Clay pot baking and cooking is ancient in its roots and technology. The Chinese and Romans both used these pots to cook and bake a variety of dishes form full imperial feasts to meager bread for the masses. Clay bakers, also called clay pots or hot pots in the Far East, are unglazed fired clay dishes that have porous properties allowing heat and moisture to combine to cook meals evenly and while sealing in nutrients. This method of cooking food has not remained in antiquity and in fact has risen in popularity due to people wanting healthier meals and lifestyles.
Clay bakers require no additional oil, butter or fats to keep the moisture in your meal. They are soaked in water for 10 to 15 minutes prior to cooking. The porous clay soaks in the water and redistributes it as it is heated in the oven creating a “steaming” effect without over cooking the entrée and depleting it of nutrients, in fact the pots seal in the natural juices and flavors of your meal. You don’t even need the skin on chicken or the fat on roasts, cut it all off and let the pot do the work for you. Clay bakers are great for small meals for two or for a large busy family as an entire meal can be cooked at once.
These clay pots aren’t just easy to use; they are extremely affordable. No need to buy multiple pans and dishes, all you need is a single clay baker; however, if you plan to prepare fish often you should consider using a separate clay pot as the fish’s natural juices and flavors will permeate the porous clay. There are plenty of affordable styles of flat clay bakers for preparing fish and seafood.
Clay bakers, and clay earthenware in general, is very sensitive to rapid changes in temperature, a minor downside. They should always be placed in a cold, never preheated, oven to avoid cracking the clay. The reverse is also true; when finished cooking always place the baker atop a cradle or on a hot pad to avoid the cold countertop to come into contact with the pot itself.
Only one pot to clean is by itself is great advantage but cleaning the clay bakers is really easy. Remember to let your clay baker cool down before placing in water for cleaning to avoid cracking. Simply use a nylon brush to scrub the interior of the dish, never use steel wool or harsh abrasives as they could damage the pot or clog the pores needed for proper cooking. For more stubborn foods, soak the pot over night with baking soda and in the morning scrub it out as noted above. Be sure to separate the lid from the pot so both completely dry. Soaps and cleansers should not be used as they too could block the pores of the clay.
Cooking a meal or entrée in a clay pot is an easy and simple way to create healthy and delectable food for yourself and your family. Almost any recipe can be prepared using this cooking method. Increase the temperature of the recipe by 10 to 20% and decrease the time by about 15% as well. As a hint, test your meals with an instant thermometer the first few times you use your clay baker. Place all of your ingredients into the clay baker and then place in a cold oven, set the timer and walk away. That’s it; no mess, no fuss, just fantastic nutritious meals.