How to Cook With a Chinese Clay Pot

Written by petra turnbull
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How to Cook With a Chinese Clay Pot
Chinese clay pots for cooking come in various sizes. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Chinese clay pots are also called sand pots and are used to prepare Asian stews and curries. The advantage of cooking with clay bakeware is that the pot will soak up all liquid and release it slowly during cooking, thereby preventing the burning of food even during long baking hours. Cooking in a Chinese clay pot is regarded as a healthy alternative to frying and conventional baking as the food is steamed rather than boiled and keeps most of its vitamins and nutrients.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Chinese clay pot or sand pot

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  1. 1

    Check if your Chinese clay pot is glazed or unglazed on the inside. Unglazed, natural bakeware is porous and soaks up liquid, while glazed bakeware has a smooth, shiny surface and will need some form of cooking oil in addition to water.

  2. 2

    Remove all dust thoroughly if the pot has been on the shelf for some time. Use washing up liquid for glazed surfaces, and vinegar or baking soda on porous layers. Unglazed clay tends to take on the taste of soaps and chemicals.

  3. 3

    Submerge the pot and its lid in cold or handwarm water. Leave unglazed pots to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Glazed pots can be taken out after five minutes because only the outer surface will be soaking up the water.

  4. 4

    Put together your ingredients as described in the recipe and lubricate the glazed pot with oil or fat. Unglazed pots do not require the addition of lubricants because the soaked up water will prevent the food from burning. Place the food in the vessel. Make sure that all required liquids and ingredients are added at cold or lukewarm temperature as clay does not tolerate extreme temperature changes and bursts easily.

  5. 5

    Place the pot with the food in the middle of the cold oven. If you use an electric oven you can turn on the regulator immediately to the required temperature as the cooker will heat up slowly. However, gas-heated ovens turn to the required heat immediately and the sudden change in temperature can make the bakeware burst. After placing the pot in the oven, you have to start at the lowest temperature and increase it after five minutes until the proper temperature has been reached.

  6. 6

    Leave to bake for the time mentioned in the recipe. Note that unglazed clay pots usually do not need replenishing of water because they will release the liquid stored in the material when the pot was soaked. Unglazed vessels, however, will need some refills.

  7. 7

    Take to pot out of the oven and place it on a board or a dry, heat-resistant surface. Make sure that the hot pot can not be reached by water or even a wet cloth as this can make the vessel burst.

  8. 8

    Place the Chinese clay pot on the dinner table. The vessel will keep the food hot for at least half an hour, as long as the lid is not opened

Tips and warnings

  • After frequently using the pot for a year or more, the pores in the clay can clogg up and the bakeware is no longer able to soak up liquids and water. This can result in burnt food. For a deep clean of the porous material, place the pot together with the lid in a large container filled with cold water. Heat the water and boil the clay pot for about half an hour.
  • Chinese clay pots will discolour after every use because the porous material will take on the colour of some of the food and spices that have been prepared in it.

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