clay pot cooking Does the idea of cooking in a clay pot, known by any one of these names – cazuela,            Chamba pot, chotti, romertopf pots, nai dat, palayak, tajine and ollade barro intrigue you at all? It sure intrigues me!

But what is the easiest way to get started? What should I make the first time? What container should I use? Where can I find simple recipes?

Let me take a stab at answering these questions.

First some clay pot cooking history

History shows us that this method has been used from at least as far back 26,000 BCE. Evidence of 20,000+ year scorched pot fragments of pottery, also known as ceramic, used in cooking have been found in caves in China and in Japan around 15,000 BCE. Rough earthen pot ware was crafted and fired for use in cooking, storage and water containers.

As I mentioned in the blog Stoneware, Earthenware & Porcelain, the history of clay pot use is worldwide and goes back years and years. Even in today’s world many areas in the world have natives and indigenous people still using clay pots and making these pots themselves.

Most areas in the world still use clay cooking pots and many areas have clay pot use due to people bringing them when moving to live in other countries.

Basics to get started the first time

There are many choices of pots and recipes to try but given that I have not used these before I see two options. Just buy one that you absolutely love and jump in with gusto or borrow one to try, and see how you like it

The other things to consider are if you use a smaller container to cook in your first time, you know if it was easy to use and if you liked what was cooked, as well as was the product you choose to your liking and did it live up to the expectations you had. Of course, you would need to consider secondary items like seasoning the pot, size, weight, clean up too!

So what are my choices for a clay pot? First, you need to know a little about the options. There are many but for the purpose of “getting started” here, there will three examples, each with glazed and unglazed options. The glazed is ready to use and easy to clean where the unglazed require you to preseason and then soak 15 to 20 minutes before using. It should be noted that if your choice is unglazed pot there will be an earthy, dirt flavour which when combined with what you cook will become somewhat nutty.

All clay cooking pots should be started in a cold oven or very low temperature. If cooking on the stovetop or direct flame it is recommended to have a metal plate to diffuse the direct heat The pots may crack otherwise. Some of these are not recommended for direct heat. Be sure to check the manufacturers’ recommendations.

It is recommended that a new unglazed pot be used for non-meat food like rice or lentils for the first couple of times to allow the pot to naturally season and seal itself.

Tagines

Tagines are pots that have a wide shallow base that can double as a serving dish with a lid that looks like an upside-down funnel. When cooking in these pots, steam is created as the pot and ingredients warm up. The steam then collects on the top part of the funnel on the inside and drips down onto the food thus keeping all the natural juices circulating throughout the cooking process and making for tender and juicy food once cooked.

These pots come in many sizes and are usually highly decorated. Here is what they look… The nice thing about this one is that you can serve right from the bottom and the heat retained will keep your food warm for quite a while.

Romertopf pots

Romertopf pots come in many different shapes and sizes and are made in Germany. The difference in Romerpotfthe glazed and unglazed products is the bottom piece is glazed inside and the remaining parts are unglazed. Just like the tajines the steam collects on the top on the inside and drips down onto the food thus keeping all the natural juices circulating throughout the cooking process and making for tender and juicy food once cooked. By using a glazed bottom the clean up is easier. Here is an example of one.

Black Clay La Chamba

Black Clay La Chamba comes from Columbia deep in the jungle on the shores of the Magdelena River. The clay is black clayharvested from the banks of the river, dried and ground to a fine powder. It is then filtered of debris like sticks fine stones. From this stage, it made into a fine clay by adding water and kneading it as you would bread. A bowl maker takes a piece of clay and makes a cylinder round shaped disk. This is then put on a mold, fitted and trimmed. Once it has dried it goes to the handle maker.

The lid, if there is one, is done in the same manner as the bowl and then the lid knob is put on. Once all parts are dry the lid and bowl are sanded with quarters stones until they shine and squeak when fingers are pulled across.

Next, a red clay glaze is applied and allowed to dry, and then the pots are fired. Once cooled they are back to the black they started as. These pots are only glazed.

Where do I Find a clay cooking pot?

There are many options for finding these pots. One is online and includes Amazon and specific manufactures websites. There are also specific kitchen and cooking stores that carry selections of these pots. Then there are the ones you can purchase in places that you travel to like Thailand, Asia and Mexico. Larger towns will have stores that promote this type of cooking and will have the pots, and accessories including recipe books.

