How to Begin Your Culinary Journey with Clay Pot Cooking

Embarking on the culinary adventure of cooking with clay pots, be it a ddukbaegi, tagine, or cazuela, requires finding the right vessel and mastering the art of using it effectively.

By Mary-Frances Heck and Paige Grandjean | Published on February 24, 2020

For a deeper dive into the history and science of clay pot cooking, along with a treasure trove of incredible recipes, explore The Food & Wine Guide to Clay Pot Cooking.

Clay pots, celebrated worldwide for their ability to infuse flavors and retain heat, stand out as versatile culinary tools. Whether it’s the Moroccan tagine or the Japanese donabe, these vessels not only serve as diligent cooking gear but also seamlessly transition from oven or stove to table, adding an aesthetic touch to the culinary experience. However, cooking with clay pots demands a bit of expertise. As these pots are crafted from clay, they behave differently than conventional metal cookware. Familiarize yourself with these quick tips on seasoning, cleaning, and cooking before embarking on your clay pot culinary journey.

![Image of Clay Pot Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine Recipe](image-link)
*Clay Pot Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine Recipe*
*Victor Protasio*

**Season Before First Use**

Certain clay pots require seasoning before their inaugural use to enhance their cooking performance.

– *Donabe, Flameware, Chinese Clay Pots, and Bean Pots:* Combine a 4:1 ratio of cool water and cooked white rice to fill the pot halfway. Heat the pot over medium-low heat until the rice softens into a porridge. Allow it to cool, discard the porridge, and clean the pot.

– *Tagines:* Submerge both the pot and lid in water overnight. Wipe dry and rub the interior with a thin layer of neutral oil. Place the lid and base separately on a rack in a cold oven, heat to 325°F, and bake for 2 hours. Let it cool completely in the oven without opening the door for at least 4 hours.

**Clean Gently**

Allow pots to cool completely before washing. For stuck-on food, briefly soak pots in lukewarm water to soften residue and use a soft sponge for removal. Avoid using soap on partially glazed or unglazed pots; reserve mild detergent for flameware. To address bacterial concerns, dry pots in a 200°F oven for 30 minutes before storing them in a cool, dry place.

**Heat Gradually**

Clay cookware is sensitive to thermal shock, so avoid sudden temperature changes. Never heat an empty clay pot, and gradually heat pots after filling to ensure ingredients heat uniformly with the pot.

– *Heat water or broth before adding midway through cooking.*
– *Avoid heating clay pots directly over an electric burner; use a diffuser for gradual warming.*

**Handle Lightly**

To prevent thermal shock and accidental breakage:

– *Use wooden tools, not metal, to stir food.*
– *Avoid tapping spoons on pot sides or dragging pots across burners.*
– *Place hot pots or lids on a stove-side landing pad of doubled kitchen linens.*
– *Use wooden or cloth trivets instead of metal.*

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