Self Cure

A guide to Earthenware Cooking: An enriching way to cook

Have you ever tasted a dish cooked in a claypot? Doesn’t it taste better than a dish that is cooked in a metallic pot? The reason behind it is that the porous nature of earthen pots enables a better circulation of heat and moisture while cooking. In return, flavors and nutrients of the food are retained better. And hence, the taste.

 

However, do you know the right way to cook while using a clay pot or how to clean it, how to keep it seasoned etc.? We have brought this comprehensive guide to you about cooking in earthenware. Read on to learn more about one of the healthiest ways to cook. 


 

Why Use Clay Pots for Cooking?

There are numerous benefits of cooking in earthenware. After all, it has been the most natural way to cook since ages. Many people in villages still use earthen pots for daily cooking. Their adoption in Indian cities is now increasing, as followers of natural methods are becoming aware about their benefits:

 

1. Natural, Inert & Non-Toxic:

Metallic vessels, especially the non-stick ones used in modern times contain toxins like Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, Feldspar, Petalite (an ore of lithium) etc. Aluminum vessels also leech toxins at high temperatures. In the presence of heat, these chemicals react and get assimilated with food, eventually entering into our digestive systems. From there, they get absorbed by the tissues of our body. Clay is a composition of essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium etc. These elements are bound together in a unique bond and get absorbed in food while cooking. This is a characteristic that is unique to clay pots, just like it's elasticity - the ability to transform into a hard and durable substance when heated on fire. All of this makes clay by far the best raw material for making cookware.

 

2. Nutrient Retention:

The heat absorbed into  the walls of metal or ceramic pots is damaging, which, by the end of the cooking process alters many nutrients. Nine out of the thirteen essential nutrients and minerals are water-soluble. They are inevitably lost with steam that's always escaping the pot. After the cooking process foods have excess starch and carbohydrates. However, cooking in clay pots enriches the food by adding many vital nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and sulfur to it. Clay is alkaline in nature and thus, neutralizes any acidity present in the food, making it easier to digest.

 

3. Food Tastes Better:

The heat retained in a pure-clay pot is significantly higher than in any other cookware. This allows the food to cook better, uses less fuel, and saves energy. It also keeps the food hot for a longer duration. Clay pots are able to absorb moisture due to their porous nature, letting heat circulate slowly through the food while being cooked. Hence, making it aromatic, retaining nutrients and adding some essential minerals. 

 

4. Low-Oil Cooking:

As the food is cooked slowly in a clay pot and natural oils of food are retained in it. Therefore, cooking can be done using much less oil as compared to cooking in metallic pots. That’s why food cooked in clay pots is much lower in added fat content.

 

How to Buy Earthenware?

  • Make sure that it is heavy and thick, especially at bottom

  • Turn back, knock and see, you should hear a nice shriek 'tang' sound. The louder the sound, the better it is to buy. If you try to knock a used pot the sound will be hollow or low pitched

 

When to Discard ?

  • When mild cracks start to appear at the bottom of the pot then it is not advisable to use it anymore for cooking

  • If it starts to leak and ooze out oil from the bottom, then it is time to discard it

 

How to Season Earthenware?

  1. After buying, rinse and wash it well. Use a coconut scrubber

  2. After washing soak the clay pots in plain water for one day

  3. Fill the earthenware 1/4 way up with water

  4. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of any flour (arrowroot, wheat, whole wheat, rice). For bigger pots, use 2 tbsp flou

  5. Stir, cover and cook on low to medium heat till it thickens to a broth consistency. (Avg. time - 30-35 mins)

  6. Alternatively, you can use 1 tbsp of cooking oil instead of flour. Cover and cook for 30 mins or till you see a steady steam built up in the pot.

  7. Turn the stove off. Let the mixture cool down, pour out, scrub and rinse the pot thoroughly (not leaving any food residue). 

  8. Start cooking!

  9. Applying some cooking oil to the outer walls of the pot (not bottom), with your hands, after seasoning it gives it a uniform look as it ages

  10. No need to season the pot if it is only to be used for setting curd

  11. After the first seasoning, use it as often as possible (preferably every day) for cooking 'wet' recipes.  Use it at least 4-5 times in this way before putting it away for a while ( if you have to). 'Wet' recipes include making rice, lentils, curries, steaming vegetables etc. This helps the pot to shrink slightly and become 'fully seasoned'

 

Washing Instructions:

  • After the use let the pots cool down to room temperature and then soak them in water for a while

  • Then, using coconut scraper, scrap the food residues

  • Scrub well and wash it in running water

  • Never use detergents or any soapy liquids. As there are small pores in the clay pot there are chances for the soap to enter through the pores which in turn can mix in the food while getting cooked

  • Use rice flour or besan flour or wheat flour to wash it

  • If you've accidentally overcooked or burned food, pour some warm water in the pot, sprinkle baking soda and let it sit for 10 minutes, then scrub - food would come off easily - rinse and dry

  • Never use a metallic scrubber. Use a sponge or coconut scrubber.

 

More Tips:

  • Learning curve: If you are new to earthenware cooking, it would take cooking a few dishes to have an idea about the cooking time and process 

  • Stove: You can use gas stoves but not induction stove top, while cooking in clay pots

  • Cook-time: Cooking time in a new clay pot is usually 10-15 % more than stainless steel vessels (for grains/lentils). The more a pot is used, the faster will be the cooking.It is best to soak grains and lentils before cooking.

  • Heat Flame: Overheating the pot may lead to cracks so it is better to maintain low to medium flame while cooking. Do not heat an empty pot.

  • Avoid Sudden Temperature Changes: After cooking do not pour water at once, the sudden change in temperature may lead to cracks. Wait for the pot to cool down, then soak it in water and wash. Once food is cooked, please do not put it on the cold top, always use support at the base.

  • Wooden Spoons go well with earthen cookware. Avoid metallic spoons

  • Use little or no Oil: Most of the steam/moisture & oils in the food remain in the pot so a lot of times little to no additional oil/liquids are required.  Also, by the time your pot is fully seasoned, it becomes a natural non-stick cooking ware

  • Sauteing: Don't dry sauté or oil sauté spices or onions till the pot is fully seasoned

  • Reliable Vendor: Soil pollution has turned clays of many regions toxic. Always verify with the vendor about the source and making of clay pot. There are few good brands who have started manufacturing clay pots

  • Curd: For best results use separate pot for setting curd

  • Dark Bottom: With use, the bottom of your pot will become black or gray.  This will not affect the functioning of the pot. It happens as a result of a normal oxidation process. When heat is applied to any 100% organic matter like wood, stone etc. they get oxidised and turn dark.

  • Storage: Store with the lid open and in a well-ventilated place.  Avoid storing in closed or damp areas (like inside cabinets, especially in humid regions)

 

Hope this comprehensive guide has given you enough information to get you started on using earthenware for daily cooking. With a plethora of benefits, clay pot cooking is definitely one of the best ways to cook food.


 

References:

Miriam's Earthen Coonkware

Sharmis Passions

Vital Veda

Sallyzim

Image Courtesy: Etsy



Disclaimer: The health journeys, blogs, videos and all other content on Wellcure is for educational purposes only and is not to be considered a ‘medical advice’ ‘prescription’ or a ‘cure’ for diseases. Any specific changes by users, in medication, food & lifestyle, must be done under the guidance of licensed health practitioners. The views expressed by the users are their personal views and Wellcure claims no responsibility for them.

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