Equipping a Moroccan Kitchen

Useful Kitchen Tools, Appliances and Essential Moroccan Cookware

Although a great number of Moroccans are adept at turning out memorable meals using only a modest assortment of cookware and tools, it's a different story in middle and upper-class kitchens. There, you'll likely find a wide range of tools, appliances, and cookware used to prepare not only Moroccan food but also dishes adopted from other lands.

The following list includes both traditional and modern cooking equipment, all of which are helpful in preparing and serving Moroccan food. I don't bother to include a basic set of pots and pans (I assume most home cooks already have them), or standard cutlery and table service, but I do draw attention to specific pieces which may be worth acquiring, as well as some traditional items of interest.

Do you have other suggestions for what should be included? Share your own top picks in Readers' Favorite Kitchen Tools and Gadgets.

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    Moroccan tajine dish
    Cecile Treal and Jean-Michel Ruiz / Getty Images

    A tagine is both a type of Moroccan cookware (the base doubles as a serving dish) and the name of the dish prepared in it. Although many of the recipes on this site include instructions for cooking in a conventional pot, if you plan to make tagines even only occasionally, you'll probably want to purchase tagine cookware. They're almost effortless to use, but do know you'll need to allow ample time for the traditional, slow-cooking process. If you purchase a clay or ceramic, the tagine will need to be seasoned before its first use.

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    Diffuser (Simmer Ring or Flame Tamer)

    These thin, round sheets of aluminum protect your clay or ceramic tagine from direct contact with the heating element, which can cause the tagine to crack. They also help to distribute the heat more evenly. You don't need an expensive one but definitely plan to buy a diffuser if you have a traditional tagine which you intend to use a stovetop.

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    Charcoal Brazier (Majmar)

    Although tagines can be used on a stovetop or in a slow oven, charcoal is traditionally favored as a heat source. Clay Moroccan braziers usually sport three "arm" supports, which hold the tagine high over the coals. If using a brazier that's relatively shallow like the one shown here, temperature can also be controlled by using a small amount of charcoal and "feeding" additional pieces as needed. Moroccan braziers can also be used to display tagines, or as portable grills for cooking other foods such as brochettes. Note that small metal braziers, both round and rectangular, are also used in Morocco.

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    Skewers (Qodban or M'Ghazel)

    Many homes have a sizable stash of skewers, enough to accommodate large extended family meals or holiday cookouts. Although they're easy to find year round, you're most likely to see skewers prominently displayed in stores in the days surrounding Eid Al-Adha, when brochettes and other grilled meats are especially popular.

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    Grill Basket

    Sausages getting grilled on the bonfire
    Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

    A grill basket with handle is important to have in Morocco since most mejmars (charcoal braziers and grills) are modest set-ups without built-in racks. Once you start using one, you'll find it essential to many of your grilling needs, since it allows you to hold food securely over the coals and easily flip everything over as needed.

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    This urn-shaped cooking vessel may look like a decor item, but it also has a practical use – to make slow-cooked oven stews. As with a tagine, the name tangia refers both to the vessel itself and the Marrakesh-style stew prepared in it.

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    These shallow, unglazed cooking vessels are primarily used to make fish tagines in the oven or over charcoal. While you can certainly use a tagine base for this purpose, a tagra is the cookware of choice for fish tagines in the north of Morocco.

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    In Morocco, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who uses instant couscous. Instead, the proper way to prepare the tiny grains of pasta is to steam the couscous several times in a couscoussier, which might be made of aluminum, clay, ceramic or stainless steel. This two-piece traditional Moroccan cookware consists of a base pot (called a gdra, barma or tanjra) for stewing and a large, deep basket (kessksss) for steaming. In addition to being essential to the preparation of couscous dishes such as Couscous with Seven Vegetables, couscoussiers are also used in Morocco for steaming rice, spinach or mallow leaves (to make khoubiza), broken vermicelli (to make seffa), and shredded msemen or meloui (to make rfissa).

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    Christine Benlafquih

    These large, heavy, shallow vessels are invaluable in Moroccan kitchens, where they double as work stations and serving dishes. A beautifully crafted wooden gsaa is increasingly hard to find; now clay and ceramic are the standard (and more affordable) materials. The flat interior of a gsaa makes a terrific work surface for kneading doughs, shaping msemen or other pan fried or baked treats, and the vessel itself is ideal for tossing and containing couscous in between steamings.

