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Section 3: Ways to cook with clay pots: stove, oven, grill, sun oven, campfire…

Diffusers & heat settings

Stove

Diffusers

CookingDiffuser required
Electric stove-tops, e.g. coil, glass or ceramicYes
Gas stove – cooking time longer than one hour or pot not yet well seasoned (first 6 uses)Yes
Gas stove – cooking time less than one hour & pot well seasonedNo
OvenNo

Will a diffuser slow the cooking time, or require a higher heat source?

Yes, energy transfer is not as efficient.

You can use a slightly higher stove temperature or a slightly bigger, more powerful burner. On my gas stove, if I cook on 3 without a diffuser, I will cook on 4 with a diffuser.

What is the best diffuser?

Miriam says the SimmerMat works best for gas, induction, and 95% of ceramic/glass stoves. For the other 5% of ceramic/glass stoves a ventilated diffuser such as the NorPro is necessary. There is no way to predict the 5% of the ceramic/glass stove which require a NorPro. If you use a SimmerMat on a ceramic/glass stove and there is a bad smell, a NorPro diffuser is necessary.

How to use the SimmerMat

Miriam says to follow her instructions, not the instructions that come with the SimmerMat. The instructions that come with the SimmerMat say only to use only on low heat. However, the SimmerMat instructions are designed for metal pots, and clay pots are different. It fine to use medium heat with clay pots and a SimmerMat.

Simply place SimmerMat on the burner, place your pot on the SimmerMat, start on low heat and go to medium heat in a few minutes. With pure-clay you can use the SimmerMat at medium for many hours.

MEC

Heat settings

Stove-top

Never go above medium heat

Most recipes start on low (~5 minutes), go to medium and end on low (~5-10 minutes).

Some foods require a period of no heat at the end for “settling”

Changing the heat settings so often can be inconvenient. Miriam says the following are fine:

  • For my morning oatmeal, I set my stove to medium-low and keep it there the whole time. Since I never go up to medium heat, my cooking time is a bit longer.
  • With a well seasoned pot, you can start cooking on medium if there are liquids in the pot.
  • You can skip the 5-10 minutes on low at the end of cooking if you have a 10 minute rest period with no heat. Some foods (broth, stews, etc.) benefit from the period of low heat at the end – it helps them “come together”.
  • If you want to be yet more energy efficient, you can turn the stove off towards the end of medium heat cooking, and since clay hold heat so well, the contents will continue to cook. After you turn the heat off, you will still notice moisture patterns on the outside of the pot. When the pot is no longer cooking the food, these moisture pattern will disappear.

If the pot is not fully seasoned, obey the initial 5-10 minutes on low before going to medium.

Know your stove

Heat settings

  • Some newer stoves can be very powerful and you may not need to go up to medium.
  • Some older stoves may have malfunctioning burners which result uneven heat that a diffuser can’t compensate for.

Preheating (common practice on older electric stoves when using metal pots)

  • With a clay pot – especially during initial seasoning and it’s first 4-6 uses – do not pre-heat the burner.
  • After the pot is fully seasoned, you may be able to get away with some preheating.

Match your diffuser/pot to the correct size burner

  • Most stoves have 8″ and 6″ burners. An 8″ burner is ideal for the SimmerMat.
  • Do not put your diffuser/pot on a burner with a diameter more than 1/2″ greater than the diffuser/pot. Instead use a much smaller burner – if need be.

Oven

Temperature settings

  • If the clay pot is used both in oven and on the stove – start in a cold oven or at 250°F, then increase to desired temperature in 10 minutes.
  • If the clay pot is only for oven use [you never use it on the stove], and it is well seasoned – start in a cold oven or at 350°F, then if necessary increase to desired temperature in 10 minutes.
  • Max temperature is 450°F.
  • Baking and roasting temperature required for clay is about 25°F less than temperature required for stainless.

Cooking time

If this is the first time using a clay pot in the oven, cooking time will be a bit longer – the pot needs to “learn”.

Always cover with lid

Even breads.

Stove vs. oven

Stove top and oven produce about the same results when cooking with clay – so you often have your choice which method to use. However, there are some differences to note:

Stove top

  • More energy efficient.
  • Keeps the house cooler in the summer.

Oven

  • Far infrared heat complete surrounds the pot – including the top. This is preferred for baking and roasting meats.
  • Can cook multiple dishes at the same time.

Wood stove

  • Use a diffuser.
  • Use 1/2 the amount of wood so the stove isn’t too hot.

Campfire, grill

Traditionally clay was used directly over an open fire.

Sun oven

The directions to my sun oven say not to put any pot directly on the bottom of the oven – they recommend an airspace completely around the pot. My oven comes with a hanging rack which I put my pot on.

All American Sun Oven: Made for the American Consumer

MEC says if you don’t have a rack you can simply use rocks under the pot to raise it.

Also heed the oven cooking rules above. I simply skip the pre-heat step and put my clay pot in a cold oven. Sometimes pre-heating my solar oven takes it to 350°F

Remember the rule that if you see steam coming from the pot, the food is usually done (or just past done)? In a sun oven the steam clouds the glass, so it’s easy to tell it’s done.

In my experience, everything except beans, works really well in a clay pot in a sun oven. If you read the blogs on sun oven cooking, many people complain about beans in a solar oven (regardless of using a clay pot) – they simply take a very long time to cook.


I love using clay in my sun oven – it produces some really delicious food. You’ve got the intelligence of clay and the energy of the sun working for you!

Rocket stove

Great for outdoors, especially if you have small pieces of wood around.

A rocket stove is an efficient and hot burning stove using small-diameter wood fuel. Fuel is burned in a simple combustion chamber containing an insulated vertical chimney, which ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface.

Wikipedia

No microwaving

Miriam does not recommend using clay in a microwave. Pots can develop “hot spots” because on the uneven heat. Hot spots can result in cracking.

I would love to hear from you.
Scroll down to share your experiences & Wisdom.

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