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Section 10: Possible problems with a clay pot and how to solve them

Cracks, burnt spots, mold, chips….

Black burned spot on inside bottom of pot

See Washing.

Outside bottom of pot is very black

With use, the bottom of your pot will become black or gray. This is WILL NOT affect the functioning. It happens as a result of a normal oxidation process as would happen with any 100% organic matter like wood, stone etc. (when heat is applied).

MEC

However, if it is looking very black and burnt, that usually means your stove heat is too high. The bottom of one of my pots is very black and crusty. This happened because I was using way too much oil, and the oil was drawn out though my pot and burnt. The pot still cooks great – and I notice the black crust getting better over time.

Brown droplets (toxins) on the outside of your clay cooking pot

This is something very beneficial – although it may first appear to be a problem. See Negatively charged clay can draw toxins from foods.

Mold

They [pots] may grow some harmless mildew if not fully dry, but can be cleaned easily by scrubbing some vinegar and rinsing off with warm water.

MEC

Miriam has tested many pots (by breaking them), and the mold does not remain in the clay after it is cleaned off.

See proper storing techniques

Chipped rim

One day I noticed a chip in the rim. In hindsight, I think this was caused by drying it upside down in my sometimes crowded metal dish rack.

I had the chipped off piece and wondered if there was some way I could attached it. MEC said there was no good way of attaching it, and I was best off living with the chipped lid. It will not effect the pot functionally. MEC recommended I apply some oil to the chipped area and rub it in.

If I wanted to, I could smooth out the chip with 210 gauge sanding paper before applying the oil. It would probably take a few rubs to smooth out.

Cracks

Hairline crack

The crack itself is small and it does not go all the way through the pot. Repair is not required. However, it is a warning sign to you that you doing something wrong. Change your ways, or run the risk of the hairline crack becoming a substantial crack.

A hairline crack on the inside edge of my yogurt pot

Clay pot with hairline crack on the inside
A hairline crack – it’s just on the inside of the pot.

I think my crack was caused by heating my pot on a gas stove for too long on too high of heat without using a diffuser before the pot was fully seasoned.

The crack is only on the surface and should not affect the functioning of the pot in any way. It will heal over time.

Miriam’s Earthen Cookware

Hairline cracks on the bottom of a pot

Clay pot with a hairline cracks on the bottom
Clay pot with a hairline cracks on the bottom

My friend thinks it’s because she water logged her pot (soaking rice in it for a few hours) and then cooking the rice in it with too high of heat. (Miriam says it’s not necessary to soak rice if cooked in clay.)

Miriam says the bottom looks very dry. She recommended covering the entire outside of the pot with vegetable oil and letting it sit upside down for a day or two before washing and using. The oil will also help fill in the cracks a bit.

Substantial crack

Anything more than a hairline crack. If it’s very serious, the crack goes all the way through the pot and you see (and hear) the pot dripping liquid when cooking. The good news is most of the most serious cracks can be repaired.

Options for repairing the crack

  1. See I see a crack, is there a way I can fix it? (MEC). I like this method, only I have better results if I extend the times for the various steps. I let the paste sit in the pot for 24 hours. Then I scoop the paste out with the spatula, and let the pot rest another 24-48 hours. Finally I wash the pot out and resume using it.
  2. Make a rice paste
    1. Overcook some rice – e.g. basmati.
    2. Take some rice and smooch it between your fingers.
    3. Coat it with sugar.
    4. Push into the crack on both sides of the pot while the pot is still warm. This allows for some “cementing in place” as the pot cools. I use something such as a pot holder to protect my hands from heat.

Copper wire under rim

If the pot is leaking, the copper wire is mandatory. If the crack doesn’t go all the way through, the copper wire is still a good idea. There have been cracks where I wish I’d had put the wire on sooner. The wire provides extra stability for the pot.

Helpful hints for attaching the wire

  • At first I tried using a copper wire which was too thin, in the tightening process the wire broke. Use at least 16 gauge wire.
  • Miriam’s instructions say to place the wire immediately after filling in the crack. I’ve had a crack so bad, that in order to heat the paste mixture in the pot, the wire had to be put on first. After the paste was applied, I tried to tighten it some more.
  • Putting the wire around the pot is ideally done with two people. One person squeezes the crack together, the other people twists the wire.
  • It is best to have the wire twisted together directly opposite the crack.
  • If you can move the wire horizontally (not vertically) on the pot, it is too loose – try tightening by 1/2 or one complete turn.

The pot will continue to heal with repeated use; however, take it easy on your pot for some time

  • cook at medium low temperatures
  • avoid watery broths
  • avoid oven use

Crack in my large broth pot

Large clay pot after wrapping a copper wire under the rim.

I think my crack was due to two things:

  • Making multiple batches of broth back to back, the clay gets very water logged. When you heat a water logged pot full of bones and water, the heat forces the water in the clay out. This can cause cracking as well. Miriam suggests between broth batches that you dry out your pot on the stove. Just put the empty pot on the stove and use low heat for 5-10 minutes.
  • I usually get three batches of quality gelled broth when I include pig’s feet. Sometimes I don’t get all three batches done in the same day, and I put my pot and bones outside overnight (instead of the refrigerator). I was in a hurry and thought I could very gently heat the pot. Miriam says to always bring the pot to room temperature before heating it.

My worst crack so far

Clay pot with a very bad crack
My worst crack so far – using the pot on a faulty glass-top stove burner

I loaned my small clay pot to a friend. She had just moved and wasn’t familiar with her glass top stove. The burner she placed it on was erratic and malfunctioning, and even though she used the SimmerMat, a giant crack appeared.

Can you use clay power to fill in the crack?

It does not work: clay powder can not fill and close up a crack on a finished, fired clay pot that is now stone. Clay powder cannot even be used to close a crack or fill a hole on a piece that is not fired yet. The integrity and strength of a pure clay pot is during the making, it cannot be fixed or mended with clay once it is more than 40% dry.

MEC
I would love to hear from you.
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