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Cooking in Clay pots
Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 11:37 pm  
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Cooking In Clay Pots article at PakiRecipes.com Archaeologists have traced clay pot cookery back to the Romans, who used special unglazed earthenware pots to bake meats and crisp, chewy loaves of bread. They are a real time-saver, with the added bonus of very flavorful and tender results due to the cooking process. It's great for those on a fat-conscious diet, since you can cook foods without fat, and still get all that wonderful flavor. It's energy-efficient because you begin with a cold oven and usually cook the whole meal in one pot.Clay cookers are pretty much self-explanatory. They are cooking vessels made of unglazed clay, usually large oval roasters with a lid. These are not to be confused with terra cotta baking pots that have a glazed interior and unglazed exterior. It's important to use an unglazed clay cooker to avoid any potential problems of lead in the pot which can leach into the food and cause serious health problems. Normally this is not a problem in unglazed pottery such as clay cookers. Clay cookers are soaked in water first. As the pot heats in the oven, the water evaporates causing a pressure-steaming effect to cook the food. It's easy to keep the calories down, because you never have to add fat to clay pot-cooked foods. Because flavors are easily absorbed into the unglazed clay, we recommend separate roasters for chicken and fish, or other foods with very different tastes.

You really don't need much preparation. The main thing to remember is to completely submerse both the top and bottom of the clay cooker in water for at least 15 minutes before loading
the ingredients. This is easily accomplished by filling your sink with water and soaking top and bottom while you prepare the ingredients. Once loaded, place the covered clay pot into the center of a cold oven; do not preheat.

It is necessary to the cooking process to gradually bring the pot up to the
desired temperature. If you put a cold clay-pot into a hot oven, you also risk cracking the pot due to extreme temperature change. Most clay cooker recipes call for a temperature of 400 to 480 degrees F. Larger pots will take longer to cook, of course, but many dishes will be done within an hour. Some recipes will require you to remove the top near the end to achieve a browning or crisping effect.

Never use soap or detergent to clean your clay cooker. The soap will soak into the pores of the clay and then leach into your food the next time you use it. Use scalding hot water and a stiff brush to clean the pot. For stubborn stains, use a very coarse unsoaped stainless steel pad, or let the cooker soak overnight filled with water and 1 to 4 tablespoons of baking soda. A baking soda soak will also help remove odors and freshen the cooker after cooking pungent foods. Store your clay pot with the lid inverted, nestled inside the bottom with a paper towel in between so it can breathe. Make sure it is completely dry before you put it away. During periods of long storage, mold may form. To remove any mold, apply a paste of equal parts of baking soda and water. Leave it on at least 30 minutes, then brush, rinse well, and let it thoroughly dry, preferably in bright sunlight.

Tips and Hints


  • Clean the clay dust from a new cooker with hot water and a stiff brush.
  • Invest in a good pair of kitchen loves to handle removal of the hot pot from the oven.
  • Be sure to use a thermometer to test for doneness, and remove the pot from the oven about 5 to 10 minutes before it reaches optimum doneness as it will continue to cook. You will want to let it rest about 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
  • For leaner meals, trim off all excess fat or you will end up with a fatty sauce.
  • If you need to add a little liquid, use broth or wine (the alcohol will cook out but will give the sauce a nice flavor).
  • If you add liquid, do it sparingly. Remember that the food will also release its own juices. You don't want the clay pot to bubble over.
  • You shouldn't need to use oil, but if so, use it sparingly.
  • You'll find most clay pot recipes use a lot of salt. This is intentional. You can try lessening the amount if you need to, but the process relies upon extra salt.
  • A parchment paper lining is sometimes recommended when cooking a strong-flavored food or to avoid stains It helps to keep the juices from soaking into the porous clay.
  • Arrowroot is recommended for thickening sauces and gravies.
  • Never place a hot pot on a cold or wet surface. It will surely crack. Use a hot pad or wooden cutting board.
  • Do not use your clay cooker on top of the stove. It's not designed for direct-contact heating purposes.
  • Never put your clay pot in the dishwasher.



The original author of this article is Mariam Qureshi and was published in PakiRecipes.com on Apr 30, 2001 (issue:25)

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