charred onion and garlic


Charring: How to Char Ingredients

One way to add a nice rustic feel to a dish is to char, or roast, a few of the ingredients. Charring concentrates and deepens the flavor of an ingredient and brings out a subtle sweetness.

It is one of the signature cooking techniques in Mexico where, traditionally, ingredients like chiles, onion, garlic, spices, herbs, tomatillos and tomatoes are charred on comales or directly over the flame. If you don’t have a comal, or don’t want to cook directly over the burner, you can just as easily char ingredients on a grill or in a skillet.

OR, the way I find to be the easiest and fastest: in a pan under the broiler in your oven. Put the ingredients on a large sheet pan leaving plenty of space between them so they roast, not steam, and broil until they are nicely browned on one side. Carefully flip and repeat on the other side.

You want the outside to darken until almost black, and the inside cooked and transformed, but not burnt.

Below are the specific techniques for a couple of the ingredients most often charred in Mexican recipes: tomatoes and garlic.

Charring tomatoes
Charring tomatoes, aside from concentrating and deepening their flavor, brings out their sweetness and juices.

To char or roast tomatoes, you can either place them directly on a grill,  or on an already hot comal or griddle over medium heat, for about 10 minutes, turning them around a couple times. However, for me the easiest method is to place them in a single layer in a baking sheet or shallow pan under the broiler for 7 to 10 minutes. Turn them once in the process.

You know tomatoes are ready once they are completely cooked through and mushy, their skin is charred, blistered and wrinkled, and juices have started to come out.

Charring Garlic
Place unpeeled and pricked cloves (so they don’t make popping sounds) on the already hot comal over medium heat. Turn form time to time until it is charred on the outside and soft but not burnt on the inside, about 6 minutes. You can also place under the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes.


5comments inCharring: How to Char Ingredients

  1. Henrique

    Aug 13

    Although charring does enhance the flavour, the blackened parts are carcinogenic, especially with meat. You don’t mention that but I believe it’s worth considering and recipes I’ve seen for roasting sweet peppers and chillies do have you remove the skins. With onions, corn or other veggies without a skin, one should remove them just before they’re blackened as you mentioned. Removing charred skins is more labour intensive but if you eat a lot of BBQ, healthier in the long run. Your thoughts, Señora ?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 23

      Completely agree with you Henrique 😉

  2. Pati Jinich » Comal

    Dec 27

    […] used for many things such as cooking tortillas, sopes, quesadillas and other related masa foods; charring tomatoes, tomatillos, fresh chiles, onion and garlic; toasting seeds, nuts, dried chiles and […]

  3. Concerned Citizen

    Apr 23

    Hi Pati. I learned about charring peppers from watching your TV shows. And now I see this post about charring other ingredients. I don’t usually do this and I’ll bet my recipes have a lot more flavor in the future! Again, thanks for sharing your recipes and knowledge. Your sincere fan since Season One. xo

    1. Pati

      Apr 27

      Thank you, Sylvie!

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