Stoneware is a type of clay that has been fired at very high temperature to produce sturdy, safe, and chip-resistant materials. The approximate temperature used for firing stoneware is 2,185° F with the process taking approximately 12 hours to complete. Stoneware is known for its strength and durability. It is safe to use at any temperature in the oven and thus is widely used for manufacturing various cookware and bakeware.
It may be decorated with a colored or clear glaze, or may even be left unglazed.
Is Stoneware Food-Contact Safe Material?
Stoneware is a hard, chemically inert material. This chemical stability makes stoneware vessels safe for cooking food. However, since stoneware is made from natural clay, some inexpensive brands may contain trace amounts of lead, cadmium, and other substances that can release toxins into food.
Stoneware made in the USA and Canada are tested for safety and must comply with the applicable food contact regulations. Stoneware products should be tested by an independent laboratory to ensure they meet FDA and California Proposition 65 compliance standards for food-safe surfaces.
You need to carefully check that the stoneware pieces you are buying are made with lead-free clay, so they can be safely used for cooking. Purchase from a reputable manufacturer and check the specifications for assurance that the brand you choose is lead-free. Be particularly careful when buying imported, hand crafted, and highly decorated items. The stoneware piece shouldn’t be used for preparing and storing food if the label indicates that the product is intended for decorative purposes only.
If you are concerned about safety of your baker, you can buy special test kits which detect the presence of lead in the initial surface layer of your stoneware.
Advantages of Using Stoneware in the Kitchen
The durability and usability of stoneware make it perfect for baking, slow cooking, and serving food. Stoneware cookware has been used for centuries. Recently, stoneware has made a comeback and is being considered one of the most popular materials used to produce bakeware. Its heat-retentive qualities and uniform baking gives it that preference over other materials such as tinned steel, cast iron, aluminum, and tempered glass. Stoneware also provides cleaner flavors than metallic cookware.
Unglazed stoneware is popular for baking foods that need to be light and crispy. Bread baked in a stoneware loaf pan will be crustier than one that is baked on a metal tray.
A sturdy rustic aesthetic makes stoneware dinnerware ideal for family gatherings and special occasions.
Stone bakeware is capable to withstand the hottest oven temperature possible, which makes them perfect for baking foods using standard conventional oven or a convection oven.
Stoneware bakers and dinner sets are chip-resistant and able to retain their strength during normal daily use. If cared for well, they will be functional for many decades and could be passed from one generation to another.
Stoneware dishes have ability to retain heat, thereby keeping your food warm on the table. This quality makes them especially useful for baked goods, which turn out evenly and nicely browned.
Stone bakeware allows heat to rise evenly and maintains an even baking temperature to ensure light and crispy texture without any burned spots. Baked goods have a nice crispy crust and slide out effortlessly.
Stonewares have naturally stick resistant surfaces, so they need no oil to release the food. Check manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance. In most cases, you will not have to season it. You may, however, use oil and bake the pans at a high temperature to improve the non-stick surface with repeated use. Unglazed stonewares will develop dark layers which won’t affect its non-stick qualities. In fact, “the worse it looks, the better it cooks”.
Versatility of Stone Bakeware
Stoneware dishes are safe for use in conventional ovens, convection ovens, and microwave ovens. These multi-purpose dishes bake everything from crispy pizzas to crusty breads and evenly browned cookies. They can be placed in a refrigerator or a freezer if you store foods in them. Be sure, however, to avoid sudden temperature changes.
Ease of Cleaning
Stoneware dishes have a smooth surface which makes them very easy to maintain and clean up. They don’t absorb the flavors or retain odors of the food you have made in them. Some stoneware pieces can be safely put in a dishwasher, but they are also very easy to wash by hand. Simply wash your baker in hot water, removing bits of food with a rubber scraper.
If you only bake something that comes off easily, you can just give it a quick wipe with a tissue or dry cloth to remove any particles of food.
The artful design of stoneware sets makes them attractive for serving food. Their Old World feel adds a style to your dinner table and a touch of elegance to any occasion.
Aesthetic appeal combined with safety and superior functionality makes the stoneware popular choice for professional chefs and home cooking enthusiasts.
Disadvantages of Stoneware
- The sudden change in temperature can cause the vessels to crack. To avoid thermal shock allow the pan to cool down before it goes into the freezer, refrigerator, or under cold water for cleaning. It is recommended to wait until the pan is at room temperature, after taking it out of the freezer, and before placing it in the oven or microwave.
- Stoneware pieces are heavy to lift and move around. Their weight can damage other dishes, so keep them on the bottom shelf of your cupboard.
- Stoneware dishes can scratch countertops, so you need some kind of pad underneath.