One caution I do offer from having researched clay cooking pots is that there can be contamination of lead, cadmium and iron. Most countries making pots for International use do have to meet strict non-contamination regulations but do check just to be on the safe side. Calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and sulfur are a few of the nutrients that leach from the clay into your food as it cooks. This process of moisture gathering on the inside of the lid and dripping down onto your food helps to balance the acidity in the food. Clay is also alkaline and thus, acts to neutralize the acidity in the food, making it easily digestible.

Good first-time recipes

The following are two basic recipes that are good, easy, first time options.

Roasted potatoes

8 ingredients Produce – 1-hour · Gluten-free · Serves 4 · Easy Roast in A Clay Pot With Large Potatoes

  • 1 1/4 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Onion powder
  • 6 Yukon gold potatoes, large
  • 1/3 tsp Chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil

Roasted vegetables

8 ingredients Produce – 1-hour · Gluten-free · Serves 4 · Easy Roast Vegetables In A Clay Pot With Large Potatoes, Large Carrots, Onion, Garlic, Tarragon, Chicken Stock, Salt, Pepper

  • 6 Carrots, large
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 Onion, large
  • 4 Potatoes, large
  • 2 tsp Tarragon
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken stock
  • 1 Pepper
  • 1 Salt

My choice of the pot is…..

I recently acquired an unglazed Romerpotf that is large and will be testing it out very soon. It is big enough for a large chicken or turkey. It has been used, so it is seasoned and ready to use. I may do a roast with vegetables

My 2 cents on this choice is the following:

  • Using a pot like the Romerpotf is a good choice for 3 reasons ;
  • 1) it is still mostly a ceramic clay pot with very little glazing so you still get the general concept and flavours, 2) if you use the unglazed one the learning curve and end result may not be the same as the glazed one and 3) it comes in many sizes and shapes
  • I want to be able to try several different recipes to determine if it is a keeper and I will then expand my pot collection.
  • Cost for me is not necessarily an issue. I should be able to get a medium-size pot for a decent price.
  • As with anything you buy, take the time to do your research to know what will suit you.
  • If using clay pots for cooking is a way for you to become more health-wise be sure to check out the mineral contents of what you are buying and remember glazed products don’t leach into your food but unglazed do.I’m off to cook in my pot. Leave me your thoughts below. Let’s continue this discussion.

  1. I like the idea of cooking with a clay pot but from what I understand from a person in my family that does clay sculpting is you have to glaze it and prepare it a certain way that is more costly to make the clay in a form that you can eat out of. Which type of clay pot do you like the best? I like the black ceramic one.

  2. I have heard a lot about clay pots, however I did not have the slightest idea as to which type to choose. I am glad that I have come across this because I would actually be interested in getting one. I am sure the food comes out delicious. Thank you for the wonderful information.

  3. Hi Deb,

    Great article. It reminded me when I was a kid, my grandmother used to cook using these pots, I remember she used to cooked black beans soup, omg, so delicious, I guess these type of material gives a totally different taste to food. Even coffee, there is a lot of people in Mexico where they use these pots to make fresh coffee, they also serve them in clay cups.
    There is also this alcoholic drink named “paloma” they serve it using this clay cups, the taste is the same to me, but other people swears clay gives it a different taste.

    But, great post, I like it!

  4. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. it is some interesting history the clay pots have. what amazes me is how strong they can be, especially something like the black clay la chamba. in recent times we neglect this things and it is bad.

  5. Thank you so much for providing such a beautiful information. Although there is so much to see in the previous days, one does not see that cooking in pottery. Although somewhat visible in the village. Cooking in pottery is not the same in the city.

    So many do not know how to cook in pottery.Your article will be useful in that regard. And this is a very informative article.

    So thank you again for giving me such a wonderful article.

  6. Thank you so much for this article, for this i would like to ask what are the benefits cooking with clay pot, because i personally heard that it cooking with clay pot has sone virtues, which i have not personally check. But yiu can still tell some of the benefits cooking with a clay pot.

    • Cooking in clay helps the food to reduce acidity as the clay is alkaline and neutralizes food while cooking. Clay also has magnesium, iron and calcium which we need in our daily lives. 

