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I want to bake meat inside of clay


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#1 gfron1

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 12:36 PM

So I want to pull some of the clay flavor into meat and present my meat in a dramatic clay vessel. I've been talking to my clay artist friend but this is new ground for her.

Here's what I'm thinking - Take the meat, season it and shape it. Take wet clay and wrap it around the meat creating a perfect seal. On whatever becomes the top, create a small vent hole to avoid explosion in the oven. Bake either in my regular oven or my friends kiln. Set on plate and let guests crack open their meat.

Its just a concept and I'm not married to it, but it could be a nice effect (flavor and presentation). I'm already thinking about shards in the food which would be bad. If it works then I want to experiment by working seasonings into the clay to see what effect that might have.

Anyway, any clay people out there who can give me advice? Isn't there a cuisine (Vietnamese or Burmese or something) that does this?

Edited to add: Just found THIS site for camp cooking in clay.
ReEdited to add: Just found THIS about Beggars Chicken - where were these articles when I looked earlier?
ReReEdited for the last time): HERE is one that uses my local clay!

Edited by gfron1, 22 June 2009 - 12:45 PM.

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#2 dougal

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 01:10 PM

...  Isn't there a cuisine (Vietnamese or Burmese or something) that does this? ...

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Well, its supposedly the Gypsy way of cooking hedgehogs (the spines coming away with the fired clay).

Does it work? (And many other questions.)
I don't know. But it should open another line of inquiry for you!
"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

#3 judiu

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 01:24 PM

So I want to pull some of the clay flavor into meat and present my meat in a dramatic clay vessel.  I've been talking to my clay artist friend but this is new ground for her.

Here's what I'm thinking - Take the meat, season it and shape it.  Take wet clay and wrap it around the meat creating a perfect seal.  On whatever becomes the top, create a small vent hole to avoid explosion in the oven.  Bake either in my regular oven or my friends kiln.  Set on plate and let guests crack open their meat.

Its just a concept and I'm not married to it, but it could be a nice effect (flavor and presentation).  I'm already thinking about shards in the food which would be bad.  If it works then I want to experiment by working seasonings into the clay to see what effect that might have.

Anyway, any clay people out there who can give me advice?  Isn't there a cuisine (Vietnamese or Burmese or something) that does this?

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The recipe you're thinking of, I believe, is beggars chicken, but the only recipes for that that I see have the meat wrapped in lotus leaves first. HTH!
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#4 Tri2Cook

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 01:50 PM

I'm not sure what technique you want to use but bentonite clay is edible. You could flavor the powder with a tasty liquid and some herbs or spices or something, do a thin shell of it on individual portions and just leave it on when you serve if you wanted.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#5 jgm

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 02:16 PM

Having done quite a bit of work with clay before arthritis set in, I can tell you that you want to be very careful where you get your clay.

Other than testing in a scientific laboratory, you really have no way of knowing what's in it. There's a company called Amaco that would be a great start; they sell clay - probably in a store somewhere near you - and I'm sure they could tell you if there's likely to be anything in it that you wouldn't want in your food. Having gotten some of Amaco's clay in my mouth through various mishaps in the studio (some involving significant quantities of beer, some not...), I'm not sure I understand why you want THAT flavor in your meat!

When clay is fired in a kiln, it's heated to a temperature high enough to melt its components (vitrify), so any impurities would be sealed in. Theoretically, at least. If you haven't added anything acidic to the meat, there would be no problem at that point, but I'm not sure you'd want to cook meat at that temperature.

Clay, as a product that you might dig up in your area, would be subject to the same problems as the local groundwater. If the local groundwater is fairly pure, then all you've got to worry about is whether there's anything undesirable -- like a radioactive substance -- in the local mineral mix.

Tread carefully into this territory. Amaco is your best bet, in my opinion.

There's also a technique involving salt, which is added to other ingredients and made into a clay-like consistency, wrapped around food, and cracked open at the table. That may be something to look into.

FYI, a few years ago I posted a thread about a website I found about cooking chicken in hot volcanic lava, I believe in Hawaii. I think they wrapped the chicken in banana leaves first. It would be worth Googling. Frankly, it's one of my "bucket list" items. I think it sounds like a hoot!

