Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Caring for Clay Pots (or Claypots)


Wolfert
 Share

Recommended Posts

update on curing the Italian clay plates with molasses or ash: zilch

What do you mean? It didn't cure them, or you couldn't see a difference?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The extremely tight texture of the Italian clay made it impossible for me to get the molasses or the oil and ash to stick.

I decided it wasn't worth it.

It works with two of the most important Moroccan clay tagines and that is what is important.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

. . . . .

BTW . . . Getting curious, last night I stuck my nose in my bean pot. Remember, I have only cooked the lemon chicken in it. I did get a faint whiff of the ingredients in that dish. The aroma was pretty much just like the final combined smells. Maybe the lemon was a bit more pronounced. But it was slight and not enough to concern me for a pot of beans.

I just had an idea. How about I cook a pot of some sort of beans using the Parson's method. I will just cook them plain with salt and no other seasonings and see what happens.

The bean experience is finished. Report to follow. To recap, I used the bean pot to do a chicken recipe that I have done many times. That discussion is here. Ingredients were olive oil, fresh lemon juice, white wine, lotsa garlic, some capers, a little bit of Greek seasoning. Seven or so days later, the pot smells of the chicken dish, not strongly but I do get the aroma of the finished dish.

Now the question is, will that flavor transfer to the next dish. I did 1/2 pound white beans, 2 1/2 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt. This goes into a 250 degree F oven. For the clay pot, I used the parchment as in the first chicken picture since that made sense.

First check at 1 hour . . . I smell the chicken dish.

Second check at 2 hours . . . I had to add water (no surprise there for clay verus LC) but I am not sure that I smell any chicken dish.

Three hours . . . Almost done so I taste. I don't taste any chicken dish. There is one oddity, though. The beans need way more salt. In the LC, 1/2 teaspoon is usually just perfect. I had to get up to a total of 1 1/2 teaspoons to get it right. I wonder if the salt is migrating into the clay. Curious.

They were done perfectly in 3 1/2 hours. That doesn't surprise me even though when I do this in the LC, 2 hours or so does the trick. The LC version is brought to a boil on top of the stove and put into a hot oven. But I started these cold in a cold oven. I am still protective of my babies.

Sticking my snoot in the pot, I don't smell anything but beans. If I think really hard I may get a whiff of lemon but it could be my imagination. They are wonderful beans. I have now eaten a bowl of them with just s&p. I don't taste anything but beans.

Taking the beans out of the pot, I stick my nose back into the empty pot. This is odd. I get a definite toasty smell. Very nice. But odd. Nothing burned or scorched in there.

I washed the pot in nothing but hot water and the plastic scrubby thing since I didn't use any fatty products in the beans. Now that it has dried, all I smell is the original clay smell that I got when I cured it from new. Again, there may be a whiff of lemon but I don't think so.

I have no idea what any of this means. Did cooking the beans somehow "clean" the pot? If that is what happened, would this be a good strategy when switching cuisines? Cook some beans in between and just have fun with whatever surprises happen? Would cooking just about anything else "clean" the pot? I just checked the individual pots where I used one to rewarm the chicken. I still smell the chicken dish in there about 5 days after I used it. Boy, am I curious.

I am starting to think that carryover may not be too big a thing. But then, I haven't done anything highly seasoned with spices yet.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Second check at 2 hours . . . I had to add water (no surprise there for clay vSecond check at 2 hours . . . I had to add water (no surprise there for clay verus LC) but I am not sure that I smell any chicken dish.

Three hours . . . Almost done so I taste. I don't taste any chicken dish. There is one oddity, though. The beans need way more salt. In the LC, 1/2 teaspoon is usually just perfect. I had to get up to a total of 1 1/2 teaspoons to get it right. I wonder if the salt is migrating into the clay. Curious.

erus LC) but I am not sure that I smell any chicken dish.

Since beans are traditionally cooked in pot bellied clay pots and very often sealed, the amount of liquid should never be a problem. I just checked all my bean pots and they are glazed inside..So maybe you are right about the water and the unglazed pot..hmmmm that is interesting.

Come to think of it, I don't think we used clay pots to cook beans in Morocco.

