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Do clay pots really add "flavor" to a dish or is it a myth?

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Do clay pots or even la creuset cast iron pots really add "flavor" to food?  or is this a myth?  Can't Sous Vide make the same flavor?

 

For example I know Sous Vide Duck "Confit" has the same flavor as Duck Confit cooked the traditional way.

 

Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

I put this into the same category as the "that griddle was seasoned by decades of cooking bacon so you know that burger will have extra flavor" which I think I heard the mayor of Flavor Town say once.

 

What, they never cleaned it?

 

Sous vide won't get you a maillard rxn, so no browning and the flavors that grow from that.  But you wouldn't get browning in a confit anyway. So I think you are right.

 

 

 


Edited by gfweb (log)
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Posted (edited)

There are far more technical experts on this board than me, but I think that the clay pot thing is about the rate of evaporation that occurs in those vessels, which in turn can affect the flavor of the item cooked (positively).

 

Now.  I have also had a clay pot add a wet-clay favor to the food cooked in it.  Which was not positive at all, in fact it was downright nasty.  

 

Similar with cast iron.  When I get an actual flavor added to the foods cooked in my cast iron, it is an awfulsome metal flavor.  

 

 


Edited by SLB (log)
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Can't testify to clay pot cooking (I have a tagine, never have used it), but there is a definite difference in the taste of things like pot roast, beef stew, carbonnades a la flamande, made by braising in the oven or stovetop, vs the same dish sous vide or in the IP. Dunno why. It's the case even if you sear the meat first. Consequently, I don't use my SV for braised beef dishes.

 

On the other hand, I've found SV ribs and/or IP pork shoulder roast, cooked until good and tender and then moved to the smoker, to taste but little different from the same cuts cooked the traditional way on a grill or in the oven.

 

 

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I suspect its more to do with the temperature (certainly sous vide is not going to be the same as any other method). There is another probably as important characteristic. A clay pot will take longer to heat up, and will stay hotter longer. What it means also is that food in contact with the pot will not cool the contact point very much. The heat transfer through the food should be more even as effectively its being slowly heated at least initially.

Same goes with a cast iron pot compared to a stainless or aluminum pan.

Even a cast iron baking dish with an enamel lining makes a difference. I think that the dish heats up but the enamel lining slows the heat transfer to the food. I think the result is that the temperature of the food is more even throughout during the whole cooking process.

 

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Clay pot cooking is fun and worth a shot if you come across a nice piece that you'd actually use. Things will taste different, but primarily for physical reasons having to do with heat and the nature of the clay than any sort of "terroir" effect of cooking in earthenware. But much clay cookware is porous and can retain odors -- a problem compounded by the fact that you can't put it in the dishwasher. I have 3 lovely donabes that I care for diligently, one of which is used almost exclusively for cooking short grained new crop rice. That rice donabe has a slight ricey fragrance to it at all times. Sometimes I de-aromatize by boiling some water with vinegar added, but that only gets you so far.

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They are pretty but as others have noted it is an evaporation/condensation of flavors I think as well as how temperature works.  Someone  will write their PhD on this one day :)

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1 hour ago, btbyrd said:

But much clay cookware is porous and can retain odors -- a problem compounded by the fact that you can't put it in the dishwasher. 

 

Seriously.  Odors that don't age so well, either.

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Wow. Off flavor? I have been cooking in a Romertoff (sp?) for 30 years and have never had that happen.

 

Mark

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I swear that the beans I cook in my clay pot (glazed on the inside) taste better than those cooked by other methods.

 

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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Posted (edited)

I don't think so. It's about temperature and moisture; if you replicate those, the vessel doesn't tend to matter over much. As for tasting a difference between SV and braising, I don't see it much once you account for searing, but that tends to be a subjective matter.

 

As for cleaning stuff that soaks into clay pots: consider, kiln firing will get hotter than anything your oven can do; with care you could burn anything out that remains behind.


Edited by jimb0 (log)
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15 hours ago, Nancy in Pátzcuaro said:

I swear that the beans I cook in my clay pot (glazed on the inside) taste better than those cooked by other methods.

 

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

I agree.  Clay pots and beans...the texture is very 'creamy' and moist done in a clay pot..either on the stove or in the oven.

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