#6 Tri2Cook

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 03:02 PM

Chef Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz was featured on the northern Spain episode of No Reservations and was doing a dish of potatoes baked in edible clay. He served them in a dish of heated stones and Bourdain was instructed to eat clay and all. He didn't seem to find anything less than tasty about them. It didn't specifically name the clay but it inspired me to research the idea more. Bentonite clay has the same color as the stuff that was on the potatoes and is edible so I've been meaning to give it a shot one of these days.

Edit: Apparently I didn't research hard enough the first time. I just found the recipe here and the clay he uses is called kaolin.

Edited by Tri2Cook, 22 June 2009 - 03:06 PM.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#7 gfron1

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 03:34 PM

ohhhh...those are pretty potatoes! I want to eat clay now! This is making me re-think the whole project. Thanks.

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#8 Peter the eater

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 03:34 PM

Very interesting topic. Are you thinking of preparing recognizable meat portions, like a whole chicken with skin? The salt shell technique that jgm mentions can be very impressive.

Right, I see you're thinking shape'n'bake. How about making thin-shelled finished pottery pieces first, line them with a food-safe greasy barrier, then fill with pate batter and then bake? The delicate clay vessels could be whacked open with a spoon, at least in my imagination. How about a sugar shell?
Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .
Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

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#9 gfron1

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 03:37 PM

Peter, I don't know anymore. This meal needs to be as locally sourced as possible so edible clay is out, but...maybe its not. And its making me wonder if I can't use my mooncake molds somehow to shape the clay with the meat inside - basically roll out the clay just like the mooncake dough, fill and seal.

Edited by gfron1, 22 June 2009 - 04:00 PM.

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#10 Peter the eater

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 03:39 PM

I just found the recipe here and the clay he uses is called kaolin.


Those look intriguing.

Kaolin is the kao- in kaopectate, medicine for diarrhoea.
Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .
Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

#11 gfron1

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 04:00 PM

And wiki says "It's taste is sweet, astringent and warm."

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#12 Tri2Cook

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 04:29 PM

And, since the edible clays seem to be most available as powders, you can flavor them in any way you want with the hydrating liquid and any other flavor agents that seems appropriate to the dish.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#13 Lilija

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 08:47 PM

I know of a source to get bulk clay powders, food grade, all naturaly processed, sun dried, etc. I can PM you a link, if you're interested.

Edit: Funny, there's no kaoilin clay available there, right now. I've gotten some through them, for cosmetic purposes. Either way, currently it looks like they don't have what you'd want. There's other kinds like betonite...betonite is edible, too.

Edited by Lilija, 22 June 2009 - 08:48 PM.


#14 bague25

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 01:23 AM

Thierry Marx does a Bar à l'âge de pierre au cacao:

Recipe here in French:
http://www.adelyhs.c...tm?RECETTE=2691

Fish dusted in cacao powder and cooked in clay, the casing is broken in front of the client - nice effect and fish cooked to perfection.
ETA: link to the picture:
http://www.chazallet...epas-071019.asp

Edited by bague25, 23 June 2009 - 01:24 AM.


#15 Magictofu

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 07:46 AM

I've seen it being done in China but never tried it myself. My partner said this cooking technique became popular after being featured in some kung fu movies or novels.

Chicken were dispatched, the bigger feathers removed and then tightly wrapped in clay to form big brown-grey balls. These balls were placed in an old oil drum with a bit of wood, twigs and straw and the whole thing was set on fire.

When serving, the clay shells were broken with a hammer or stone and big pieces of clay were slowly removed along with most feathers (and often skin) glued to the clay.

I have to say that it was quite impressive but my partner convinced me that we could find something better to eat down the road.

#16 HungryC

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 07:55 AM

Dirt/clay eating (geophagy) is a ritual practice in some cultures; in central America, tierra del santo (shaped like crosses or other religious objects) are consumed as part of devotion to the blessed mother, or to the Black Christ of Guatemala....so maybe you can find a Latin American source for edible clay?

