Clay pots have been used for cooking from time immemorial, and despite the technological advancement, they have proven their relevance.
One of the reasons that makes them an essential addition to the kitchen is their ability to concentrate food flavors while retaining heat effectively.
Type Of Clay Pots For Cooking
There are different types of clay cookware, namely stoneware, earthenware, and flameware.
- Stoneware: This is clay made at a heat of about 2000 °F that makes them non-porous and strong. After being subjected to high temperatures, there are residual silica particles. These crystals expand and contract when subjected to heat or cold, respectively, and these changes cause them to crack. To avoid these, you must ensure when using it in, let’s say, an oven, you heat them together. Do not place them in an already heated oven. Furthermore, avoid using it on direct heat(stovetop).
- Earthenware: These refer to clay fired at temperatures between 1800°F and 2000°F; like stoneware, they can be either glazed or unglazed. Since they are subjected at lower temperatures than stoneware, they are porous and fragile since it has yet to form silica particles.
- Flameware: These clay pots are made at a temperature of about 2387°F upwards. Since it is made of a combination of mineral elements, it is not prone to the expansion and contraction that affects stoneware due to its silica particles. This feature makes them usable on the stovetop, be it electric or glass top. Furthermore, they have no risk of cracking due to sudden temperature changes.
Clay Cooking Pot Best Practices
Due to their significant differences with metal, cooking pots require a few hacks to ensure they serve you effectively without unnecessary inconveniences.
Below are some tips you can follow to get the best out of your clay cooking pots:
- Preparing Them For First Use. Dip it in water for a few hours or in a kitchen sink full of water. Then, remove it from the water and let it dry completely.
- Seasoning The Clay Cooking Pots. Cover the inside of the pot with cooking oil. Add water to the cooking pot but not to the brim, then leave it on your stove/in the oven at low temperatures for about two to three hours. Bake the cooking pot for two to three hours, then remove it from the heat to let it cool before washing. This hardens the pot to prevent cracking while also keeping away the clay smell.
- Ensure you cook food on low or medium heat and avoid adding cold water or spices since it may cause cracking due to sudden temperature changes.
- Since the clay cooking pot retains heat for a long time, use mittens to remove it from the stove. In addition, place the pot on a kitchen towel or wooden surface since placing it on a cold surface may cause it to crack.
How To Clean Clay Cooking Pots
- It is not advisable to wash them using a dishwasher since it may damage them.
- Dip the clay pot in warm water to loosen food residue in the bottom of the cooking pot.
- Don’t use soap or detergents when cleaning since they may absorb them. In addition, use a sponge due to the fragility of the clay cooking pots.
- Use a mixture of baking soda and water to remove any smells that remain after cooking some meals.
- Boil the clay cooking pot in water for about 30 minutes to unblock its pores.
Advantages Of Using Clay Cooking Pots
Below are some benefits worth noting of using clay cooking pots:
- Foods cooked in clay cooking pots tend to be tastier than those cooked in other types of cookware. This happens entirely because the clay cooking pots retain the food’s moisture, thereby concentrating the spices and flavor of the food, giving it a tender and juicier taste.
- They balance the pH of the food. Due to the alkaline properties of clay cooking pots, it reacts with the acid in food, therefore, neutralizing it. As a result, when cooking foods like tomatoes with acidic properties, they taste much better than when cooked in other types of cookware.
- They maintain the nutrition value of the foods being cooked. Due to the porous nature of the clay cooking pots, they retain the moisture that usually evaporates when cooking. This ensures the nutrients are retained in the food, and no cooking oil is added.
- Usage of less oil when cooking. The clay pots have a non-stick property that does not require adding cooking oil to the food, saving it, and checking our cholesterol levels.
- Heat retention. Clay cooking pots retain heat for a longer time since they are poor conductors of heat; therefore, this is the perfect amount of heat for cooking food since it is not too much.
- Uniform cooking. The porous nature of the clay cooking pots ensures it maintains heat and moisture that is usually lost in evaporation. These conditions are perfect for cooking foods such as vegetables and meat evenly.
- They are environmentally friendly. They are natural and have no harmful effects on us, especially when well maintained.
Disadvantages Of Using Clay Cooking Pots
- They are fragile. When it comes to cooking with clay, cooking pots’ temperature should be your major concern. Any sudden temperature changes can cause it to crack during cooking. To counter this, ensure you maintain a balanced temperature in the oven. For example, when cooking a meal that initially requires a lot of heat, keep the flame low and increase it slowly to a high flame. When stirring the sauce in the pot, using a wooden cooking spoon is highly advisable since using a metal one could cause sudden temperature changes. Furthermore, don’t tap spoons on the edges of the pots or pull them on burners to prevent damaging their bottom.
- They are porous. This property means that you cannot clean them using soap or detergent since it will absorb them and pass them on to the food you’re cooking.
- They can cause a change in the food flavor. Although, as noted above, clay cooking pots enhance flavor in food, it doesn’t apply to foods with very rich flavors, for example, seafood. The porosity of the clay absorbs the flavor in the food and retains them. Eventually, when cooking another meal, it takes the flavor absorbed earlier, causing taste changes.
- They get hot fast. When cooking using clay pots, ensure you use mittens when handling them since they heat quickly. However, they also cool slowly, so keeping children away from the hot cooking pot is advisable.
- Glazed clay cooking pots are harmful to your health. To curb the cleaning problems caused by the porosity of clay, manufacturers came up with a lead-based glazing design. However, cooking on a lead-glazed pot is hazardous to your health due to the lead properties; hence choosing unglazed clay pots is the best option.
- They are quite expensive compared to their metal counterparts.
- The modern clay cooking pots may contain impurities. Because manufacturers retrieve clay from deposits from different areas, they may be exposed to impurities during transportation. They may have impurities such as traces of metals that are harmful to our health. The solution to this is to buy your clay cooking pots from a reputable company because cheap is expensive when it comes to your health.
How To Check Whether Your Clay Cooking Pot Has Impurities
- Add water and baking soda to your clay cooking bot and let it boil.
- Remove it after a few minutes and let the water cool.
- Taste the water. If you find that it tastes rubbery or has a chemical taste, it has impurities. Furthermore, on most occasions, you will see the metal residues floating.
How To Choose The Best Clay Cooking Pot
Below are important tips to follow when purchasing a clay cooking pot.
- First, buy from a trusted company without a questionable reputation.
- Second, always ensure it is pure clay (it is usually labeled 100% clay).
- Third, choose an unglazed cooking pot always.
- Finally, be knowledgeable on the different types of clay cooking pots.
In conclusion, clay has its advantages and disadvantages, but clearly, it is an excellent addition to your kitchenware; however, you should only consider going for only the purest clay cooking pot from a reputable brand to be safe.
Also Read: What to Cook in Clay Pots