The perfect pan for a Spanish omelette


Here it is!  The perfect pan for a Spanish omelette.  Not too big, not too small, nice and deep. The eggs cook slowly and evenly and they don’t stick at all.  Here’s proof. I’m using an ordinary dinner knife to lift the omelette, about two thirds done at this point, away from the pan.  And yes these “tortillas españolas” are very popular in Mexico.

Here’s the empty pan after being used half a dozen times.  Isn’t it gorgeous?


And just compare it to this pan in Velasquez’s stunning painting of an old woman cooking eggs.  I’m not frying but the nagging worry I have had for years that the eggs were going to stick before Velasquez finished the painting is now put to rest.

Aside. He was in his late teens when he created this painting. Inspiring or depressing or both?

Mine came from Morelos by way of Claudio Poblete at Culinaria Mexicana and cost just five dollars.

But I know what you are thinking.  What about the glaze?  What about the lead?

Well the glaze is 100% plant-based, not a smiden of lead.  I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say what it is.  Claudio, if you read this, let me know.

In honor of Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking which is on my must-buy list for the US and with a nod to Steve Sando, fellow sleuth for great Mexican pots.

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18 thoughts on “The perfect pan for a Spanish omelette

  1. Judith Klinger, Aroma Cucina

    So with you on the clay pots! I love my clay pots, in all their shapes and sizes. They are also crazy cheap in Umbria so it makes collecting them more of a pleasure. Now if I could figure out a shelving system where the lids aren’t falling all over and the big heavy pots weren’t on the highest shelf, life would be about perfect.
    I love the look of yours and also can’t wait to get a copy of Ms. Wolfert’s new book.

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Agreed to all that Judith. And I loved your most recent post about grape skin flour. These capers (human not vegetable) are such a delight and always shed unexpected light on cooking.

  2. Steve Sando

    I’ve heard that it’s only the bright colors that have dangerous lead, but I think that’s wishful thinking. I’ve also heard you need a slow-cooked acidic dish to leach the lead into your pot, but who knows?
    I’d think you could do this in a Spanish cazuela, as well.
    I should point out I wouldn’t have purchased my first pot if it weren’t for Paula Wolfert!

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Well, I use low fired, glazed Mexican pots all the time as you know Steve. But this is different. You have to follow this up with Claudio.

  3. Kay Curtis

    When my son&fam visited Guanajuato some years ago they bought some dinner plates that could serve other purposes if the lead content was too high, though the maker declared the lead-free. At home in USA they bought a small inexpensive test kit to tell them lead levels. Some plates has low levels of lead and they decided to use these for cool or dry food presentation.

  4. Steve Sando

    I’m sure your pan is lead-free if Claudio says it is.

    Do you remember the guy in San Felipe who specialized in little drinking cups? He was so proud that his stuff was lead free. Most of the others didn’t seem to care one way or the other.

    I guess I should be worried about lead but I’m not and I’m not sure why.

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Sure. I still have the little cups, not my favorite Mexican design but a memory of a great day. I’m with you on lead.

  5. Adam Balic

    This painting by Velasquez is the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. One of my favourite paintings in the collection. I think that the pot that the old lady is using is a cazuela, rather then a frying pan (specific Spanish names for these in Mexico? Paella?). The same frying pans are still used in Spain, France and Italy. In general I’ve found them to be very non-stick, but tend to suffer a bit when thermally shocked.

    The same frying pans were also used in England (

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Great site by the way, though I don’t see these shapes on a quick glance. And many are salt glazed or high fired. But I see myself spending way too much there next time I visit England.

  6. Judith Klinger, Aroma Cucina

    OK. Who knows why they put lead in the glaze in the first place? I just did a Google search and its all about identifying lead (there is talk about bright colors having lead, so Steve isn’t all crazy), leaching lead, or running like a scared dog from the nearest clay pot, but nothing about WHY lead is used.

    I can’t worry about lead levels either. On one hand, everyone around here has been using them for ages. On the other hand, I can count at least 6 seriously crazy people in out town of 800, so that’s high odds. I always blamed the water….

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Judith, I think the answer goes something like this. These are low fired pots, that is fired at at temperature that is lower than, say the china we normally buy. Big plus is that they don’t crack when put over a flame. Big problem is that they have to be sealed and not many glazes run at that temperature. Bet that’s all old hat to you!

  7. Ammini Ramachandran

    That is a beautiful pan. I love clay pots, in all shapes and sizes. I was hoping to see more pots on the web site you mentioned. Unfortunately it is in Spanish, a language I barely know.
    You mentioned Mexicans rarely cook acidic dishes in clay. I was wondering why because in my home state in India fish in acidic kokum sauce is prepared in unglazed clay pots.

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Sorry about the Spanish website. I had thought it was possible to click through to English. It is extraordinary that there is no one in Mexico selling a selection of modern pots.

      Acids do go in unglazed clay pots–yogurt or limonade. These are glazed and I think the difference lies there. Just a guess. Please chime in anyone if you know better.

  8. Adam Balic

    A lot of pots that are perfectly fine to use for cooking contain lead glazes. If you test them they will come up low of negative for lead. The problem is when the glaze/flux is formulated incorrectly, then you have lead that is not incorporated into the glass correctly and this can then get into food. Best to use lead free now that there are good lead free glazes about.

    Our drinking water pipes in Edinburgh were all lead, covered in a thick layer of crude from the hard water, so so lead leached into the water.

  9. Claudio Poblete

    Querida Rachel:
    Que gusto que te haya servido la sartén de barro, estás muy bien en el comentario que haces ya que estas sartenes no transfieren plomo a la comida debido a que están esmaltadas con técnicas antiguas en las que la baba del nopal y su corteza sirven para crear un recubrimiento sobre el barro. Un abrazo con mucho cariño. Nos vemos pronto. Claudio


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