If you are a new and proud owner of a clay pot cookeware, or are thinking of buying a clay pot, this is an article you should continue reading. In my Choosing the Best Soup Pot post, I compared 5 of the most common types of cookware, including clay pots. There are many functional benefits I described that clay pots provide. One thing to keep in mind though is that clay is a natural material that require a little more TLC to ensure long use. Here is what you should keep in mind in addition to following the manufacturer’s instructions:
- Always soak and wash your clay pot before the first use. Completely submerge and soak the clay pot and lid overnight. Do this in the kitchen sink. Then scrub the pot and lid with a brush under water to remove any clay dust. Some say to use a stiff brush for cleaning. But if your clay pot is glazed and has a smooth surface, a stiff brush can scratch your pot.
- If you have a Chinese clay pot (i.e. a sand pot, 砂煲), it should also be seasoned before the first use after it is soaked and washed. Simply make a porridge by filling the pot with water to about 70%. Add cooked rice that is about 1/5 of the water’s volume and mix well. Wipe dry the pot’s bottom and cook over low heat with the lid on for the first 10 minutes. Then slowly increase the heat to a medium-low and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the liquid begins to simmer. Remove the lid and bring down the heat. Continue simmering over low heat without the lid until the liquid turns into a porridge (or a paste). Turn off the heat and let the porridge cool and rest with the clay pot for an hour. Discard the porridge. Rinse the pot with water and let dry upside down tilted at an angle so that air can circulate through the cavities. This seasoning process fills in the microscopic holes or any hairline cracks in the pot.
- After the first use, an unglazed clay pot should still be soaked in water for about 10-15 minutes before use. Just wipe dry the pot bottom and side before putting it on the stove.
- Although Asian clay pots can be used above fire on a gas stove, sudden temperature change should be avoided as it will crack the pot. Always begin cooking by warming up a soaked pot with low heat for the first 5 minutes. Then the heat can be slowly adjusted up to a medium-low to medium heat. Avoid using high heat with a clay pot to prevent cracking.
- If cracks begin to form in the inside of the clay pot, season it again by following the steps in the second bullet point above.
- Clean the clay pot only after it has cooled. Soak it with water and clean with a brush. If you need something stronger, add some baking soda as a scouring agent and degreaser. Do not use detergent since clay is a porous material and will soak up the soap. I would not put a clay pot in a dishwasher either. The high temperature and detergent can damage the clay pot.
- If moldy smells develop in your clay pot, submerge it in hot water and add 3 tablespoons of baking soda for every 1 quart of water. Let it soak for a while before rinsing and seasoning it again.
- To remove food smells absorbed into the clay, fill the pot about 75% full with water. Simmer with a teaspoon of green tea leaves for 10 minutes.
- Always put a hot clay pot on a cloth pot-holder or towel. Never put a hot clay pot on a cold or wet surface, as the temperature shock will crack the clay.
- If you plan to bake with the clay pot, remember to always put the pot into a cold oven that has not been preheated. Again, you want the clay pot to warm up gradually with the oven temperature.
Following these steps and the manufacturer’s instructions should help you keep your clay pot in good shape and long lasting. If you have never owned a clay pot before, don’t lose confidence. You can always start with a smaller, less expensive pot first. When you get the hang of things, graduate up to a higher quality, larger pot. Although I must say that the largest clay pot I’ve been able to find in the US is only about 6 quarts (not as big as I’d like to make soups). If you know of a place where I can get a larger quality clay pot (8+ quarts) made in Japan, Taiwan, or US, let me know by leaving a comment below. And thanks in advance!
See a related article on Choosing the Best Soup Pot