Terra cotta pots, which are made of clay, are durable and ideal for cooking vegetables, meats, stews, soups and other dishes. The pots require less liquid than metal pots and work like a steamer. Like other clay pots, terra cotta pots can also brown meats and vegetables after the cooking process is complete. When cooking in terra cotta pots, it is important to prepare the pot before using it in your oven otherwise the pot will develop cracks and leak.
Place a sink stopper in your kitchen sink and fill the sink with cold water.
Place the terra cotta pot and its lid in the water for 30 minutes, if the pot is unglazed. The cold water prepares the pot's holes for accepting heat. Do not add soap or a soap solution to the water---the soap will damage the clay.
If the terra cotta pot is glazed, skip to step 3 as glazed pots do not require soaking. Identify glazed terra cotta pots by their shiny and smooth surface.
Wipe the terra cotta pot and its lid dry with a soft cloth or towel.
If using a glazed terra cotta pot, wipe the pot's inside walls and bottom with a soft cloth or towel to remove any loose dust or dirt from the pot's surface.
Place the food you want to cook in the terra cotta pot then fill the pot with the recommended amount of water or broth for the recipe you are preparing. Also add water or broth if you are cooking a piece of meat in the cookware. Cover the cookware with its lid.
If cooking a piece of meat in the terra cotta pot, do not overfill the pot. Only fill to the top of the piece of meat.
If cooking fish or another food item that may stick to the pot, line the terra cotta with parchment paper to keep the food from sticking.
Place the terra cotta pot in the centre of your oven. Do not let the pot touch the sides of the oven or bump the pot against any part of the oven. These actions can crack the terra cotta pot.
Turn on the oven and place its temperature control to 10 degrees Celsius greater than the recommended recipe temperature setting. Do not preheat the oven---placing a terra cotta pot in a hot oven can crack the cookware.
Remove the pot's lid for 10 to 15 minutes after the cooking process is complete before removing the pot from the oven, if you want to brown the dish or piece of meat.
Note, cooking time may take 10 to 20 minutes longer than with traditional cookware.
Remove the pot from the oven and place it on a cloth pad or non-metal trivet to keep the cookware from touching a cold surface and cracking.
Let the terra cotta pot cool, then remove any parchment paper present from the dish and dispose of it.
Place a sink stopper in your kitchen sink and fill the sink with cold water. Add a 1/4 cup of baking soda to the water.
Place the unglazed or glazed terra cotta pot and its lid in the water and let the cookware soak overnight. Do not add soap or a soap solution to the water---the soap will damage the clay.
Do not place the terra cotta pot in a dishwasher. Sudden water temperature changes can crack the pot and soap can clog the pot's pores.
Scrub the terra cotta pot gently with a soft-bristle brush or nonmetallic scrubbing pad to remove any caked-on debris. Rinse the pot under cold running water.
Dry the pot with a clean, soft cloth or towel. Store the pot upside with a towel on the bottom portion of the pot and its lid on top of the towel. This storing procedure will keep mould and mildew from forming inside of the terra cotta pot.
You can also use your terra cotta pot, both unglazed and glazed, in a microwave oven. Complete the steps in the "Pre-cooking" section and step 1 in the "Cooking" section. Set your microwave's power control to "High" and time control to "5 minutes" for each pound of meat you are cooking. Or power control to "Low" and time control to "15 minutes" for each pound of meat you are cooking. Increase cooking time by 5 minutes if adding vegetables to the dish.