The Spanish Cooking Dishes Bobby Flay Can't Go Without

When it comes to show stopping meals, there's one piece of cookware for chef Bobby Flay that he turns to time and time again for its functionality and charming presentation: the Spanish cooking vessel called the cazuela.

A cazuela is a Spanish earthenware clay dish that can be used for everything from stewing beans to poaching seafood. For at least two decades, Flay has roasted shrimp or poached squid in chile-infused oil with cazuelas. He also reaches for them when cooking mushrooms, garlic, and shallots.

Not only are these terracotta-like sauté pans perfect for roasting, but they can come straight from the oven, still sizzling, to your dinner table, much like the fanfare of a fajitas platter brought to your seat by a waiter. Plus, it' functions as both a cooking pan and a dining plate, so this means fewer dishes to wash.

While these rounded cooking dishes come in variety of sizes (from several inches to feet), the Food Network star prefers cazuelas that are around eight inches in diameter (via Bon Appetit). Unlike aluminum or stainless steel, Flay told The New York Times that he prefers cazuelas because they "have a very even heat, like the al forno dishes in Italy."

Cazuelas bring dinner sizzling from the oven to the table

While used for thousands of years, the cazuela was known for a style of 19th and 20th-century cooking called cocina pobre, or poor cooking, when Spain experienced political and economic turbulence. The dish is also used in other Latin American and South American countries like Mexico and Chile

What makes a cazuela such a dynamic pot or pan is that it's made of clay. This feature allows the earthenware to not just conduct heat from the flame, but the vessel itself takes on, retains, and emits heat to the food. The inside is glazed so that food doesn't seep through the permeable clay.

Because of its unique composition, cazuelas need to be cured before use. Typically, cazuelas are plunged in water to keep the clay moisturized and prevent breakage. Furthermore, cazuelas need to be utilized gradually to make sure they aren't exposed to temperatures over 400 degrees in the oven until after the first six uses.

Cazuelas can be purchased online or in many Spanish or Mexican markets. Whether you're looking to make a paella or roasted shrimp, a cazuela is a type of dish that, in the same New York Times article, Flay says results in a "festive, relaxed way of eating."