A tawa (tava) is a large flat disc-shaped flat pan made from metal, usually cast iron, sheet iron, steel sheet or aluminium. It can be concave (usual in India), flat or convex. The concave one keeps a moderate amount of liquid within it while cooking (oil or ghee, for example, while shallow frying). The flat or convex ones can’t do that.
The sheet iron, steel & aluminium tawa are not as heavy and are also available as teflon coated non-stick type. However, these do not produce results as good as cast iron tava, which are an obvious choice in the traditional Indian homes.
A tawa is used all over India and it is an important cooking tool for North Indian Cuisine, irrespective of the state.
A tava is generally used for making roti, paratha, chapati, dosas and other Indian flatbreads. It is also used for shallow frying potatoes, fish, meats and making eggs (omelettes and fried).
A cast iron tawa is made by melting either pure iron or scrap iron and pouring into a sand cast to get the required shape. Pure iron or cast iron usage depends on the forger that makes the tawa.
When buying an Indian tawa you need to check for the diameter, material of the handle, and weight for the purpose you need it for. Cast iron pans tend to be a little heavy. They have varying diameters to suit everyone’s requirements.
It is always better to have separate tawa for dosa and chapathi.
It is advised to buy a pan with heat resistant handles so that you can move the pan easily around without burning your fingers.
A brand new cast iron tawa needs to be seasoned before first use to give the best possible results. Seasoning prevents food from sticking on the surface and helps you to get it off the tawa easily.