Today I'm going to teach you about a traditional Japanese cooking tool called an "otoshibuta" (落し蓋) or "drop lid". Here you will learn how to use it, why we use it and how to make one yourself using materials you most likely have in your kitchen! So let's get started.
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What is a Japanese drop lid?
A Japanese drop lid or "otoshibuta" (落し蓋) is a traditional cooking tool used for simmered dishes. The word "otoshi" (落し) means "drop" and "buta" (蓋) means "lid". The round lid is usually a little smaller than the pan or pot and it sits directly on top of the simmering liquid.
What is the purpose of a drop lid?
There are a number of reasons why we use a drop lid, here are the main functions.
Even distribution of broths and sauces
The first purpose of an otoshibuta is to help evenly distribute the simmering liquid around the ingredients. Because the lid is making direct contact with the broth, it ends up being pushed around the ingredients without the need to keep stirring.
Not only does it mean that all of your ingredients can absorb an equal amount of flavour, but it also promotes a constant temperature across the pan so your dish is evenly cooked all the way through too!
Prevent broken ingredients
When simmering a broth, the liquid tends to bubble and move the ingredients around the pan which can cause them to break.
If you use a drop lid, the weight of the lid stops the ingredients from moving around. In addition to this, the fact that the drop lid is making direct contact with the liquid means that the bubbles are popped before they can get too big, again, preventing the ingredients from moving too much.
Because of this, delicate ingredients such as tender meat, flakey fish or soft vegetables are far less likely to break when using a drop lid.
The final reason to use a drop lid is to prevents the broth or sauce from evaporating.
This is especially useful for dishes that don't have a lot of broth, you won't need to add extra liquid and water down your broth. In fact, because using an otoshibuta means that you can use less broth, it also means you can get away with using less ingredients. It's a money saver too!
You can even use otoshibuta together with a regular lid to prevent the liquid evaporating at all!
What are drop lids made from?
Drop lids can be made from pretty much any material that are food-safe and can withstand the heat of cooking. Let's look at the most common materials used to make Japanese drop lids in more detail.
Wooden otoshibuta are the most traditional and have a classic look. They are flat with no holes and have a handle running through the middle.
They are sturdy, long lasting and can also be used to make pickles by placing it on top of the vegetables and then putting weights on each side.
Stainless Steel Otoshibuta
Stainless steel otoshibuta are common these days.
It is hygienic, easy to clean and sometimes comes in adjustable sizes so that you can use it in pans of different sizes. It's also flat and easy to store.
I bought my stainless steel otoshibuta in Daiso for 100 yen (about $1) but the adjustable ones are a bit more expensive.
Silicone otoshibuta is probably the newest kind of drop lid. They often come in different colours and designs if you like stylish kitchen tools.
Silicone is easy to clean and flexible so even if it's a bit big, you can push it down into your pan. They can also be used in the microwave for steaming and the ones with less holes can be used as a lid to cover foods in the fridge or microwave.
My silicone otoshibuta is also from Daiso, but this cute pig design is very popular and can be purchased on Amazon.
Single Use Otoshibuta
Otoshibuta can also be easily made at home using one of the two following materials:
- baking paper
- aluminum foil
This is a great option for people who don't use otoshibuta that often or just want to try it out. You can cut it to fit any size pan so it's very convenient.
How to make your own otoshibuta drop lid
If you don't use otoshibuta often, you can also make your own single-use drop lid using baking paper or aluminum foil! It's quick and easy, I'll show you how.
You will need:
Tools: Scissors and pot/pan
Materials: Aluminum foil or baking paper
STEP ONE Break off a square piece of the baking paper or aluminum foil a little bigger than your pan.
STEP TWO Fold it in half diagonally to make a triangle, then in half again.
STEP THREE Fold again so that the closed shorter edge meets the longer edge.
STEP FOUR Hold the point in the middle of the pan and use the edge of the base as a measure. Cut a curve around the top.
STEP FIVE Cut off the point to create a hole in the middle.
STEP SIX Make small triangle incisions along the edges to make ventilation holes. (Don't cut too many.)
STEP SEVEN Open it out and it's complete!
Recipes that use otoshibuta
Now that you've learned everything you need to know about otoshibuta, why not put your knowledge to action and try out some of my delicious simmered dishes?
- Sakana no Nitsuke (Japanese simmered fish)
- Buta no Kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly)
- Chashu (ramen restaurant style pork chashu)
- Kabocha no Nimono (simmered pumpkin)
- Nikujaga (Japanese meat and potato stew)