Stoneware is a type of clay that has been fired at a very high temperature to produce sturdy, safe, and chip-resistant materials. The approximate temperature used for firing stoneware is 2,185° F and the process takes about 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 can be decorated with a colored or clear glaze or can be left unglazed.
Is Stoneware Safe to Cook with?
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 is tested 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 if the stoneware item you are shopping for is made with lead-free clay and, therefore, can be used for food cooking purposes. Purchase stoneware only from a reputable manufacturer and check the specifications to ensure that it is lead-free.
Be particularly careful when buying imported, handcrafted, 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 the safety of your stoneware vessels, you can buy special test kits that can detect the presence of lead in the initial surface layer.
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 one of the popular materials for producing bakeware. Its heat-retention properties and uniform baking give it preference over other materials such as tinned steel, cast iron, aluminum, and tempered glass. Food cooked in stoneware has a cleaner flavor than food cooked in 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 that baked on a metal tray.
The rustic aesthetic makes stoneware 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 in the oven.
Stoneware bakers and dinner sets are chip-resistant and able to retain their strength through normal use. If well cared for, they will be functional for many decades and could be passed from one generation to another.
Stoneware dishes have the ability to retain heat, thereby keeping your food warm on the table. This quality makes them especially useful for baked goods, that should be evenly and nicely browned.
Stone bakeware allows heat to spread evenly and maintains an even baking temperature to ensure a crispy texture without burned spots. Baked goods have a nice crispy crust and effortlessly slide out of the pan.
Stoneware has a naturally stick-resistant surface, so you don’t need oil to release the food. Check manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance. In most cases, you will not have to season the pan. You may, however, use oil and bake the pan at a high temperature to improve the non-stick surface with repeated use. Unglazed stoneware will develop dark layers that won’t affect its non-stick qualities. In fact, “the worse it looks, the better it cooks”.
Stoneware dishes are safe for use in both conventional and microwave ovens. These multi-purpose dishes can be used to bake everything from crispy pizzas to crusty bread and evenly browned cookies. Stoneware pans and pots can be placed in a refrigerator or a freezer to store foods in them. However, make sure to avoid sudden temperature changes.
Ease of Cleaning
Stoneware dishes have a smooth surface that makes them very easy to maintain and clean up. They don’t absorb the flavors or retain the odors of the food you have cooked 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 stoneware in hot water, after removing bits of food with a rubber scraper.
If you bake something that comes off easily, you can just give it a quick wipe with a dry cloth to remove the food particles.
The rustic design makes stoneware attractive for serving food. The Old World feel adds a style to your dinner table. Aesthetic appeal combined with safety and superior functionality makes the stoneware a popular choice for professional chefs and home cooking enthusiasts.
Disadvantages of Stoneware
1. The sudden changes in temperature can cause stoneware 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. After taking the pan out of the freezer, wait until it gets to room temperature before placing it in the oven or microwave.
2. 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.
3. Stoneware dishes can scratch countertops, so you need some kind of protective mat to place underneath.