  7. Many thanks to you for sharing such an excellent article with us .The idea of cooking with earthenware fascinated me and pulled me into that ancient history .In my house, I sometimes cook in clay pots and I’ve noticed that the taste of food is different .Indigenous peoples of many parts of the world used to make bone of this soil and cook it .It is still practiced in tribal areas .At first I found it difficult to cook in this earthen container, but when I started cooking, I found it to be very easy to make and very easy to clean. I have the Black Clay La Chamba in your article and it attracts me tremendously .And I especially like the black color, and after you highlight the details through your article, there are many benefits for me and I will purchase other bones in the future and will definitely share my new experience with you soon.

  8. Wow this is educative. This practice of cooking with clay pot can never go out of fashion because it’s beneficial to the health as it adds many important nutrients like calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and sulfur to food, which are extremely beneficial to our body. 

    Moreover, clay is also alkaline and thus, acts neutralized the acidity in the food, which makes it easier for us to digest, that’s why my grandmother won’t stop using it. Thanks!

  9. Hello, I had no idea there were so many different variations of clay pots! They are all beautiful. I remember the time my elderly south African neighbor gave me some really nice clay pots she made herself. 

    My background is Filipino. Back home, we call it Palayok. I think you mentioned Palayak. Close enough! lol! Some popular Filipino restaurants serve their dishes in a Palayok to give it a cultural feel. I have to mention that cooking garlic rice is more delicious using a palayok compared to a typical pan. Thanks for sharing!

    Sunny

  10. This is superb. I smiled when I saw this post at first. Well, I don’t know the names of these different clay pots but we normally use the one we call “Evwere” in my local language in Africa. We use it to thicken soup especially banga soup 😋. We also use it to store water in those days. But it’s no longer used for water like before but the smaller ones are still used for thickening of soup and for cooking too. Good to know the different types and even your favourite.

  11. At first I would like to thank you for outstanding article about Favorite Ceramic Bowls. I have learned many new things by reading this article and I had no idea Romertopf pots. I found out about Romertopf pots after reading your article and Romertopf pots is my best choice.
    I will discuss this registration with my friends I think those who read your registration will definitely share their views with you.
    I want to buy Romertopf pots. Will you help me to buy it? Thank you again and again for sharing such a beautiful article with us.

  12. I found this article very interesting the Black Clay La Chamba is a very similar pot we have here in South Africa called a Potjie Pot. In South Africa, a potjiekos translated “small-pot food”, is a dish prepared outdoors. These pots come in different sizes so you can make large amounts of food. It is traditionally cooked in a round, cast iron, three-legged pot, the potjie descended from the Dutch oven brought from the Netherlands to South Africa. Most South African’s have a potjie pot in their home. The pot is heated using small amounts of wood or charcoal or a gas cylinder. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kay Keene I find it interesting that there are so many places in the world that have some version of a clay pot that is used for cooking. Thanks for sharing yours.

  13. I was just looking for more information on clay pots. I’ve been wanting to cook claypot rice for my family, as it is something they love to order when we eat out at Chinese eateries.

    I love all the detailed information you provided here. It looks like I’ve got lots to learn. I never even knew the differences between glazed and unglazed pots. Now I know what to look out for, or at least what to ask when I’m buying a pot.

    Will also try out the recipes you provided!

  14. I really enjoyed reading your blog, and learning from you. I had never given clay pot cooking a second thought. It is incredible to know that there are things out there that we could be using. It makes me remember my grandma and what she uses to cook. She uses sort of a clay platter to roast corn that she uses to make coffee. That’s what this reminded me of.

    • Thanks, Karla. I think our ancestors had it more right than we do today. I remember my parents and grandparents using cast iron too. Almost all my pots are cast iron with the odd exception. I am excited to try out clay and even have a romerpotf ready to try. I will be sure to post about the results.

  15. Hi, Deb!

    What a lovely post with very useful information on all these different ceramic pots.

    I am sure a lot of cooker lovers will find this information to be very useful.

    I am from the Republic of Moldova and in our traditional cuisine we use Romertopf pots for preparing our traditional dish called “sarmale”.

    I especially like how these different ceramic pots create a special rustic atmosphere.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts here.

    Best Wishes,

    Natalie

    • Thanks Natalie, If you have any words of wisdom in using these pots I would love to hear about it. I always say I should have been a farm girl cause I too like the rustic atmosphere. L look forward to sharing more with you

  16. Great article here. I grew up eating food cooked from clay pots and the food taste is not the same as these metal pots we use now. Thank you for keeping this tradition alive. My granny’s meals were the best. We call them Hari in shona, you might learn something.

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