Clay Pot Cooking 101
(Always read the manufacturer’s information on cooking with clay pots before actually preparing your dish. Different clays need different attention. Some companies recommend that you use a heat diffuser or flame tamer when cooking on direct heat. Some clay pots are glazed, which changes how to season, cook and clean them.)
The clay pot is ideal for recipes that require a high level of moisture for proper cooking. A small amount of liquid is needed to create this moist final product, food stays warm longer when left in a clay pot, meats cook well and maintain their flavor, cleanup is easier since you use one pot for the entire meal and nutrients and vitamins are retained naturally. These are just a few of the factors that continue to bring people back to this ancient cooking method. For those who are also interested in saving energy, clay cooking takes place at a lower heat and requires less time than many other cooking techniques.
Seasoning Your Clay Pot (For Terra Cotta Cooking Pots)
Method One: Immerse your pot in water and soak it for 2 hours. Remove and dry it, and then rub the entire surface with a clove of cut garlic and coat any unglazed surface (normally only the bottom of the pot) with olive oil. Fill the pot 3/4 full with water and place it on a gentle flame with a heat diffuser. Bring the water slowly up to a simmer. Leave the pot to simmer for 2 hours, making sure it doesn’t boil dry. Your pot is now ready to use.
Method Two: Immerse your pot in water and soak it for 2 hours. Rub your pot with a clove of cut garlic and fill it 3/4 full with water. Place the pot in the oven and turn it on to 225 degrees. Bring the pot up to temperature and leave it in the oven for 2 to 3 hours. Turn the oven off and leave the pot in the oven until its cool. Your pot is now ready to use.
Stovetop and Cooktop
Most clay pot cookware for the stovetop is also oven safe. For gas cooktops, use a heat diffuser or the lowest heat setting. For electric cooktops, please use only with a heat diffuser.
Microwave Safe: It is microwave safe, but use on lower settings as it can develop hot spots on high settings which can crack the clay (again; check with manufacturer).
Cleaning: Clear ceramic glaze provides ease of cleaning. Just use hot water and a gentle abrasive pad. For difficult areas to clean, first soak for a few minutes in hot water and then scrub. It is not necessary to use detergent and if you do, we recommend a natural, vegetable-based surfactant cleanser.
Dishwasher Safe: Some clay pots are dishwasher safe, others are not. This is where you really need to look at the manufacturer’s instructions. With some pots, the extreme temperature change will cause the clay pots to crack.
Avoiding Extreme Temperature Changes: Earthenware does not like extreme temperature changes. For example, do not take a cold pot from the refrigerator and place it directly on the stovetop or in an extremely hot oven; it may crack.
Use of Appropriate Temperature Settings to Avoid Cracking
Please keep in mind when cooking in clay, the cookware does not like quick, extreme temperature changes. This is important to remember when you are beginning the cooking process in a clay pot, especially if your pot is new. When you start your cooking with clay pot, the process is opposite of what you would normally do with a metal pan.
With a metal pan, you start the heat high to get up to temperature quickly, and then turn the heat down to where you want it. With a clay pot, you start the heat LOW, and then gradually increase the temperature over the course of 5 minutes or so to where you want it. The highest temperature you should take your pot on a gas stove without a heat diffuser is medium low. With a diffuser, there is a bit more leeway, but you should never take your pot much above medium heat even with a diffuser. You will find if you do, that things will quickly start to burn. Just be patient when your pot is heating up and you will soon be cooking away!
(This information was taken from Le Cordon Bleu and Bram Cookware; a maker of clay cookware)