All You Need To Know About Clay Pot Cooking
All You Need to Know About Clay Pot Cooking
Think of this: a succulent piece of fish—maybe sea bass or salmon—baked to moist, tender perfection, surrounded by jewel toned vegetables. There’s the emerald green of broccoli, the carnelian red of grape tomatoes, the burnished gold of young carrots, and the pale jade of zucchini, all set off by the deep terra cotta hue of the clay baking dish in which the meal is presented to the guests oohing and aahing around the table. As the lid is lifted from dish, the aromas of exotic spices waft through the air—maybe some lemongrass, a touch of ginger, a hint of fennel. Dinner is served—- deliciously, beautifully, and easily.
In the search for ways to make food that is flavorful, healthy and simple to prepare, today’s cooks are rediscovering one of the oldest techniques, popular for centuries, found in cultures all throughout the world. Think of the Moroccan tagine, the Indian tandoor, and the German romertopf.
Clay pot cooking utilizes an unglazed lidded clay or terracotta baking dish to cook meals that are moist, low in fat, and flavorful from long, slow cooking.
Before filling, the pot (including lid) is soaked in water for 10-15 minutes. Then, all the ingredients for the dish are combined in the pot (similar to cooking in a crockpot),the lid is placed on the cooker, and the whole thing is put into a cold oven, set to the desired temperature—usually around 450 degrees—to bake as the oven heats. That’s it—just walk away and let your meal cook without a lot of fussing. How easy is that?
Clay is a porous material. When the pot is soaked and saturated with water, and then heated in the oven, steam will evaporate slowly from the pores of the clay. This creates a moist, enclosed environment that results in increased flavor, very tender meats and healthier foods. Clay pots require less fat, use less liquid, need very little tending , and can even brown meats.
During cooking, the food inside your clay pot will release and cook in its own juices. These juices are sealed inside the pot until it is completely dry, and at this point the food is cooked! The steam and juices keep the ingredients moist, so additional oil need not be added, keeping your recipe low-fat.
- Do not put a clay pot in a hot oven, or it can crack.
- When you remove it from the oven, do not put it directly on a cold counter —place on a towel or potholder.
- Never put a clay pot on a hot burner or heating element.
- Do not use a clay pot under a broiler. To brown or crisp foods, try removing the lid for 10-15 minutes at the end of the cooking period.
- Don’t let the clay pot touch the sides of the oven
- Try lining the pot (not the lid) with parchment paper when cooking fish or if foods are sticking
- Because wet clay doesn’t become as hot as metal baking pans, set your oven about 50 degrees hotter than normal, and cook for 10-20 minutes longer, to compensate for the time needed to heat the oven.
- To microwave in clay, just soak the cooker in the usual manner and follow the standard microwave timing. A general rule for meats is 5 minutes on HIGH and 15 minutes on LOW for each pound of meat used. Increase cooking time if many vegetables are added.
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning, but the general rule of thumb is not to use soap (can be absorbed by the clay) or scouring powders, which will clog the pores and make the pot useless. Soak in hot water and use coarse salt and a brush or pad to scrub if necessary.
- For a thorough cleaning, allow the clay cooker to soak overnight in the sink with water that has about ¼ cup baking soda added to it. Then wash, using a brush or nonmetallic scrubbing pad. Follow this treatment after cooking fish or foods with strong seasoning.