Clay pots are beloved around the world for their ability to cook especially delicious food,
concentrating flavors and retaining heat with ease. From the Moroccan tagine to the Japanese
donabe, these vessels are an awesome hardworking cooking gear—they can go straight from oven and
stove to table while looking as beautiful as their contents taste. But cooking with clay pots requires
a bit of know-how. Since they are made of, well, clay, they perform differently than metal pots and
pans. Check out these quick tips on seasoning, cleaning, and cooking before you get started.
Season Before First Use
The following clay pots should be seasoned before first use to temper them for cooking. Donabe, Flame ware, Chinese Clay Pots, and Bean Pots: Combine a 4:1 ratio of cool water and cooked white rice to fill the pot halfway. Set the pot over medium-low heat, bring to a simmer, and adjust heat to maintain a gentle bubble until the rice softens into a porridge. Turn off heat and let stand until cool. Discard the porridge, and clean the pot.
Let pots cool completely before washing. To scrape off stuck-on food, soak pots briefly in lukewarm water to soften residue and use a soft sponge to remove. Do not use soap on partially glazed or unglazed pots; use only mild detergent on flame ware. If bacterial growth is of concern, dry the pots in a 200°F oven for 30 minutes before storing in a cool, dry place.
Clay cookware is sensitive to thermal shock (except some brands of flame ware and Chinese clay pots insulated with metal wire), so take great care to avoid sudden temperature changes or pots will break when heated. Never heat an empty clay pot, and do not set a cold pot over high heat; instead, heat the pots gradually after filling so the ingredients heat at the same rate as the pot.
To avoid thermal shock and accidental breakage, use wooden—not metal—tools to stir food, and don’t tap spoons on the sides of pots or drag pots across burners. Place a double layer of kitchen linens as a stove-side landing pad for hot pots or lids rather than setting them directly on cold countertops and use wooden or cloth trivets in lieu of metal.