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    Christine Benlafquih

    I'm not sure if you can find a tbeq for purchase outside of North Africa, but a list of Moroccan cookware wouldn't be complete without showing this traditional woven platter. It's used primarily as a work surface for hand rolling couscous from semolina flour and water, a process that can also be accomplished in a gsaa (see item above), in a large plastic basin or bowl, or on a large round platter. Lined with a towel, a tbeq can also be used to hold and transport freshly baked breads.

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    Christine Benlafquih

    Another traditional kitchen item, a tbiqa is the Moroccan equivalent of an old-fashioned breadbox. Available in various sizes, this cone-shaped two-piece basket is designed for the storage of khobz, or Moroccan bread. Although still used for this purpose in some homes, I keep the one shown here as a decorative item, since I find the freezer far more useful for keeping bread fresh until needed.

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    A Moroccan kitchen will have at least one large capacity sieve, but several sieves of different sizes and calibers are usually considered essential. The sieves are used when hand rolling couscous, for separating bran or impurities from whole wheat and other flours, and for sifting dry ingredients before baking.

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    Pressure Cooker

    In many urban homes, pressure cookers have replaced traditional tagines as the preferred method for everyday cooking. In fact, it's not unusual to find Moroccan kitchens equipped with several pressure cookers of varying sizes. (See my review of a Fagor pressure cooker.) While definitely convenient because family meals can be cooked quickly, the final outcome of tagines prepared in pressure cookers will be a bit different in terms of texture, flavor, and quantity of sauce (you'll usually get more with a pressure cooker). That's not to say that pressure cooked dishes are undesirable; far from it! In addition to stews and tagines, pressure cookers are used to rapidly steam meats and vegetables and to cook rice and soups.

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    Brazier Pot or Large Stock Pot (Tanjra)

    Stock pots are standard cookware in almost any kitchen, but most Moroccan homes also have at least one extra large capacity brazier pot or stock pot (tanjra). These prove useful when cooking for a large family or preparing food for a social gathering or special event. I use my brazier pot for cooking multiple chickens, stewing lots of onions (the extra wide bottom is helpful for reducing large quantities of vegetables or liquids) or making extra large batches of soup such as harira.

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    Scented Water Dispenser

    I admit it – you really don't need a scented water dispenser, but they do make lovely decor and conversation pieces and add a traditional Moroccan touch to a company meal or to your home. The dispensers are filled with orange flower water or rose water, which can be shaken out of the dispenser to freshen hands before or after eating. It's important to note that both fragrant waters also have culinary value in Moroccan cuisine.

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    Moroccan Tea Pot (Berrad) and Glasses

    Africa,Morocco, Mint tea on a tray
    Eric TEISSEDRE / Getty Images

    Proper tea service is a must in Moroccan homes – even if you don't drink mint tea or other kinds of Moroccan tea yourself! That's because it's Moroccan etiquette to offer tea to guests, no matter what time of day they drop by. Your berrad need not be fancy but do be sure to offer the tea in glasses and not cups.

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    Serving Trays

    It seems that a Moroccan home can not have too many serving trays. From casual, cheap plastic to ornately decorated metalwork, trays of assorted sizes are an etiquette must, even if serving a single glass of water. While some of this is due to protocol for showing proper hospitality to a guest, the need for trays also arises from the set-up of a traditional Moroccan home, where the kitchen is not typically a convening space for a family. Instead, beverages, snacks, and full meals all must be transported from the preparation area to the dining area, which traditionally is a low, round table surrounded by sedaris in the family or formal salon. This style seating is ideal for the Moroccan custom of eating from communal plates. In larger or modern homes, however, it's definitely becoming more common to find a dinette set in the kitchen or a separate dining room with European style table and chairs.

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    Serving Platters

    Traditional Moroccan Hors d'oevres
    Floris Leeuwenberg / Getty Images

    As with serving trays (above), serving platters are a must in Moroccan homes. The tradition of eating from communal plates necessitates having at least several platters of various sizes; even more platters are required when seating guests at two or more tables, or when offering a multiple course meal. My largest platters can easily hold a dish or bastilla intended to serves 8 or more. The platters are also used to present communal salad medleys, fresh fruit arrangements, and dessert selections. An Asian-influenced peacock motif is a particularly popular design in Morocco, but you'll see platters in all kinds and colors.

