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Earthenware Cookware – Was Grandmum Right About Them?

Earthenware non toxic cookware
Cookware Advice

I've always been fascinated by clay pot cooking. There is something very magical about the way steam or smoke comes out of an earthenware cookware when something is being cooked, boiled or stewed. To me, there is a magic and mystique in seeing a clay cookware in action. There is also something innately humble and straightforward about this cookware

Clay cookware is also a relatively safe cookware choice. In fact, your choices can impact the taste and nutrition value of a meal and if you have been bothered about the quality of your diet, i recommend that you read what I have written about this in an earlier post. Specifically the reaction from certain cookware to particular foods and your options in dealing with that.

Below are the top benefits and issues of earthenwares that you might want to be familiar with, before buying or using.

BASICS OF EARTHENWARE COOKWARE

WHAT IS AN EARTHENWARE COOKWARE

  1. These are usually made from non-local impure, secondary clay that contains rock and sand particles along with other impurities.
  2. Earthenware pots are fired at temperatures lower than stoneware or porcelain and are not advisable for stove usage.
  3. They require glazing to be waterproof as they is soft and porous.
Earthenware cookware for

Earthenware Cookware

BENEFITS OF EARTHENWARE COOKWARE 

Evaluating Earthenware Cookware

Evaluating Earthenware Cookware

INEXPENSIVE AND VERSATILE 

  1. Earthenware cookware tends to be low cost than other cookware and is available in different shapes and sizes.
  2. Can be conveniently ordered online.
  3. Earthenware cookware tends to be low cost compared to other cookware and it is available in different shapes and sizes.
  4. Very versatile because you can grill, brown, braise, fry, cook hot and cold food items.​
  5. You can eliminate the need for adding extra fats, flavorings, liquids due to the steam circulating within the earthenware, during the cook, which provides plenty of moisture.
  6. Earthenware clay pot may have lower amounts of fats and calories compared to cooking in metal utensils.​
Flavor and Health In Earthenware

Flavor and Health In Earthenware

RETENTION OF FLAVOR [3 REASONS]

  1. The porous nature of clay pots helps it retain the moisture and heat within the clay pot.
  2. This lets the dish cook very well capturing the flavor within it.
  3. You can expect the cooked food to be aromatic and tasty when cooked right.

ATTRACTIVENESS

  1. Earthenware is available in multiple shapes and sizes and unique designs.
  2. In many Asian cultures water is stored in earthen pots and this keeps the water cool and enhances its sweetness.
  3. Earthenwares add a touch of ethnic to the kitchen.​

HEALTH AND WELLNESS [2 ASPECTS]

  1. Clay pot cooking tends to infuse foods with calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sulphur, nutritional elements etc. These benefit the health. 
  2. These also tend to be alkaline in nature which means they mix well with acidic food to balance out the PH level of what is being cooked.

GOOD RESISTANCE TO HEAT [5 REASONS]

Good Heat Resistance of Earthenware

Good Heat Resistance of Earthenware

  1. ​Clay pots are quite heat resistant but not as heat resistant as copper or iron vessels.
  2. The heat resistance of clay pots is increased by firing to a certain point and glazed to increase the heat resistance.
  3. Daily meals can be cooked on a gas burner, especially rice, lentils, vegetables.
  4. You can even get microwave safe ceramic and earthenware utensils to go along with the pots.
  5. Some of the best Asian foods are slow cooked in an earthen vessel to get a specific earthy, smoked flavor.

GREAT FOR MAKING MILK BASED RECIPES

Milk Based Recipe in Earthenware
  1. Middle Eastern, South Asian, Chinese, East Asian cultures have been making sweetened milk based recipes for centuries using an earthen pot.
  2. The final product is quite tasty when mixed with natural flavors and spices (cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon, five spices). It also tends to have an earthy flavor.

5 DISADVANTAGES OF EARTHENWARE COOKWARE

Earthenware Cookware disadvantages

Disadvantages of earthenware clay cookware

  1. Earthenware can be fragile and can break when dropped.
  2. Repairing is not an option most of the times.
  3. Avoid placing the pot over a direct flame and try using a mesh heat diffuser that will let the heat spread evenly.
  4. During cooking, try not to use metal utensils to avoid scratching the glaze.
  5. Earthenware tends to be vulnerable to sudden temperature changes.

REMEDY

Before using a new earthenware pot, let it soak in cold water for about 12 hours. To avoid breakage, it helps to soak the earthenware for a few minutes before each use, to let the clay rehydrate.

    ​BASIC OF OF CLAY POTS - 

    Evaluating Earthenware Cookware

    Evaluating Earthenware Cookware

    • Clay pots are also made from stoneware, porcelain and flameware.
    • Specifically lower and lower temperatures and higher and higher firing temperatures with stoneware, porcelain and flameware respectively.

    CARING FOR YOUR CLAY POTS [4 TIPS]

    1. Earthenware pots should be simple to wash.
    2. You can fill them with hot water for a few hours to remove the fats that get embedded due to long cooking times.
    3. All you need is a basic cleanser liquid and anti-scratch sponge to prevent damage of the glaze and rinse thoroughly.
    4. After washing, just turn the pot over to dry. This will evaporate the moisture​ from the bottom.
    Caring for Earthenware Cookware

    Caring For Earthenware Cookware

    TOXINS IN CLAY POTS​

    1. The clay used in earthenware are contaminated with non-clay minerals such as ​iron-oxide, different metals and other impurities.
    2. Reputed companies that sell such cookware do a lot of testing to ensure clay safety, Unfortunately, some don't and this could be harmful to consumers.

    ABOUT GLAZING IN EARTHENWARE

    • Earthenware clay is usually glazed to ​overcome the porosity, increase usability and allow easy cleaning.
    • The amount of glaze is regulated by federal and state agencies.
    • Lead based glazes can be a health hazard for consumers.
    • It is cheap, gives a glossy finish but if the glaze has not been formulated or fired, lead can leach from the glaze and enter the food.
    • Essentially, substances used in food contact materials should be lead-free or contain lead levels that meet FDA limits.
    • Tableware that exceed the FDA levels, including glazed pottery, cannot be legally sold in the U.S.

    The FDA regulates on the extraction lead limits in tableware to ensure their safety.

    Earthenware non toxic cookware

    Earthenware non toxic cookware

    FDA flagging of issues with earthenware

    FDA flagging of issues with earthenware

    SO HOW DO I CHOOSE ONE ? [5 TIPS]

    Earthenware Cookware
    1. Check for product labeling that says "Safe For Food Use".
    2. Opt for lead-free labeled products.
    3. Highly decorated or handcrafted clay pots made by non-regulated sellers could pose a cooking risk.
    4. The FDA has raised concerns about the lead levels in pottery products made outside the US due to regulatory and quality aspects.
    5. So, from a cooking perspective, be careful when picking one on a trip outside or ordering online.​