Nothing beats cooking food in clay pots - from the health benefits to taste of the food, clay pots are the best! Find out all about cooking in clay pots in this article.
With so many diseases on the rise, people are eager to run to supplements and vitamin pills, and many have committed to growing their own fruits and vegetables, or buying organic produce. But nothing is going to matter unless you take a hard look at the utensils you have in your kitchen when cooking your food.
Here is a scenario - you grow your own vegetables, you invest in organic fertilizers and compost, and you do all the hard work, but when it comes time to cook your food, you are using non-stick or aluminum pans! Ouch! You can see now - for all the hard work you did, at the end, your food will come out with a heavy dose of Teflon, lead, and/or aluminum, plus other toxic metals and coatings.
This is why I stress on the importance of investing in the right cookware and today, we are going to talk about the best of the best cookware - clay pots for cooking your food!. As the name suggests, and as you may already know, clay cookware is made with clay and is also called earthen cookware, due to it's eco-friendly nature. Terracotta is the most popular earthenware for cooking.
Clay pots have been used since ancient times all over the world for cooking delicious meals, and no wonder, there was a time when the whole world was healthy and whole. Such practices are what we need now and thankfully, the ancient 'science' is coming back with full force - with people wanting to give up the modern lifestyle habits in exchange for simpler, healthier, and more fulfilling options. The same change applies to our kitchen - people are giving up modern conveniences like junk food, dairy, pre-packaged items, frozen foods, etc. and are returning to the basics - like I call it, 'back-to-the-basics.'
Health Benefits of Cooking in Clay Pots -
1. Clay Pots Helps in Alkalizing the Food - Cooking in clay pots helps balance the pH of the food since the clay reacts with the food's acidity, and helps in alkalizing the food.
2. Clay Pots Cooking Adds Nutrients to the Food - Clay pots cooking adds beneficial nutrients to the food, such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, etc. Clay is also the only cookware that retains 100% of the nutrients in the food - pretty impressive!
3. Clay Pots Add Best Taste to the Food - The taste of the food cooked in clay pots is phenomenal! Just like in good old days, the food cooked in clay pots has a light earthy flavor and smell, and because it retains 100% of its nutrients, the food cooked in clay pots tastes amazing! This is why 'village food' all over the world is considered divine - due to the taste that is unmatched elsewhere, thanks to ancient cookware called clay pots.
4. Clay Pots are True Earthenware! - If you care and love this planet as much as I do, then, I encourage you to go and invest in some clay pots. Why? Because they are truly eco-friendly - when they break, their 'carbon-footprint' is zero. They are not the ones who are filling our landfills or killing the oceans. I love them for all their zillion health benefits, plus the taste they add to the food, but even more so, as a child of this mother Earth, it is my responsibility to do everything I can to help this planet - which means, clay pots for cooking!
5. Clay is Porous in Nature - Because clay is porous in nature, it retains more moisture and the food in clay pots always cooks evenly - thus benefiting the nutrients and the flavor even more.
6. Food cooked in Clay Pots will Preserve & Stay Warmer for Longer - Clay pots retain heat very well, and alternatively, clay pots also keep water or food cooler for longer times. This is because clay is porous, so warm food will stay warm for a longer time, and water or food stored in clay will keep cool for a longer time. In India, it is a tradition to keep 'matka' at home - a round clay jar to store water. The water from the 'matka' tastes amazing and stays cool throughout the hot summers, plus the benefits of clay are there in the water. Very beneficial.
7. No Reheating Required - Because clay retains heat for a longer period of time, you don't need to reheat the food again and again - for e.g. like when you have guests, clay pot is really going to save you time and headache. The food will stay warm for hours once you have finished cooking and even turned off the stove.
What all can I cook in Clay Pots?
You can cook pretty much anything! Make rice recipes like the Indian biryani, curries, vegetables, lentils, etc. You can also cook sweet delights. When making beans and lentils, you may want to pressure cook them first so that they boil fast, and then flavor them in a clay pot.