#17 jgm

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 07:56 AM

If you're thinking of actually consuming the clay, please research it extensively. The term "clay" encompasses a wide range of materials, and quite frankly, I don't think eating them is necessarily a good idea, especially for some members of the population who may have certain diseases or conditions, or may be on certain types of medications.

Please, please be careful.

#18 gfron1

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 08:37 AM

Not to worry JGM, except for the kaolin idea, no clay was going to be consumed - except the possibility of the infused flavor. The few clay dealers that I've already talked to have obviously been asked this before and most have been able to provide me with chemical analysis upon request.

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#19 Tri2Cook

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 08:56 AM

If you're thinking of actually consuming the clay, please research it extensively.  The term "clay" encompasses a wide range of materials, and quite frankly, I don't think eating them is necessarily a good idea, especially for some members of the population who may have certain diseases or conditions, or may be on certain types of medications.

Please, please be careful.

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Some specific types of clay powders are sold as food safe and edible. While this doesn't completely rule out the possibility of problems (nothing does), I don't think it's quite as dangerous as you seem to think. I'm pretty sure nobody is planning to dig up clay from the backyard or buy lumps of unknown origin clay to eat or cook with.

edit: removed irrelevant fluff

Edited by Tri2Cook, 23 June 2009 - 09:17 AM.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#20 haresfur

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 05:52 PM

I've heard of this but never tried it so, unencumbered by facts, here are my thoughts.

I believe pretty much any clay is going to be more or less edible - i.e. it won't kill you if you consume it in moderation. To get some terminology straight, there are clay size particles (finer than silt), clay minerals (bentonite, kaolinite, etc.), and clay bodies[I] (the mixture of clay minerals, other clay-size particles, and sometimes coarser stuff that potters use to make into ceramics). So your potter friend can probably tell you that you might not have a lot of success getting a 50 lb bag of kaolin, adding water and trying to coat a chicken with the resulting goo. You need a decent clay body that will be workable wet and will hold together in the baking/firing.

I think your best bet would be to use a low-fire terracotta clay body, maybe with some sand to add "tooth" and strength. Avoid one with added iron oxide for color (stains everything) and be sure to avoid anything with granular manganese (potentially toxic). If you are worried about the unknown materials in terracotta there are low fire white clay bodies that may at least seem purer. I don't think that is an issue however.

I would think you wouldn't be able to let the clay dry completely before cooking because the food needs to be fresh. That could lead to cracking. Maybe try putting the food in a cold oven so the temperature ramps up less rapidly. Or make the cracks part of the serendipity of the process (a teacher once told me, "If it isn't glued, it isn't art). Any idea how you will know when the food is done?

Good luck. Don't forget your safety glasses when you are carving! :biggrin:
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#21 StanSherman

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 07:38 AM

I used to have clay baked chicken at a place in Glendale, CA years ago. They would season the bird, wrap it in parchment and mold a clay chicken around the bird and bake it. It was served on a platter for two with straw around the base.

#22 jkarpf

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 09:01 AM

Any interest in salt-baking as an accessible, less risky alternative?

I just showed my sculptor gf this thread and she said that potters' clay isn't even safe enough to breathe, never mind eat.

Edited by jkarpf, 24 June 2009 - 09:38 AM.


#23 Tri2Cook

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 12:00 PM

Any interest in salt-baking as an accessible, less risky alternative?

I just showed my sculptor gf this thread and she said that potters' clay isn't even safe enough to breathe, never mind eat.

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What's the risk? If he uses an edible/foodsafe clay as opposed to the potters or yard clays people keep using as a basis for their concern why would there be a risk involved? I'm going to take one for the team here. I'll obtain some kaolin and bentonite clay powders, bake some things in them, eat, rinse and repeat a few times and report on my health. Rob: if the forum never hears from me again, scrap the idea! :wink: Maybe the clay will neutralize the tonka beans and cherry pits I use to flavor things now and then. :raz: :biggrin:
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#24 gfron1

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 12:03 PM

yeah, I do appreciate the concern, and if Larry dies send me all of his pastry toys, but there is a clear difference between potters clay and the other things we're talking about. My local potter friend has both and made that very clear in our first meeting.

