What are Some Foods Cooked in Clay Pots?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Many cultures around the world use clay roasters or pots to cook a wide assortment of foods. Clay pot cooking dates back for centuries, and relies on a moist clay pot to slowly cook foods so that they are tender and very flavorful. Cooking in clay pots yields complex, rich dishes which are excellent on their own as a main course, or served alongside an assortment of other foods. Since many of them require only one dish, clay pot cooking is also very easy.

A bowl of medjool dates, which are sometimes included in tagines, which are cooked in clay pots.
A bowl of medjool dates, which are sometimes included in tagines, which are cooked in clay pots.

Each region of the world which cooks with clay pots has a unique name for their specific clay pot design. This name also applies to foods cooked in the pot, such as tandoori chicken cooked in a Northern Indian tandoori pot. Most clay pot dishes rely on a classic blend of spices cooked with an assortment of vegetables or a good stewing meat.

Oyster mushrooms are often used in clay pot dishes.
Oyster mushrooms are often used in clay pot dishes.

In India, the clay pot known as a tandoor is technically an oven, rather than a more portable clay pot. Tandoors are used to roast spicy foods to produce a fully flavored, very soft end product. A common food cooked in tandoors is chicken, and tandoori chicken can be made at home with a regular clay roaster for cooks who do not have ready access to a traditional tandoor. To make tandoor chicken, the meat is marinated in yogurt blended with garlic, ginger, cayenne, cumin, and other spices of choice. The lid of the clay pot should be lifted towards the end to crisp the meat before serving.

Clay pots are great for vegetarian foods such as tofu.
Clay pots are great for vegetarian foods such as tofu.

In Morocco and Northern Africa, cooks use the tagine, a clay pot with a high, conical lid. The lid traps moisture and flavor, and the tagine is used to produce very slow cooked, flavorful meals. Tagines are safe for stovetop and oven use, and they are also designed to work in fires. Tagines are used to stew meats such as lamb with a spice mix of saffron, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, peppers, and ras al hanout, a traditional North African spice blend.

Bamboo shoots may be cooked in a clay pot.
Bamboo shoots may be cooked in a clay pot.

In China, clay pots are also known as sand pots, and they are used to stew meats and vegetables, often with rice or noodles thrown into the same pot. Many people are familiar with Chinese clay pot cooking from Chinese restaurants which offer clay pots on their menus. Clay pots are great for vegetarian food, in which an assortment of vegetables such as eggplant, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots are thrown into a clay pot along with tofu or seitan, scallions, ginger, garlic, a rich broth, soy sauce, rice wine, and black bean chili paste. The clay pot is baked or cooked over indirect heat until bubbling.

In Spanish cuisine, flan may be baked in a clay pot.
In Spanish cuisine, flan may be baked in a clay pot.

In Spanish speaking nations, cazuelas are traditional dishes baked in clay. Cazuelas can take a number of forms, from small molds for flan to large roasting dishes for dish. A cocote is used specifically for rich casseroles and stews, while ollas are used to cook beans. A flavorful base for a stewed cazuela can be made by frying onions and garlic to translucence and tossing them into a cazuela dish along with bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and a soup stock. Chunks of potatoes and tomatoes can add texture to the dish, along with a main focus such as lamb, chorizo, or fish.

Tagines are clay pots used for slow cooking in Northern Africa and Morocco.
Tagines are clay pots used for slow cooking in Northern Africa and Morocco.
Tandoori chicken is rubbed with spices before it's roasted in a clay pot.
Tandoori chicken is rubbed with spices before it's roasted in a clay pot.
Cooks without a tagine clay pot can simmer any Moroccan stew in a slow cooker.
Cooks without a tagine clay pot can simmer any Moroccan stew in a slow cooker.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

burcinc

@alisha-- You may use clay terracotta pots you've made yourself for cooking only if it is unglazed or if the glaze does not contain dangerous chemicals and substances like lead, paint, copper tin and some others. The issue with clay pottery is that it is not very durable for cooking purposes. It will probably chip or crack if its heated or cooled too quickly. Glazing can make it more durable and also safe for the microwave and hot and cold liquids, but then again, you have to be 100% sure that the glaze you are using is safe.

I think with so many cookware options out there, its best to opt for clay pots that were specifically made for cooking. It might cost you more but those pots are stronger, they last longer and it is safe for you.

discographer

Can clay pots made in craft classes be used for cooking? Is it safe for food and the oven?

turquoise

I use clay pots for two recipes. One is a meat stew made with a combination of tender beef or lamb and onions, tomatoes and green peppers. I cook this mixture in a larger clay pot in the oven. It takes a very long time to cook, about four hours at minimum but has a great taste and makes meat especially soft, tender and easy to chew.

The second recipe is a kind of rice pudding which actually a very simple recipe. I boil broken rice, add milk, vanilla and finally sugar until I get a thick consistency. I pour this into small clay pots and cook it in the oven until the top layer of milk is lightly browned. It's a delicious recipe and has a pleasant visual. You can serve them directly in the pots to your guests.

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