I salt beans from the start so I haven't had that experience.

..

I love the concept of 'the bean between.'

Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, I only had to add about a half cup of water. If I had to go through sealing the pot with dough or something I probably wouldn't do it. I am a notoriously lazy person. :biggrin:

I always have salted beans from the beginning. I was just surprised that I had to add as much as I did. It doesn't matter to me since I don't try to avoid salt.

I love that phrase "the bean between." The first time I do a highly seasoned dish in the pot, I will be curious as to what a pot of beans does.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

Link to comment
Share on other sites

in 'tandoor' by ranjit rai,he mentions-

green leaves,usually spinach,are used to coat the inside walls.after a day,a mixture of buttermilk or 'khatti lassi',oil and salt is rubbed all over the inner walls and left overnight...
both processes usually repeated once a fortnight.khatti lassi i guess would be sour buttermilk.

in southern india,claypot seasoning usually involves cooking a little rice in plenty of water(a very watery conjee).i think oil and ash is used to season pots that are used for dry/fried food.

someday i hope to have a kitchen filled with clay pots and ms Wolfert's books :smile:

edit:eep!the second process as indicated above should be

a coating of molasses will serve the purpose just as well..
Edited by gingerly (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The p(l)ot thickens.

Sorry I couldn't resist.

Thank you, gingerly, for that information.

I will certainly try the buttermilk on a new comal that I am planning to use to cook Turkish flat breads.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I finished soaking and oiling my Rifi last week, but didn't have any ashes at the time. I now have some ashes from chunk charcoal that I can use to age my Rifi. Is there any reason that will not work? Any reason to burn wood instead?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If it is from briquets, I would worry about the binders and stuff that they use to make it bind together. I could very well be wrong but you are after the ash only, aren't you?

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Go for it!

In that case, ash is ash as it all started from real wood.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All the clay pot / tagine topics in recent months has made me very interested in clay pot cooking. However, I have owned about 3 or 4 clay pots, all of them have cracked. One cracked because I stupidly stored it in the fridge, then warmed it up (very gently, though) on the stove. The latest one cracked just last weekend. I was cooking a Hong-Kong style claypot dish (where there is rice on the bottom and food on top of the rice, all cooked together). I turned the heat on my gas stove to very low, and after maybe 10 minutes turned it to something like medium-low. I wasn't so concerned about heat because I know that clay is fairly good at taking heat, and I have seen clay pot restaurants in San Francisco Chinatown that put clay pots over high heat. So I figured my clay pot can take it. Well, after about 40 minutes, it cracked rather severely, causing water to drip on my gas stove, and sending lots of smoke up in general.

I'm trying to figure out why it cracked. The rules I know for clay pot cooking are not to heat it without water. Also, keep the heat relatively low, at least at first. And don't subject the clay to extreme changes in temperature. However, two of those rules are broken in this recipe by Marc Bittman, where you start the clay pot on medium heat, and saute some stuff in an empty clay pot. Everything I know says that this will cause the clay pot to break. And perhaps it does, I haven't tried the recipe. But after reading it, I seem more confused then ever.

So, anyone care to guess why my clay pot cracked? Or to comment on the Bittman recipe? Or to just offer tips on preventing cracking, in either Chinese clay pots or tagines?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Were you using a sandy claypot? I was told to cure it by soakingit in water overnight before its first use.

Another reason for cracking is when you add something cold like water to a heated pot. I did this with an expensive Emile Henri stoneware pot which really shocked me and the pot! It turned me off ever thinking of replacing it.

It is unfortunate that we are all purchasing our claypots online. The traditional and secure way to test a claypot for defects is to tap it on its bottom. You should hear a definite bing.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure if my ingredients made a difference, they were simply rice, water, a cornish hen, black fungus, ginger, soy sauce, and a bit of rum. At several times during the cooking process, I added a slight bit of luke warm water to the pot, which by this time was boiling the water and rice. The cracking did not happen right after I did it, it cracked when being left alone. But perhaps the water addition did have something to do with it.

I also cannot remember if I cured this or not before use. It was the first time I've used this pot for almost a year, though.

