In Hispanic kitchens, calderos, or Dutch ovens are the workhorse pots used to cook rice, beans, braise meat and simmer stews and soups. In my own kitchen, my Dutch oven pot is cast iron, an effective, but really heavy choice. IMUSA, makers of Hispanic and other ethnic cookware, has come up with a Non-stick Dutch oven that’s not only good for making those dishes that require long cooking times, but it’s also amazingly lightweight.
IMUSA’s 6.9 Quart Non-stick Caldero is made of cast aluminum, which makes it lightweight. In fact, this big Dutch oven with lid weighs less than 4 pounds. My much smaller cast iron version with lid weighs nearly 2 ½ timesas much. The IMUSA Caldero is 100% oven safe (up to 535 degrees F.) and can be transferred from stove to oven for one-pot cooking.
I tested this Caldero with three recipes I traditionally use with my cast iron Dutch oven: lamb shanks, carnitas, and zucchini chowder. With each, the Caldero performed beyond my expectations.
The lamb shank recipe requires browning the shanks before braising. The IMUSA Caldero is non-stick, but I wanted the shanks to get crispy brown so I added a bit of oil. First I noticed how roomy the Caldero is and then I noticed how rapidly the pan heated up. In fact, it heats more quickly than my cast iron pan, but it browned just as effectively.
My shank recipe calls for adding wine and stock along with a few veggies and spices, covering and letting it braise until fork tender. The Caldero simmered admirably and the lid, which has a lip to keep it sealed and dimples inside to prevent vapor lock, kept the steam and water inside the pot rather than all over the stove. It also cut the cooking time compared to my cast iron pot by about an hour. And the resulting lamb shank was deliciously juicy and tender.
Next I tested the IMUSA Caldero with my recipe for carnitas. The pork used to make carnitas tends to be a bit fatty and tough, requiring long braising to render the fat and make the meat tender. Like with the lamb shanks, the Caldero heated very quickly, probably due to the extra thick bottom that ensures even heat distribution and uniform cooking. It efficiently braised the meat and vegetables.
My carnitas recipe calls for reducing t 8 cups of liquid down to 2. This is usually a time consuming process that often takes longer than the 1 hour specified in the recipe, which is a problem because the meats needs the 2 cups of reduced liquid within an hour. With the Caldero, I was able to reduce the liquid in a quick 45 minutes.
My final test with IMUSA’s Caldero was zucchini chowder. Those who grow zucchini know how easily it is to become over run with this vegetable in the summer. Hating to waste food, I often make a delicious chowder with zucchini, onions, tomatoes, and corn that keeps well and tastes wonderful in the winter months. The great thing about using IMUSA’s Caldero is that the pot is so large I can double or even triple the recipe and make a huge batch at once, saving time and trouble.
When I sautéed the onions in the Caldero, they didn’t burn like then tend to do in my cast iron pot. The other veggies sautéed nicely and the lid made simmering the soup a snap. The result was soup for summer dinner and a bunch to store in my freezer for later.
The final difference I noticed with IMUSA’s Caldero is that it’s super easy to clean. Braising and stewing tends to “bake” food onto pans, making clean up difficult. With the Caldero, the food came off with no scrubbing. I simply used a plastic scrubber and easily wiped the pot clean.
The IMUSA Caldero comes with an intriguing cookbook that includes recipes like Moroccan Style Arroz con Pollo, Spanish Rice awith Corn and Olives, Braised Short Ribs, and even Dulce de Leche Rice Pudding. All of these recipes have been developed for IMUSA by Chef George Duran. We’ve featured and enjoyed many of Chef Duran’s recipes on realfoodtraveler.com.
With its big volume, featherweight, fast and even cooking, and easy clean up, IMUSA’s Non-stick Caldero has earned a permanent place in my kitchen. My only question is where am I going to store this big pot? – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor
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