Cooking and Baking with Terracotta Kitchenware

What is Terracotta?

ID-100380183Terracotta is a reddish/brown colored earthenware clay that is kiln-fired at low temperatures. Iron compounds and heat intensity are responsible for terracotta’s brownish-orange color. The color of terracotta earthenware may range from earthy shades of brown to lively reds. After firing, the clay loses its water and becomes a solid but still porous material – terracotta. After being shaped into the desired form, terracotta can be glazed, which makes it waterproof and easy to clean.

People have used terracotta throughout history for pottery and sculpture, as well as bricks and roof tiles. Terracotta, which in Italian means “baked earth,” is one of the oldest materials used for cooking food. Ancient Romans cooked in this earthenware, and now many chefs around the world are keeping this old tradition alive.

Using Terracotta in the Kitchen

This type of fired clay is perfect for long cooking over low heat. Terracotta pots are suitable for simmering, slow cooking, roasting, frying, baking, and boiling. Terracotta vessels can be used to serve right from the oven and straight to the dinner table.

Terracotta is ideal for baking purposes, since it distributes heat evenly, helping your baked goods turn out perfect.  Traditionally, pizzas are cooked in brick ovens. Porous terracotta draws in moisture from the dough, producing a perfect crust.

The following rules must be followed when using terracotta cookware:

Wash your terracotta cookware thoroughly with hot water before using it for the first time. Do not use soaps as they may block the delicate pores and affect the taste of the food cooked in terracotta pots.

Unglazed terracotta needs a good soak in water for at least 15 minutes before every use. This way the terracotta can absorb water, which will evaporate slowly from the pores during cooking.

Always place terracotta cookware filled with food in a cold oven, then set the temperature. This way you can avoid cracks and breakages in your vessels.

Cooking in terracotta requires a higher oven temperature than other types of cookware. Regular recipes can usually be converted for clay pot cooking by raising the cooking temperature by 100F and adding a half hour to regular cooking time because the dish is placed into a cold oven and because clay does not get hot as fast as metal cookware.

To make sure that your terracotta cookware is made of clay that is tested and free of impurities, always check the label and purchase only high quality pieces from reputable vendors.

Advantages of Using Terra Cotta Cookware

Terracotta cookware has a reputation as a “green” way of cooking.  All nutrients and flavours remain preserved inside the pot, making an excellent foundation for a wholesome meal.

Heat and moisture circulate slowly in porous terracotta pots, which is the perfect environment for delicate and slow cooking.

Terracotta is an excellent retainer of heat.  Meals cooked in a terracotta pot, when set aside with the lid on, retain heat and moisture for a long time without becoming soggy.

Unglazed terracotta absorbs oil and becomes seasoned with age and use, which improves the non-stick performance and quality of the bakeware.

Terracotta kitchenware looks natural and it brings a touch of retro to any kitchen. These are great cookware pieces for serving and add nice spice to the table for family dinners.

Disadvantages

Terracotta cookware cannot withstand sudden and extreme temperature changes. Going from a hot surface directly onto a cold counter top or to cold water in the sink can cause the terracotta to crack.

Terracotta pots need a heat diffuser before being placed on an electric or gas range, and the cooking process should be started at a low heat.

Cookware made of unglazed terracotta is porous and can absorb and transfer the flavors of meals cooked in it. A paste made of baking soda and water will eliminate most odors.

The most Common Types of Terracotta Cookware

Terracotta Tagine

Tagine is a traditional Moroccan slow cooker with a wide, shallow base and high conical lid. The unique shape of the lid allows steam to condense and fall back into the food, preventing it from drying out. This way the ingredients are cooked in their own juices, keeping the food moist and tender.

Except for popular slow-cooked tagine stews, a tagine can be used as a roasting dish as well as for cooking rice, couscous, beans, and much more. These cookware pieces can be carried directly from the oven to the table.

Terracotta Cazuela

Spanish Cazuela is a round, shallow earthenware pot that can be found in every kitchen and restaurant in Spain. These versatile cooking pots are usually glazed and come in an array of sizes. They are safe for cooking on the stove, over a fire, in the oven, and in the microwave. Cazuelas are suitable for roasting and baking, as well as for making soups, stews, and other slow-cooked dishes. Its insulating properties keep food hot for a long time. It also makes nice addition to the dinner table because of its beautiful glazed finish and traditional rustic feel.

Terracotta Clay Baker

This is a functional and beautiful addition to your kitchen and a great baking tool, particularly for baking loaves of bread. The slow evaporation of water content during the baking process results in perfectly crispy crusts.

This cooking item is perfect for achieving succulent, tender, and full-flavoured roasts. The baker should be gradually brought up to the desired temperature. The food comes out evenly done and very moist.

Clay Cooking Pots

When a terracotta pot is placed in an oven, the water slowly evaporates from the clay’s pores, producing steam. Foods are cooked gradually and evenly in their own juices. This is a more natural way of cooking compared to a stainless steel pot where cooking occurs mostly at the base of the pot.

Image courtesy of punsayaporn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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