Clay Pot Cooking
The Ease of Clay Pot Cooking
Clay pot cooking, also sometimes called one pot cooking, is a method which uses a clay baking or cooking vessel soaked in water to prepare food. This technique is found in cultures all around the world and was originally used to cook food over open fires. The same methods will work in a modern oven, or can be a fun way to prepare food while camping or for backyard parties with a fire pit.
What sets this type of cooking pot apart from others is that it is unglazed clay. The pot and lid are soaked in water before cooking. During cooking, the sealed vessel cooks and steams the food, keeping in any juices released. This not only produces very tender meats, but results in great flavor even with simple ingredients. If you are a fan of "one pot" style meals, and have not tried a clay pot yet, you don't know what you are missing!
What You Need for Clay Pot Cooking (besides the pot)
One kitchen accessory that will make cooking with a clay pot much easier is a pair of heatproof gloves. This allows for the easiest handling of the cooking container and is much more safe than trying to use conventional pot holders. A full clay pot is going to be a lot heavier than most other baking dishes.
Clay pot cooking is done at temperatures much hotter than conventional baking, and the filled clay pots are much heavier than a baking sheet and can be harder to grasp than modern-style cookware. The gloves will also protect your hands from burning steam when you first take the lid off the pot.
It also helps to have a thermometer for inside the oven. You need to be sure of the inside oven temperature and to stop cooking shortly before the dish reaches the desired temperature or you risk over cooking the pot's contents.
Cooking in a Clay Pot
The clay pots used for this style of cooking are unglazed. This is important as the pot and lid are soaked in water for several hours before cooking. The soaking is what creates the steam effect during cooking which mingles flavors and results in the fantastic texture of the cooked meat or fish.
Interestingly, you don't pre-heat the oven for this method of cooking, instead putting the soaked pot filled with ingredients into a cold oven and then setting the temperature. What this does is allow the clay to heat up slowly, which protects against cracking, and slowly builds up the steam inside the pot. This steam cooking also makes delicious sauce as a side effect of the overall cooking process. By using fresh vegetables and spices, you will wind up with the flavors not only blending together but they will be infused into whatever else you are cooking in the pot.
Prep Time: about an hour for many dishes
Total Time: two hours cook's labor
- One heavy claypot cooking dish with tight-fighting cover/lid.
- Heatproof gloves
- High-quality spring water or other good-quality water for use in cooking
- All ingredients prepped/chopped, meat/poultry/fish, vegetables, spices, etc.
- For best temperature control, having a handheld, infrared laser thermometer will allow you to spot check inside the pot or oven with the most specific readouts. Having any sort of thermometer inside the oven which you can read as a backup to the oven temp setting is good.
- You must make sure you have all your food ingredients cut, chopped, processed however they need to be BEFORE you even begin heating the clay cooking pot.
- The key action to always remember is to heat the entire cooking pot, lid and all, together slowly before you begin cooking the food. This will prevent the pot from cracking and vastly improve the cooking experience.
- Many cooks prefer to have a thermometer that sits in the oven next to the clay pot when they do this style of cooking as a method of verifying the temperature. Remember it's the temperature INSIDE the clay pot that's doing the cooking.
- Because this style of cooking is all about steam, having the purest water to cook with is very important.
- Once your pot and lid are almost at the right temperature, make sure you have all the ingredients arranged so that you can put them into the heated pot quickly. Check that you have a safe surface on which to put the hot pot while you add the ingredients to the pot. You're not making burnt counter top, right?
- YOU DO NOT POUR COLD LIQUIDS INTO THIS MORE-THAN-BOILING HOT COOKING POT WHEN YOU ADD STUFF. That's a great way to get the cooking pot to crack and/or break right open.
Try chicken or fish embedded with lots of veggies, and then spoon later over your choice of grains.