This is why I ditched metal and switched to clay pots!
If you ask my mother to describe me in a single word, “nuisance” will be her word of choice, and for good reasons!
In one fit of a health scare, I sold away all her aluminum cookwares, ALL of them!
Needless to say, she was beyond furious… Read that story here, Is cooking in Aluminum gonna poison your food?
What that story will not tell you though is what I did next to annoy her yet further. I went and bought a bunch of different earthen pots. 1 for vegetarian cooking, 1 for non-veg cooking, 1 for dahi, 1 for chanch (Hindi for Buttermilk)…and these are just a few to name!
As the story goes, with lots of trials and tribulations over the past year and a half, I think I have acquired enough gyan (Knowledge) about cooking in earthen pots, that I can finally share with y’all.
Let us first get the difficulties out of the way, shall we?
Challenges of using Earthen pots-
1. Finding the good ones:
Say no to the ones that are painted, glazed, have a metal layer inside or outside, NO! That just defeats the purpose of using clay pots altogether. You can find authentic pots on line as well, but try and give your local potters a chance first.
Visit the kumhar (Hindi for Potter) market, tell them that you want pots for cooking and they will help you out with the selection.
2. Handle With Care:
These are relatively fragile. While cooking you have to make sure not to go beyond low-medium flame (unless you want a cracked bottom!).
And no picking them up with pincers/sandashi/pakkad (they tend to chip if subjected to excessive pressure);
kitchen towels and mittens will become your best friends 🙂
If you are cooking on low-medium heat, ideally food should not burn!
But hey, it’s life…
mishaps happen, and if they do here is what you need to do. Soak your clay pot with water for 10–15 minutes and then scrub the scum off with 1 tsp salt and your regular scrubber. See no fuss! Otherwise for regular cleaning as well salt/baking soda works great. Always rinse well, let them dry and store at well ventilated places.
For your pots to last for a long time here are two things that you must do.
1) You must soak them in water overnight before first use. This hardens them and increases their durability. Some even go a step further and season the pots, but my pots have been doing just fine without seasoning.
2) You must heat dry them on a slow flame for 5–10 minutes. Do this at least twice a month. This burns away any impurities trapped inside their pores. Remember, hygiene first!
What are the benefits of using clay pot for cooking?
Yes, there are quite a few, let us have a look-
1. Heavy Metal Free
Earthen pots, well, are made with clay and not metals so you can rest assured that no Aluminum, Cadmium or Lead will be leaching into your meals!
An article that might interest you: The Battle: Organic versus Non-organic Food
2. Less Oil and Water
I personally have been needing less oil and even lesser water for cooking. With clay’s porous nature and the overall oven kind of low heat-slow cooking, most vegetables cook well with their natural moisture. Any weight watchers reading this?
3. Food cooked in clay pots tastes better!!
I don’t know why? Could not find any scientific explanation! It could be because on slow heat spices are not burnt, they retain their flavors and aroma better. Also since food is cooked with its intrinsic water, it’s taste is intensified. Or maybe it is the earthy flavor… who knows, and honestly, who cares why, all that matters is, that it does!
4. Efficient Cooking:
Clay pots conduct heat evenly. Once the pot is hot, things cook even on a small flame.
My own small trick: when using pots with lids, switch the flame off when the dish is about 50% cooked. Heat trapped inside the pot and the steam will take care of the rest of the cooking.
“You save gas, save time, and also save nutrient from loss…this is what I call win-win!”
And here are some widespread, rather holistic claims:
I could not find any scientific evidence to back them up. So believe them if you must or ignore them if you would rather-
1. Foods cooked in earthen pots retain 100% of all their nutrients!
Take such claims with a pinch of salt…Application of heat itself is a major cause of nutrient loss in any type of cooking. Although slow cooking indeed does less harm than boiling, frying and pressure cooking!
2. Clay is alkaline by nature
Thus, it will increase alkalinity of the food eaten, which will protects us from all sorts of diseases, especially Cancer! Now clay does contain alkaline minerals like Sodium, Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium and it may certainly increase alkalinity of your food, but whether and how that helps our health is still debatable at best.
Read, The Alkaline Diet: An Evidence-Based Review
So friends! those were my learned and earned insights about cooking with clay pots. Cooking is such a rewarding experience and I think one should keep reinventing and adopting new ways of taking that experience to a next level.
Now I am not saying you should go sell all your mothers metal wares and switch to earthenware all at once…please DO NOT DO THAT!
“Start slow, one pot at a time. Buy one for dahi, then next one for chanch, later get a bigger one for curries (which you will most probably crack… which is perfectly fine). See we all live and learn:) ”
“Cooking is an adventure, have fun with it, always!”