Over time, the outer copper layer will naturally darken and develop what is called a “patina”. To remove the patina, you can rub the outside with a vinegar-salt solution. To keep the exterior looking new, you can also use a copper polish and follow the manufacturer’s instruction.
Likewise, tin will darken and smooth over time. This is actually a good thing and will improve the pan’s performance. However, if you like the tin lining shiny, you can keep it that way using a galvanic technique. To do so, fill the pan with water and bring to a boil. Removing it from the heat and dissolve 1 – 3 Tbsp. each of non-iodized table salt and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Place a large sheet of aluminum foil folded several times inside the water and weight it down with a wooden spoon (or other non-metallic object) leaving it for about 30 minutes. The combination of ingredients will cause an oxidation reaction which will result in brightening of the tin.
If there one thing common on any Portuguese table, it is salt cod or bacalhau. this recipe is a great example and a fantastic way to use a Cataplana.