There are also specific clay pots for cooking beans - slow and simmer, but taste second to none. Clay pots from all over the world are available for different types of recipes - Bean Pot from Mexico, Tagine from Morocco, Donabe from Japan, Handi from India, Cazuela from Spain, Romertopf from Germany, and Chinese Clay Pot from China, and so on.
How to Cook in Clay Pots -
Because clay pots are sensitive to heat, when cooking, follow these steps to ensure your clay pot does not crack or break down -
1. Start your cooking on very low heat and gradually build up the temperature so that the clay has time to adjust.
2. Add your cooking oil, onions, garlic, vegetables, or whatever first, and then, put the clay pot on the stove - now put the stove on, and start the cooking process.
3. Do NOT use tough utensils like steel spoons when cooking in clay pots - use bamboo spoons to avoid causing any cracks to your clay pots.
4. When you see that your recipe is almost done, close the stove as the clay pot will still be very warm since it retains heat very well. So, estimate it and close the stove roughly about 10-15 mins earlier.
5. Do NOT ever add cold water or liquids to a warm or hot clay pot - it can cause cracks. Alternatively, do not add hot or warm water or any liquids to a cold clay pot.
6. Keep separate clay pots for sweet and savory dishes - clay is porous, so it may impart the smell of savory foods into your sweet recipes, and vice versa.
7. Do NOT ever put your clay pot in the fridge to store the remaining dish. Transfer the remaining food into another container, and wash your clay pot, and let it air dry.
How to Wash Clay Pots -
After you have finished cooking in your clay pot, simply rinse your clay pot in warm water. Do NOT ever use soap or detergent when washing your clay pot as clay is very porous material and all that soap will eventually leak into your food the next time you cook - unless that's the taste you desire, I would highly suggest you use your common sense, and steer clear of the senseless advice of many on YouTube!
Use baking soda or pinch of sea salt or even some lemon juice, and very lightly scrub with a soft sponge, and rinse with warm water. That is it!
How to Store Clay Pots After Cooking & Cleaning -
It is best to store clay pots where there is some sunlight - like next to the kitchen window where the sun shines. If you live in an area where sunlight is not ample or if your kitchen doesn't have windows, you just need to wipe your clay pots well after washing, and let it air dry. Put it on a clean kitchen towel, and in an area of the kitchen where kids or pets can't access so that it doesn't fall down and break.
Alternatively, you can also put it in a room where there is window and sunlight to dry.
Where to Buy Clay Pots for Cooking -
You can buy from some pottery shop - they must be having it, or even pottery groups that hold classes must be having or can direct you in your area. You can also check online - these days with demand soaring for clay cooking pots, they are actually very easy to find.
Also, check with your local stores and ask around - so for e.g. if you want Mexican clay pots, ask some Mexican sellers in a Mexican market and they must be knowing for sure.
What to Look for When Buying Your Clay Pots for Cooking -
Unglazed clay pots do NOT have lead in them. In fact, they are 100% natural, and made with natural clay, so you can be sure that they are lead free. However, the issue of lead comes in when the clay pot has been glazed - so either buy those that are certified lead-free, or buy unglazed pots only. In case you end up buying one that is glazed, then do lead testing at home.
How to Test for Lead in Clay Pots -
You can buy lead testing strips at any hardware store, and then, simply follow the directions and you will find out if your clay pot has lead or not. Also, watch my video HERE on how to do lead testing as it will help you further.
How to Cure Your New Clay Pot -
There are many methods on how to cure clay pots, depending on different parts of the world. But I can only tell you how I did mine, and that is the most used method and simplest one that we use in India.
All you need to do is soak your clay pot for 48 hours (2 days) in water, and then lightly scrub it, and apply some coconut oil. Now, let it dry in the sun completely. That is it! Your clay pot is ready to be used and is now durable!
I hope this has answered all your questions regarding clay pots and how to cook in them. Now, it's time to go shopping for your clay pot!
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