This was indeed a sandy clay pot. Looks just like this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The reason I asked about the ingredients is that here in the UK I have a similar kind of pot, which CANNOT have any water added into it or it will crack. The recipe that you supplied the link to had cooked rice, no water. I think that may be your problem.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could it be the type of burner on the range? I have had no clay pot falures over a gas flame. Once I was even able to pan grill a veal chop on the hot surface, medium heat.

But I am only able to use propane fuelled patio burners since there is no gas in my kitchen. These burners are circular, cast iron affairs, with two to four concentric rings of fire.

I think this is safer for clay pots than many gas ranges, with fingers of flame, often in a spoke formation.

In addition, I keep a Carbon Monoxide detector nearby, especially if three or four burners are lit. I think this is a good idea with gas ranges, too, since flames are similar in combustion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You only need to soak the sandy pot once, but a year of non-use just might have been the problem.

Tim Z: Your comment "not adding any water to the pot " is so interesting.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another reason for cracking is when you add something cold like water to a heated pot. I did this with an expensive Emile Henri stoneware pot which really shocked me and the pot! It turned me off ever thinking of replacing it.

In the last couple of years, all five of my Émile Henry glazed clay baking dishes have begun to develop cracks, meaning they are no longer watertight (roasting juices, cream, melted duck fat, etc. leak out the bottom). One, a litre oval dish that was perfect for clafoutis, actually broke in two. <sob>

I love these dishes and have treated them with respect. I've not poured cold liquids in hot dishes or put cold dishes into hot ovens. I've carefully washed them by hand. And yet after five or six years of use, every one of them has developed cracks that only worsen with time. Is this par for the course? An unavoidable fact of life? Increase kitchen budget to include replacing Émile Henry dishes every five years?

As Paula points out, they ain't cheap. As fond of them as I am, I've been thinking of switching to metal pans (clafoutis oval excepted), which don't leak and let you pour cold liquid in them and heat them over a high flame, great when making sauces from pan drippings. But I'd really rather someone told me how to avoid the cracking problem.

Edited by carswell (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another thing that I don't do is wash my pot with detergent - just wipe with a paper towel. The reason for this is, that it gets seasoned and holds the heat better, therefore better to cook with in the future. Also you get better flavours.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Avumede, are you using a diffuser over your burner? I don't think anyone else has discussed that yet. If you had the flame on low for 10 minutes, then increased it, you'd have been heating the center of the pot base first - providing uneven heat. Uneven heat can made clay crack, and that can apply to having too much heat in the center as easily as it could apply to pouring cold liquid into a hot pot.

It's just another guess, inspired by the discussion above about radial tongues of flame vs. concentric rings. A flame-tamer (diffuser) would even it out.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have three or four of the clay pots from this vendor and have never had a problem with cracking. I season them prior to initial use and again if I haven't used them for 4 or 5 months because I live in a desert area and it is very, very dry. (Except right now when it is pouring outside and we have a record rainfall year. However we also are having a bumper crop of wildflowers, the best in living memory so all thing even out.)

Anyway, I have used one of the pots on the barbecue with no problems but usually use them on the gas cooktop and have never had one crack. I broke the handle on one when I shoved it ard against the tile backsplash but it did not destroy the integrity of the pot. I just use a rasp and coarse sandpaper to smooth it.

I think you probably need to re-season the pot after it has been stored for a long time.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The suggestion to re-season the pot after not using it for a while is a great one. Thanks Wolfert and andiesenjie.

Smithy: I'm not using any diffuser, but now that you mention it, it does seem like a good idea. Thanks!

Perhaps a combination of all these things (not using it after a while, not using a diffuser, adding extra water during cooking) caused my little clay pot tragedy.

I'm still curious about some of the issues I raised in the first post, though. Is it in fact possible to cook over an immediate medium heat, with nothing first in the pot, as is done in the Bittman recipe I linked to? If so, why does everyone say not to do these exact things? If not, then did Bittman just err in suggesting this recipe for a clay pot?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I soak my clay pot before EVERY use, not just the first time. Aside from the fact that it makes all the food cooked in it extremely succulent (I imagine it steams a little because of the absorbed water), I've never had any problems with cracking.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...