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Clay Cookware: Cooking With Clay
To make moist and tender dishes that are both flavorful and nutritious, prepare your meals in unglazed clay cookware.
Before cooking, unglazed clay pots are soaked in water. A moist clay pot will roast and steam food at the same time. This cooking process retains the foodís natural flavor and nutrients. Little fat or additional liquid needs to be added to the food. Clay pot cooking makes low-fat, nutrient-rich foods that taste good, too.
Cooking in unglazed clay is nothing new. The earliest cooking pots created by people were made of clay. Clay pots are still the preferred cooking vessels in many parts of the world. Clay distributes the heat evenly and retains heat well. Unglazed clay cooking pots can be used in the oven or microwave. They should not be used on the stovetop without placing a heat diffuser between the burner and the clay. (Follow the manufactureís instructions for stovetop cooking.)
When you get a new clay cooker, you will need to soak and clean it before use. Soak the pot and the lid in cool water for 30 minutes. Scrub both pieces with a stiff brush to remove any clay dust. Each time you use your clay pot, you will need to soak it in water for 10 to 15 minutes.
Clay pots can crack if they are exposed to sudden changes in temperature. Some manufacturers recommend starting the cooking process in a cool oven. In other words, donít preheat. When you remove a clay pot from the oven, place it on a hot pad or towel, not a metal trivet. The cold metal can crack the bottom of the clay pot.
When making a traditional recipe in an unglazed clay pot, raise the temperature of the oven between 50 and 100 degrees. Donít start the timer until youíve given the pot time to warm up.
When youíre done cooking, allow your clay pot to cool completely before you clean it. Never use any type of soap or cleanser on the clay. The porous surface will absorb the cleaner and give your food a soapy taste. To clean, scrub the clay cooker with warm water and a stiff brush. Use salt or baking soda to clean the surface. To loosen baked-on food, soak the pan in water that has baking soda added. Never place your clay cooking pot in the dishwasher.
Be sure to dry your pot thoroughly before storing. Itís possible for unglazed clay to become moldy. If possible, store the clay pot with the lid off or invert the lid and place a towel between the two pieces.
The Berndes cookware company believes you can achieve all the benefits of clay cooking by using just a clay lid. Berndes sells a three-piece roaster set that has two sizes of cast aluminum pots with a terra cotta clay lid that fits both pieces.
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