How to Prepare Clay Pot before the First Use
Unglazed clay pots require some preparation before they are ready for use. To prepare the clay pot for cooking for the first time, immerse it in a clean bucket of water for at least one hour. You can also leave it overnight in a sink completely covered with water. Then remove the pot from the water and allow it to dry thoroughly.
How to Season your Clay Pot
Wipe all the unglazed areas of the pot and rub it with olive or vegetable oil. Fill the pot 3/4 of the way up with water. Put the lid on. Place the oiled pot in a cold oven. Turn on the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow it to bake for 2 to 3 hours. Turn off the heat and let the pot cool completely. Then wash the pot and store it in a cool, dry place. Seasoning enhances the hardness and durability of clay cookware, making it more crack-resistant and also helps get rid of the initial clay smell.
Cooking in Clay Pots
Unglazed clay cooking pots can be used in the oven or microwave. Some clay pots are intended for stovetop cooking or grilling and they are labeled as intended for such use. Be sure to read and follow instructions provided by the manufacturer for the use and maintenance of your earthenware. There are certain rules that must be adhered to when using unglazed clay cookware.
Unglazed clay pot and lid must be completely submerged in water for at least 15 minutes before assembling your meal. Being porous the pot absorbs moisture during soaking. As the pot is slowly heated, the clay slowly releases steam from its pores which gently cooks the food. This prevents foods from drying out. Natural juices and flavors are retained in the pot, while nutrient content is preserved.
Appropriate temperature settings: Sudden rise or fall of the temperature can cause an earthen pot to crack. Always place your clay cookware in the center of a cold oven, and allow it to heat gradually with the oven. The pot shouldn’t touch the sides of the oven. When cooking with clay, the heat should be set to medium or lower. Start with low heat and raise the temperature slowly over the course of 5 minutes or so.
The recommended cooking temperature: The recommended oven temperature is between 190 °C and 250 °C according to the recipe. Because wet clay doesn’t become as hot as metal baking pans, cook for approximately 20 minutes longer, to compensate for the time needed to heat the oven. For clay pot cooking, the oven temperature needs to be set on average 40 C higher than normal. If the food takes longer to cook, use lower heat. If you want the food to brown and crisp, remove the lid during the last 10 to 20 minutes of cooking.
Avoid adding too cold water: Never add cold ingredients or cold water in a clay pot that is already heated, because this can cause the pot to crack. If it is necessary to add more liquid to the pot during cooking, only pour a hot liquid into it.
Be sure to use oven mitts or baker’s pads when removing an earthenware cooking pot from the oven. Place the pot on a heat-resistant trivet, tea towel, or wooden board after taking it out of the oven. Placing a hot pot on a cold work surface may cause the clay to crack. Carefully lift the lid, so that the rising steam won’t scald you.
How to Clean Clay Cookware
While some say it’s okay to put a clay pot in a dishwasher, hand washing is recommended. Extreme temperatures and harsh detergents may strip the seasoning and damage clay cookware.
Allow the clay pot to cool completely after it has been taken from the oven, then soak it for a few minutes in warm water to loosen any bits of food. To remove food items, use hot water without detergent and a gentle abrasive pad. To neutralize strong odors fill the pot with warm water and add two tablespoons of baking soda. Let the cookware soak for at least 15 minutes.
For general and deep cleaning, allow the earthen pot to soak overnight in the sink in water mixed with baking soda. Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda per liter of hot water. Wash the pot with a soft bristle brush or nonmetallic scrubbing pad. Do not use abrasive scouring powders because they will clog the pores and make the pot useless. Salt can be used as a non-toxic alternative to chemical cleaners. Sprinkle salt into the pot and scour it using a scouring pad. Rinse the pot with warm water and allow it to dry.
If any mold forms during storage periods sprinkle baking soda inside the pot, then rinse with warm water using a brush to remove the mold. If clay pores become clogged, the pot should be cooked in boiling water for about 30 minutes.
Never use soap or detergent because the porous nature of clay will absorb the soap. The detergent may leave an unpleasant soapy taste and this flavor will leach back into your next clay pot meal.
Over time, your clay pot may darken slightly showing scorch marks and stains. This will not affect its cooking qualities.
After washing, make sure the pot is thoroughly dry before storing it. Store the clay pot with the lid off to allow air to circulate. Another way is to invert the lid and place a paper towel between the pot and the lid to prevent chipping. Make sure to store your earthenware in dry and well-ventilated areas. This will eliminate the risk of mold growth inside the pot.