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Clay Cookware

Clay Cookware: What you Should Know Before you Purchase

Unglazed clay produces the best taste!

TEST KITCHEN; Raiding the Souk: The Latest in Tagines

Miriam says her clay pots can cook stews similar to tangines – both vessels have similar properties, including steam retention. If you look at the reviews on Miriam’s website, the consistent comment is better flavor in clay than whatever cooking they were previously using.

How clay is different from other cookware?

Yogurt: Clay pot vs. pyrex

Far infrared heat

These pots made of pure earth emit a unique and more gentle heat that travels deeper and cooks food without damaging nutritional cells, sometime referred to as far-infrared heat. In our research we found how those who only cook in pure-clay didn’t have nutritional deficiencies. Thus did not have to depend on supplements, nor did they suffer from the many forms of chronic illnesses the rest of the world around them did.

Miriamsearthcookware.com

Miriam also says that this gentle heat take the spices deeper into the food — thus more flavor and probably better absorption by the body.

Locks in steam

Once the pot is closed, very little to no steam escapes. The unique double lock design and the lid that stays cooler than the pot helps condense steam and sends it right back into the food. Retaining water-soluble nutrients. It also reduces the need to add more H2O or other liquids, and fats.

Miriamsearthcookware.com

I now notice very carefully the amount of steam escaping from my various types of cookware. Steam definitely escapes much sooner when I use stainless cookware.

All natural

Miriam’s clay is 100% natural. You are letting nature and her infinite intelligence play a part in your cooking.

Pressure

Pressure does build up; however, it is not the harsh damaging type of pressure like in metal pressure cookers. Because of the pressure, beans and lentils cook very well in these pots.

Residue in the clay

The clay is porous, so most likely there will be a residue in the clay. This is fine. The residue in the clay can come from the food inside the pot or it can come from the outside of the pot (e.g. washing it incorrectly).

The residue in the clay travels depending on pressure. It moves from high pressure to low pressure. Below are some examples:

  • If the pot is empty or has just water and it and is heated with the lid off, residue travels to the inside of the pot. This can be helpful to remove a smell or convert your pot from yogurt making to stew making. You simmer water in the pot with the lid off, then dump the water out and finally wipe the pot dry.
  • If there is food inside the pot, and it is heated with the lid off, residue travels differently. Some comes to the outside of the pot, and some just stays in the pot. The residue does not travel into the food.
  • If there is food inside the pot, and it is heated with the lid on, residue comes out.

Retains temperature

Clay can keep cool things cool, and warm things warm. It does this much better than other types of cookware, especially stainless.

Traditionally, people stored water in a clay pot. One of the benefits of this was the cooling effect on the water.

When heating milk in a clay pot for yogurt, the clay will retain the heat much longer than a traditional stainless steel pot. This can be quite helpful for heat loving yogurt cultures.

Maintains freshness

Food stays fresher longer when stored in a clay pot.

Will I see health benefits?

It’s possible. Miriam writes about the benefits she saw in her glucose levels after switching to clay. Personally I feel I’m getting healthier as I get older; however, I’m doing a few things, so I’m not positive what I can attribute it to — it might even be a combination of things.

Miriam’s pots vs. other unglazed clay pots

Miriam’s clay

There is so much information on her website.

Miriam’s clay pots are made in the USA — in a small shop in her backyard. She goes to extremes to get the purest clay possible. She has control over the process, start to finish.

You’ll notice a wonderful earthy smell when gently heating the pots. This smell decreases as the pot gets more seasoned and eventually goes away.

Pots made by hand in traditional cultures

Some of my friends have access to pots that have been passed down through their family. Since the pots are old, they are made my hand and no chemicals were available. They can do Miriam’s toxicity test if the want, but generally unglazed heirloom pots are great.

Vitaclay

Vitaclay is made in China.

Vitaclay is slip casted. Slip casting means chemicals are involved in the process. Also the walls of the pot are thinner, which could make the pot is more likely to break. The clay is a different color, thus a different type.

A big difference is that my friends with vitaclay never see black droplets on the outside of their clay pot. To me, this is not a good thing. I like that Miriam’s clay can actually draw toxins out of the food.

