Earthenware, stoneware and porcelain are not just products used to eat from, serve with, or look pretty. There are items that can be used to cook, bake and heat too. Do you need to know what ceramic pot or pan can go in the oven or microwave? What one can go in the freezer? Need to know which one does what? Read on.
Ceramics is a general term used to describe products made of clay. There are three types of ceramics. These are earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. With all the different choices the goal here is to help to clarify what to use when what is better and how to use and care for each item properly.
Earthenware is the most natural of all.
I would venture a guess that you are assuming, as I did, that there was not a real use for cooking with earthenware. Wait to be surprised!
As we know, earthenware is fired at 1700 to 2100 degrees F or 925 to 1150 C. It is porous and heavy. These pots when not glazed can come from the earth and can go back to the earth. They can be completely recycled back into dirt over time. They are green products, eco-friendly, that help reduce carbon footprint and are not glazed. The one drawback is that earthenware can chip and crack easily.
Traditional earthenware pots are made from terra cotta clay that is usually orange-red but sometimes yellow or white.
These pots are not glazed as the properties in the glaze, lead, mercury and cadmium are not good to consume and will leach in the food being cooked in the pot. These pots that have been used for centuries all over the world are referred to as clay pots, clay bakers, chamba, clay cazuela, clay bakas and Romertopfs and come in all shapes and sizes.
BENEFITS OF CLAY Cooking in clay soaks up water, fats and any stains on the pot. Clay is alkaline and food acidity is neutralized when cooked in the clay pot. Water-soluble vitamins and minerals are retained. These can include calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and sulphur. Food cooked in these pots takes the same amount of time plus 10 to 15 minutes for pot and oven to heat.
HOW TO USE The pots need to start cold and warm with the oven after being soaked for 15 to 20 minutes in water. Clean cold pot with very hot water and a brush.
HOW TO SEASON To keep your clay pots in good condition, you’ll need to keep it seasoned. When you season clay pots, it increases the durability and longevity of the pot.
- Soak the pot overnight.
- Rub all surfaces with a clove of garlic if so desired.
- Fill the pot about 3/4 full with water. Leave it on low heat in the oven for 2-3 hours.
- After it cools, your clay pot should be ready to use!
These can be found at many kitchen speciality stores online and in person at speciality kitchen stores.
Stoneware, is it the preferred choice?
Stoneware, unlike earthenware, is usually white or light grey to tan or dark grey and light brown to darker almost chocolate brown colour that has been fired at very high temperatures of 2100 to 2300 F or 1205 to 1260 C, usually with glaze and is no longer porous and is lighter in weight than earthenware. Due to the high-temperature stoneware is fired at, makes it durable, resists chipping, holds heat making it desireable for using from microwave or oven to table and has an even distribution of heat. The glaze makes the pot or pan behave like it is a non-stick, also making for easy clean-up.
In this day and age stoneware is oven safe, microwave safe, freezer safe and dishwasher safe. If using from freezer to oven it needs to go into a cold oven. Stoneware is not designed for direct heat so no burner or grill.
BENEFITS Many of the stoneware items come with lids making it easy to store in the fridge or bring to another location, protect from burning and to keep warm at the table.
CARE Stoneware has a good strong glaze on it making it almost non-stick and extremely hard. Soaking 10 to 20 minutes in very hot water and a plastic bristle brush or scrubby sponge is all you need.
STORAGE Multiple dishes and lids can be stacked 2 or 3 high. Due to the hard coating, there is little reason to worry about scratching or chipping.
Porcelain, can it be a good choice?
The third form of ceramics is porcelain. This clay usually comes from very near to the main source of the clay deposit. Porcelain creates a hard thin product. It is fired between 2381 to 2455 F (1305 to 1346 C). Porcelain in and of itself is white clay and is one of the purest clay forms called kaolin. When heated it becomes almost like glass allowing for a very hard, thin product. It is also lighter in weight than stoneware and earthenware and is usually glazed.
Porcelain is not suitable for cooking by itself. It is better as fine china type items. Porcelain by itself can retain heat as a serving tool in items like gravy boats, teapots, teacups, serving food dishes and coffee cups.
BENEFITS Porcelain in its fine china type form is best used in place settings, figurines and decor. It is thin and often lighter in weight. It is shiny and very smooth while retaining colour under clear glaze.
CARE Most porcelain today, can handle the heat of a microwave and dishwasher but caution should be used as this can cause fine cracks in the glaze. Hand washing is best.
Cast iron, stainless steel, and aluminium to name a few metals that are manufactured for cooking in. However, most of these on their own will leach out chemicals that over a long period of time have been shown to not be good for you.
To combat this the manufacturing companies have taken porcelain and made it into porcelain enamel that when used to cover pots and pans of undesirable metals, provides a hard smooth surface that is very non-porous.
BENEFITS Porcelain made into a highly durable enamel that is applied to other metals making it stick-free, hard to scratch or chip and able to endure high heat from microwave, stove, oven and grills. This is a great choice for busy people. Enameled porcelain pots and pans are strong and durable with very little porousness (porosity).
CARE Porcelain enamel can be used in extreme heat and is easily cleaned with basic soap and water, can be used in the microwave and dishwasher without damage to the surface.
USE Porcelain enamel is great for all types of pots, pans, casserole dishes.
Which one is better?
They all are! Each of these three types of ceramics serves a useful purpose. That is because each has their own specific uses.
Healthy option earthenware can change how you cook food that is going to help your body absorb all the foods nutrients and goodness. Not only will your body thank you but so will the environment and your family.
Stoneware is a very broad option in that there are many, many products out there to choose from and you WILL be able to find one that suits you. Whether you have a certain shape you want or maybe a colour or a set so everything matches, you will find it and use it because you love the convenience, easy cleanup and make ahead and freeze option.
Porcelain by itself is a great and elegant option for everyday table use and definitely for the special occasions. It can handle the heat from food and looks so good.
Porcelain enamel is by far the most common of ceramic cooking options. It is elegant, easy clean and care for, stackable and freezer to oven to table makes it efficient.
What would be your first, second and third choice? leave me a message and let’s compare notes!