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    Soup Tureen

    Proper soup service is another etiquette must, particularly when serving guests. In Morocco, soup tureens can be found in a wide variety of patterns, with matching bowls available separately or as part of a set. Although in a casual setting it's not unusual for Moroccans to "drink" their soup directly from the bowl, lemon wood soup spoons are another traditional way to enjoy a bowl of steaming hot harira.

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    Hand Crank Meat Grinder

    In a traditional Moroccan kitchen, table clamp manual meat grinders are useful for making kefta, homemade almond paste for pastries such as kaab el ghazal, and piping the cookie dough for helwa dyal makina. In the most modern of kitchens, however, you might find the manual grinder has been replaced by an electric meat grinder or a food grinder attachment for a stand mixer.

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    Food Mill

    Although many kitchens make good use of blenders and food processors, a manual food mill is still a kitchen essential in Morocco. It's used to puree vegetables and soups, strain stewed tomatoes for soups and pasta sauces, juice pomegranate seeds and other fruit, and more. Look for a food mill which includes fine, medium and coarse milling discs.

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    Double Burner Griddle

    My double griddle is one of my favorite (and most frequently used) pieces of cookware. It comes in handy for quickly preparing family-friendly quantities of Moroccan stove top breads such as batbout and harcha. I also use it to make various forms of rghaif which traditionally were cooked in earthenware frying pans. Non-stick or cast iron frying pans can be used for all of these, but the process of cooking one-by-one can become tedious.

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    Grill Pan

    Ridged grill pans are not traditional Moroccan cookware, but I use mine so frequently that I now consider it an essential piece of cooking equipment. Available in singe burner and double burner models, these heavy, ridged pans can be used over high heat to sear meats and drain fats away while the meat cooks. Some models reverse to a flat-sided griddle. They're very useful when the weather doesn't allow you to fire up the grill, or when you want to quickly cook sandwich fillers like kefta, steak or turkey breast.

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    Non-Stick Crepe Pan

    Whether or not to invest in a whole set of non-stick cookware is a matter of personal preference, but at the minimum consider getting a good crepe pan. Although French crepes are indeed made and served here, many Moroccans reserve a small crepe pan to be used exclusively for making , a yeasty pancake distinguished by hundreds of holes on its surface.

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    Mortar and Pestle

    Mortar and pestle
    Christine Benlafquih

    The old Moroccan brass mortar and pestle shown here is called a mehraz, and it's used just as you might imagine – for crushing fresh herbs and whole spices and mixing pastes such as and marinades like chermoula.

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    Double Handled Mincing Knife

    I prefer my chef's knife (see next item), but these double-handled mincing knives enjoy popularity in Moroccan kitchens, where hefty quantities of fresh parsley and cilantro need to be minced with some regularity. They get put to good use in Ramadan, when daily kitchen prep work can be considerable, and you'll likely see them on sale in Moroccan stores in the days leading up to Eid Al-Adha.

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    Chef's Knife

    Chef's knife
    Siri Stafford / Getty Images

    I use my chef's knife daily, so I'm always surprised by how many home cooks don't own one. They can be used for cutting, slicing, chopping, and mincing. An 8" blade is a good all-purpose length, but know that chef's knives do come in varying sizes. Be sure to also pick up a knife sharpening steel to keep the blade in top condition.

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    Long Serrated Knife

    A long serrated bread knife is useful for far more than slicing bread. I also use mine for slicing tomatoes, onions, oranges, cakes, sandwiches and more.

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    Paring Knife

    Even if you don't cook daily, a good paring knife is a must-have in your cutlery drawer. Aside from that, the reason I'm including it on this list is to point out the fact that in many Moroccan kitchens, this little knife suffices as a vegetable peeler, onion chopper, meat cutter, fruit knife, herb mincer and more. In other words, it is regarded as the tool of choice for many tasks that you may consider worthy of separate gadgets or much bigger knives.

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    Cutting Boards

    Moroccan meal preparation usually involves a significant amount of chopping and slicing. If you have space for only one cutting board, a large sized one will likely prove most practical, but I like to keep an assortment of boards within easy reach. That way I can grab a small, lightweight one for quickly slicing a tomato or onion, or work with raw meats on one cutting board and prep the veggies on another.

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    Dough Scraper

    Dough scraper
    Christine Benlafquih

    If you work somewhat regularly with bread doughs, this inexpensive kitchen tool can really help with a quick cleanup of your work area. You can also use it to cut through and divide the dough, scrape cutting boards clean, and transfer chopped veggies and other foods to the frying pan.