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#25 jgm

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 12:51 PM

Clay is often used as a laxative, and depending on which kind you're talking about, it can also have other properties. My concern, if you're actually eating the clay, which gfron1 says is not his intention, is that it can interact with the body and with pharmaceuticals in a number of ways. I've had only a couple of mineralogy courses and am far from an expert, so I'm not about to venture any guesses, etc. I would also think that cooked clay would be a whole 'nother matter from raw clay. If serving it to people to eat, I would research:

1. If I were serving it cooked, and if it were actually edible at that point, whether enough vitrification would have taken place to make it harmful; it's generally not a good idea to eat glass.

2. If it were being consumed in its raw state, whether there would be possible drug interactions, since it has properties of binding with certain types of molecules. For example, it's used in face masques - the kind that come in jars -- because of its ability to bind with dirt, oil, and other substances, and "pull" them out of the skin. I don't know how selective that process is, but if it's consumed within a certain amount of time after someone has taken certain medications, I would be concerned about what the result would be. I would predict (which would have to be researched, also) that people with certain kinds of health issues would not want to consume it, whether it would affect their medications or not.

If the clay isn't being consumed, and if the clay comes in a form that is considered food safe by the purveyor, then I doubt very much that there would be an issue. I'm concerned only about where they clay comes from and whether it's going to be consumed.

Jenny

Any interest in salt-baking as an accessible, less risky alternative?

I just showed my sculptor gf this thread and she said that potters' clay isn't even safe enough to breathe, never mind eat.

View Post


What's the risk? If he uses an edible/foodsafe clay as opposed to the potters or yard clays people keep using as a basis for their concern why would there be a risk involved? I'm going to take one for the team here. I'll obtain some kaolin and bentonite clay powders, bake some things in them, eat, rinse and repeat a few times and report on my health. Rob: if the forum never hears from me again, scrap the idea! :wink: Maybe the clay will neutralize the tonka beans and cherry pits I use to flavor things now and then. :raz: :biggrin:

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#26 Tri2Cook

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 01:15 PM

Ok, I was a bit flippant with my reply. The point I'm trying to make is that there is foodsafe and edible clay available. It's used by a top level chef in a 2 michelin star restaurant that was number 4 on last years world top 50 list and diners are specifically instructed to eat the clay in the dish. The clay is baked, not served raw. It just doesn't really sound like a worthwhile risk for a business at that level if there was any serious chance of danger to the diner involved. I didn't mean to undermine people's concern, I just wanted to try to keep the facts in a row.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#27 Lisa Shock

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 01:58 PM

A fairly fancy restaurant here in Phoenix had several meats baked in clay on their menu. Unfortunately, they recently closed. If I run into anyone who worked there, I will ask them about their sourcing of the clay, and any other details I can get.

#28 Reignking

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 01:58 PM

http://forums.egulle...pic=96021&st=30

Some posts here have talked the stone potatoes, too...

#29 gfron1

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 02:18 PM

A fairly fancy restaurant here in Phoenix had several meats baked in clay on their menu. Unfortunately, they recently closed. If I run into anyone who worked there, I will ask them about their sourcing of the clay, and any other details I can get.

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Maybe their guests were feeling weighed down. Or maybe the business plan was left in shards...okay, I'm done.

Thanks for the link to that demo I forgot about that one.

We're really talking about two beasts here. First, is the earthen vessel in which food is cooked. Clay is not intended to be consumed in this instance although I am hoping for some of the flavor to infuse...someone earlier asked why...to counteract the richness of some game that I might serve in it.

The second is the kao which is perfectly safe to consume. The question for me here is what value is it going to provide? Its cool but if its not going to improve the taste or texture then why? And I'm perplexed by the quote in the demo by docsconz that said the clay is consumed but not digested...where does it go? John if you're reading this, do you remember what that meant?

Edited by gfron1, 24 June 2009 - 02:19 PM.

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM


#30 Kerry Beal

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 02:40 PM

And I'm perplexed by the quote in the demo by docsconz that said the clay is consumed but not digested...where does it go?  John if you're reading this, do you remember what that meant?

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Where all things that aren't digested go! Picture corn kernels.