Now that you have your beautiful, custom Not Your Mama’s Comal, you might be wondering how to care for it. Can I wash it? Can I put it in the dishwasher? The short answer is No. Our comales are not your typical cast iron comales, hence the name “Not Your Mama’s Comal”; however, being made of steel they should be treated much like you would your cast iron pots and pans.
Growing up my mama had frying pans and Dutch ovens made of cast iron in addition to the comal. We would cook most of our food with these pots and pans. I remember the best fried potatoes were cooked in that frying pan. As you would imagine it required a great deal of oil, which is likely why the fried potatoes were so darn good!
When we use oil we tend to want to wash it all off, e.g. “Dawn takes grease out of your way.” In fact, when it comes to cast iron, oil is your friend. If you've ever cooked with cast iron you've likely experienced the food sticking to the pan. Cast iron is porous and therefore it absorbs the oil, but in doing so it can soak up fairly quickly so the more oil the better.
Of course it’s difficult to scrub off residue from food without using water so the way I used to do it growing up was to use water very sparingly, just enough to scrape any cooked on food, rinsed off quickly and then immediately placed on the stove on high heat to dry the pan as soon as possible. When it comes to the griddle it is usually unnecessary to use water at all, especially if you’re only using it for making tortillas or roasting chile. This is ideal because then it cures faster and more easily and it stays cured. Just use oil over heat.
Because steel is less porous than cast iron it should take less oil and less time to fully cure the comal. Once its cured, if you need to clean it just wipe it with a dry towel. If it’s "dirty" you could consider some water but, again, you must dry it immediately and I would recommend using more oil. You should also ask yourself, what would be causing it to become dirty? Unless you're using it in the dirt then it's probably residue from the metal. This means you should clean/cure it enough to get rid of excess metal.
Incidentally, did you know that cooking frequently with cast iron could result in excessive blood iron levels? Some of the iron leaches from the pans during cooking. The good news is that steel is more inert and although it is actually an alloy of iron and other metals, due to the way it is manufactured it is less likely to cause an increase in these metals in the body. Non-slip cooking pans containing such things as Teflon, on the other hand, which is made of harmful chemicals, are actually dangerous to use for cooking at all, particularly at high heat levels. Stainless steel is likely the best choice for cooking all the way around but, alas, it is much more costly than other types of materials and difficult to find. We have found a middle ground with using regular steel, although you can expect to pay a little more than you would for cast iron.
As we know, metal is prone to rust when exposed to the elements, namely water so the longer it sits with water on the surface the more likely it will rust and the more difficult it would be to get rid of that rust (although we know it can be done also).
I hope this blog post helps those who are wondering how to care for their comal. We welcome comments and questions and if you have made tortillas with your comal and you want to share photos of the designs feel free to post them here. Also, if you do have a comal we would appreciate a review on our web page, and our Facebook page. Enjoy your designer fresh (or store-bought) tortillas!