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    Box Grater

    You don't need an expensive box grater, but do look for one that will hold up to regular use. In Moroccan cooking, you'll be grating tomatoes, onions, carrots, Armenian cucumbers, and more. Finer grating blades can be used to zest citrus fruit or to grate fresh nutmeg and garlic. You'll need to compare models to see which might work best for you; some box graters have a slicing blade, while others don't.

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    Kitchen Shears

    Steel kitchen scissors, multipurpose, above view.
    Steve Gorton / Getty Images

    Keep a sturdy pair of scissors handy for culinary tasks, or invest in a quality pair of kitchen shears. I use mine when cleaning and cutting raw poultry, trimming fat and stray bones from steaks or other meat, prepping large bunches of herbs, and cutting sandwich friendly strips from cooked poultry or steak fillets.

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    Wooden Spoons

    Get a variety of sizes, shapes and handle lengths and use them in your everyday cooking. Wooden spoons won't react with acidic ingredients, they're gentle enough to use on non-stick cookware (you can smooth any rough edges with a piece of sandpaper) and are strong enough to effectively work heavy ingredients or stiff batters.

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    Asian Strainer

    You can use a heat-resistant slotted spoon when frying, but these Asian strainers are particularly handy for some Moroccan frying jobs which require a quick transfer of food from the hot oil, such as when making chebakia or almond briouats. For general frying, you'll find that the design of the Asian strainer allows you to remove more food at a time while allowing for quicker and more complete drainage of oil than you'll get with a slotted spoon.

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    Citrus Juicer

    If you live anywhere in the world where fresh juice oranges are readily available and affordable, an electric citrus juicer will quickly be appreciated. My own inexpensive little machine gets quite a workout, particularly in Ramadan, and I am seriously considering upgrading to a good manual citrus press. You'll see these presses in action in Moroccan souks and on city streets, where vendors sell freshly squeezed orange juice by the glass.

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    Spice and Coffee Grinder

    Not every kitchen needs one, but these little electronics are useful if you appreciate the flavor of freshly ground coffee and espresso, or don't have a mortar and pestle for grinding dry spices.

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    Moka Stovetop Espresso Maker

    Stove top espresso makers are still fairly standard in Moroccan homes, where they've retained popularity despite the prevalence of much bulkier electric coffee and espresso makers. Drink some Moroccan spiced coffee brewed in one and you'll see why. You may want to get mokas in two sizes; one for personal or family use, and a larger one for serving company. A tandem purchase of a milk steamer and frother may also be a good idea.

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    Blender with Frozen Juice
    Alexandra Grablewski / Getty Images

    Fruit shakes, smoothies, and juice blends are popular beverages in Morocco, making a blender an essential kitchen electronic. Blenders can also be used for pureeing soups, chopping foods, and making nut pastes. I prefer a glass container, but plastic and stainless steel are also available.

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    Food Processor

    My own large capacity food processor is an invaluable piece of kitchen equipment. I use it to make homemade mayonnaise, process large quantities of herbs, grind almonds to a paste, puree soups, process bread crumbs, prep ingredients for harira, make dough for multiple pie crusts, and even blend smoothies and fruit juices. On occasion I could benefit from a smaller capacity processor, particularly when processing smaller quantities of nuts, so be sure that what you're buying is well suited to your needs.

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    Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

    Red stand mixer
    Elizabeth Livermore / Getty Images

    I so value my Kitchen Aid heavy duty stand mixer that it's tempting to put it first on this list. Instead, I'm putting it last because it's not standard kitchen equipment in Morocco, where it remains overpriced presumably due to the import taxes imposed on vendors. (However, similar but more affordable stand mixers by European makers are available and gaining popularity in Morocco.) I use my Kitchen Aid to make serious quantities of bread doughs (I have a large family), make hard-to-knead, sticky sweet doughs like krachel, mix batter for multiple cakes (Moroccan Orange Cake is a personal favorite), quickly whip the loveliest of meringues, and the list goes on. A variety of attachments can be purchased as well, including food grinders, citrus juicers, and even an ice cream maker. If you bake with any regularity, the Kitchen Aid is a mixer that will definitely pay for itself over time. My current machine is 11 years old, is used at least several times a week, and has never needed repair service.