Meals made in a clay pot are very easy to prepare. By enclosing your meal in a porous clay container that has been soaked in water, you ensure that the food’s natural juices, as well as all of the vitamins and minerals, are retained.
As the earthen container heats up over the fire, the retained water will turn to steam, which will keep your ingredients tender and flavorful.
Types of Earthen Cookware
You can find clay pots in virtually any market throughout the world. They come in many shapes and sizes, each with their own purpose.
A Large Romertopf Glazed Clay Cooker available from Amazon.
The most common unglazed pots are made by Romertopf. These baking dishes are suitable for cooking all types of meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits. The classic version of this baking dish is rectangular in shape with a domed lid.
You can also find these dishes in an oval shape, which can accommodate an entire fish. Clay cookware designed for preparing fish usually features a glazed bottom, to prevent a lingering fishy smell. Although the lids are made to have a snug fit, there is a narrow gap where steam can escape.
Bean pots are deep round vessels with domed lids. Some may feature handles for easier lifting. These are useful for slow cooking dried beans, soups, and stews.
A Romertopf Glazed Garlic Roaster available on Amazon
Garlic and onion bakers are smaller baking dishes made of terracotta. They have high domed lids. These products are used primarily for baking garlic or onions. The onion bakers are slightly larger than the garlic bakers, in order to accommodate multiple medium-sized onions or wedges.
A chicken brick is a larger unglazed dish with a high domed lid. The largest ones can hold an entire chicken or duck, but this vessel can also be used to cook any large piece of meat. Smaller chicken bricks can be used for smaller portions.
“Moroccan Wave” Cooking Tagine as found on Amazon
A tagine is a round North African pot used for cooking. It has a large shallow base and a tall lid that’s shaped like a cone with a hole at the top. The food is placed in the base. Steam rises and becomes trapped in the lid as the food cooks, keeping it moist.
A large variety of glazed ovenproof cookware is available. These dishes can be placed directly in a hot oven, and they do not need to be soaked beforehand. Unlike their unglazed counterparts, they will not absorb strong flavors or aromas.
With the proper care, earthen cookware can last for many years.
Preparing Your Clay Pots
Before you use your clay pot for the first time, be sure to clean it thoroughly. Brush out the inside to release any loose clay particles, then rinse and drain your new baking dish. Unglazed pots must be soaked in cold water for twenty minutes before each use.
If this is your first time using a dish, soak for an additional ten minutes. The water retained in the clay provides the moisture necessary for cooking. Fill your sink with cold water and place the bowl and lid inside, and make sure the entire pot and lid are submerged.
Partially glazed earthen pots should be cared for in the same manner. The glazed portion does not require soaking, but make sure the unglazed part is submerged for at least twenty minutes.
Cooking With Your Earthenware
For the most part, earthen containers should only be used inside an oven. Unglazed cookware cannot take sudden temperature changes, so stovetop cooking is out of the question. Always place your vessel in a cold oven to start, preferably on the bottom rack to make sure the heat can adequately circulate around it.
Add your ingredients and heat gradually. Your pot may crack if it experiences a sudden change in temperature.
Some recipes may require you to brown your meat before adding it to your recipe. If this is the case, allow the meat to cool a little before placing it in with the other ingredients.
Never add boiling water or other hot liquids to a cold earthen vessel. You may add these hot liquids while your dish is cooking.
Clay pots may also be used for baking cakes and breads. You should have separate baking dishes if you plan to make both sweet and savory recipes.
Wash your vessel with hot water immediately after use. Drain and allow to air dry on a kitchen towel or paper towel on the countertop. Do not put an earthen container away until you are sure that it is thoroughly dried. Store it in a dry part of your kitchen.
About Jennifer Swartvagher
Jennifer is an experienced journalist and author. Her work has been featured on TODAY Parents, The New York Times Blog, BlogHer, Scary Mommy, and scores of other parenting and cooking publications.