The traditional clay pot is one that is not glazed and has a deep base along with a deep lid. These clay pots can be glazed, partially glazed, or unglazed. Depending on whether it has a glaze or not will determine how it should be cared for and cleaned.
The advantage of a glaze is that it is easier to use and clean and it doesn’t need seasoning. You will lose some of the benefits the clay pot offers–the ability to absorb water and circulate steam, which makes the food moist and tender as well as bread soft on the inside with a crispy crust. The unglazed clay is also alkaline, balancing the pH in the food, adding a little sweetness to acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes.
How to buy claypots
- Make sure its heavy and thick.
- Turn back knock and see, you should hear a nice shriek ‘tang’ sound.The louder the sound the good it is to buy it.If you try to knock a used pot the sound will be hollow or low pitched.
How do I know when to discard the claypot:
- Mild cracks will start to form at the back of the pot then it is not advisable to use it for cooking.You can use the pot for soaking ragi or kambu koozh or use for gardening.
- It may start to leak and ooze out oil at the back, then its time to discard.
- Either one or both of these are symptoms.
Seasoning Your Clay Pot
If your clay pot is unglazed, you need to soak and season it. Soaking the clay pot in water for at least 24 hours and up to two hours will bring moisture to the porous inner surface, allowing the food to steam while cooking so the food doesn’t dry out. Seasoning the pot will strengthen the surface and prevent cracking, making it more durable for long time use.
After the pot is soaked in water, it should be dried, the interior unglazed surfaces rubbed with a clove of garlic and then the inside coated with vegetable or olive oil. Then it should be filled 3/4 of the way full with water and heated at a low temperature either on the stovetop or in the oven for two to three hours.
- First rinse and wash it well.Use a coconut scrubber( if available ).
- Scrub it well , rinse and wash the claypots well.
After washing soak the claypots in plain water for 1 day.After you soak you can hear a slight sizzle sound if you note it keenly there are small pores in the claypots so when waters enters first time you can hear that mild sound.
Next day again scrub and wash it, soak in starch water(rice cooked water) or rice washed water for 3 days.Daily make it a point to change the starch water.
Wash it again sun dry it.Now add ghee or coconut oil or mustard oil.
Spread it well on both the sides back and top.Sun dry it for 2 -3 hrs until the oil is completely absorbed and is dry.Now add ghee or coconut oil or mustard oil ,switch on the stove.
Add 1-2 tbsp grated coconut and saute it well so that the coconut and oil spreads all over the inside of the pan.Saute until golden.
Do it for both the pans.Now remove the coconut add water along with turmeric powder let it come to a boil.Switch off and dry under the sun.Now your claypots are ready to use.
Using Your Clay Pot
Before each time you plan to cook with the clay pot, you need to soak it in water (only if it is unglazed). Submerge in cold water–both the base and the lid–for 15 minutes. The water will penetrate the porous surface and assist in the steaming process during cooking.
Clay pots are sensitive to temperature change and will easily crack so it is important that you don’t expose the cooker to extreme temperature differences. Never put the clay pot in a preheated oven–it should always go into a cold oven so it is in an environment where the temperature gradually increases. If cooking on the stovetop, you need to raise the heat of the burner slowly .
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 20-30 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 cold water: Never add broth or cold water into a n earthen pot that is already heated. Adding cold water may 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 or touching the clay in the oven. Place the hot pot on a heat resistant trivet, tea towel or wooden board when taking it out of the oven. Placing a hot pot on a cold work surface may cause clay to crack.
Carefully lift the lid, so that the rising steam will not scald you.
Cleaning Your Clay Pot
Since the clay is porous, it is important to follow certain steps when cleaning the pot. Do not use soap or detergent to clean as the soap will soak into the pores of the clay and then leach into your food the next time you use it. Instead, use scalding hot water and a stiff brush to clean the pot. Baking soda or salt may be used as a cleanser with a scrub sponge.
Scrub well and wash it in running water.Never use detergents or any soapy liquids.As there are small pores in the claypot there are chances for the soap to enter through the pores which in turn can mix in the food while getting cooked.So use rice flour or besan flour or chapathi flour to wash it.
For stubborn stains, use a very coarse unsoaped stainless steel pad, or let the cooker soak overnight filled with water and one to four tablespoons of baking soda. A baking soda soak will also help remove odors and freshen the cooker after cooking pungent foods.
Allow the clay pot to cool completely after it has been taken from the oven and soak it for a few minutes in worm 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 it using 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 nontoxic 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 on.
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 clay will absorb the soap. Detergent may leave unpleasant soapy taste and this flavor will leach back into your next clay pot meal.
Over time your clay pot may darken slightly retaining scorch marks and stains. This will not affect its cooking qualities.
Storing Your Clay Pot
Store your clay pot with the lid inverted, nestled inside the bottom with a paper towel in between so it can breathe. Make sure it is completely dry before you put it away. During periods of long storage, mold may form. To remove any mold, apply a paste of equal parts of baking soda and water. Leave it on at least 30 minutes, then brush, rinse well, and let it thoroughly dry, preferably in bright sunlight.
After use let the pots come to room temperature then soak in water for a while.Then using coconut scrapper scrap the extras.
After washing, dry thoroughly to prevent the forming of mold. Store the clay pot with the lid off allowing air to circulate. Or invert the lid and place a paper towel between the pot and the lid to prevent chipping. Make sure the pot is thoroughly dry before storing it. This eliminates the risk of mold growth inside the pot. Store your earthenware in dry and well ventilated areas.
- Scrub it well and wash it.
- Sun dry it then store.
- This is the way I seasoned my claypots and maintain it.
- Cooking in claypots needs patience and practice as it takes time to get heated.And even after switching off the stove you can see it boiling that is the main specialty of claypots.
- It works in gas stoves and will not work in induction not sure of other heat sources.
- It is always better to have separate clay pots for veg and non-veg.
- Do not use any soap for washing.Use only rice flour or besan flour or chapathi flour.
- Be very careful while cooking for the first time after seasoning.If you burn it then the burnt smell will retain throughout and will show in any food cooked in that pot. Yes I ruined a new pot and had to discard it so experience speaks So make any curries first not any dry items to be on the safer side.
- Do not heat an empty pot.
- Overheating the pot may lead to cracks so its better to maintain low medium flame while cooking.
- Also after cooking do not pour water at once, the sudden change in temperature may lead to cracks.So wait for it to cool down for a while then soak in water and then wash.
Happy Cooking 🙂