Cheap Asian store clay pots

Many pots in the Asian groceries come from India. The clay looks speckled. To me this means the clay is not pure.

Do I need separate pots for different food types

Typically you have separate pots for the following:

  1. Yogurt (dairy), jams and jellies
  2. Chai tea (since it contains milk)
  3. Rice/grains, oatmeal, pasta
  4. Soups, stews, sautes, herbal teas
  5. Water storage

Many use the same pot for both #3 and #4.

Why have separate clay pots? Having separate pots lets the pot cook that specific type of food much faster and better each time. The pot sets itself differently depending on what is cooked in it.

Can you convert a pot used for one type of food (e.g. yogurt) to another type of food (e.g. rice)? Yes! Simply cooking the new type of food in the pot for a few cycles will gradually convert it over. If you’re in a hurry to convert it over, use the steaming technique in the “Clay Care” post.

Pots vs. tangine shaped pans?

Miriam says pots can do almost everything pans can do, and then more — plus they are more sturdy and resistant to cracking. Miriam chooses to use only pots in her kitchen.

That said, some people like pans for sourdough bread, pancakes, semi-dry cooking, roasting, baking, sauteing, etc. Some people simply like the shape of the pans.

Miriam thinks food like pancakes might be fine in a cast iron skillet — the contact time with the metal is so short. It’s much more important to make a stew in clay, than pancakes on clay.

What size pot should I get?

So far, I have a set of pots — small (7 cup), medium (10 cup) and large (16 cup). For a family of two, if I were to get just one pot, I would get the medium pot. It’s not much bigger than the small, but just enough so I sometimes I can have leftovers.

The very best way to cook is to use the smallest pot possible. The small pot heats a lot faster than the large – even with the same amount of food. Also, the small pot is less like to crack than the large pot. I haven’t followed Miriam’s pot care advise at times, and my small pot has a hairline crack, and my large pot has a more substantial crack.

The most popular set is the small, medium and large pots. With this set, you can cooking just about anything for any size crowd. Also, they can nest inside each other, so they don’t take up too much storage space.

What size is best for bone broth? Currently I’m using the large pot to make my bone broth. It works fine, but at times, I wish I had Miriam’s 24 cups extra large bone broth pot. It’s simply less work the bigger the batch of bone broth you make, and bone broth freezes nicely. Also, I like to include pig trotters (feet) in my broth, and the only way for them to fit in my large pot is for me to use a butchers saw and cut them in half. However, I also realize the extra large size will be more fragile (e.g. will crack more easily if I subject it to sudden temperature changes, etc.)

Why store water in clay?

Clay adds prana to water and helps to purify water. Miriam says water should remain in a clay vessel for 2 hours to help purify.

Clay pots are alkaline in nature. This alkaline nature of clay acts on the acidity of water and provides the needed pH balance. Water stored in a clay pot helps in reducing acidity in the body and provides relief from gastric trouble

Clay sweetens the water.

Other clay products by Miriam

Cups & bowls

Cups and bowls are nice because they can go from the refrigerator, to stove top, and then be used for serving. Food stays fresh longer when stored in clay. Warning, clay doesn’t like sudden temperature changes. Go from the refrigerator to room temp, then room temp to stove top.

When making small amount of yogurt and kefir, I prefer the cups and bowls over the larger clay pots.

Future products

  • Flat pans – useful for bread baking, pancakes, etc. The clay tangine shaped pans mentioned above also work for bread, pancakes, etc.
  • Water storage container – a regular clay pot dedicated to water also works
  • Large 9 quart pot

Testing cookware for toxicity

Miriam wrote a blog post about a simple DIY baking soda test – Test What’s Leaching From Your Pot: The Alkaline Baking Soda Test

Before performing this test, it’s important to have all residue flavors removed from porous pots in order to get accurate results. Miriam suggests the steaming step below. This may have to be done a few times, to remove residues.

We’d recommend that you steam some water in the MEC pot before doing (with lid open) just so you can eliminate any food residue taste from interfering with your results. Or if you have a new pot or fairly new pot, then try with that one instead.

Miriam’s Earthen Cookware
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