Clay pot cooking is a great way to mix things up in the kitchen. These beautiful vessels, dating back to the beginnings of civilization, work as both cooking and serving dishes. Flavors meld to create full and dynamic stews, roasts, and other great foods.
Types of Clay
- Earthenware – a general term to mean clay that is baked.
- Terracotta – translates from Italian to mean, “baked earth.” Brownish-red in color, this type of clay is traditionally left unglazed.
- Stoneware – clay that has been fired at a higher temperature, making it stronger than earthenware.
Shapes and Uses
There are many shapes and sizes of pots with different intended uses. Here are two unique clay pot examples:
The Chicken Brick – a large, unglazed terracotta pot with a high, domed lid. Intended mainly for poultry, chickens, guinea fowl, or ducks can be slow roasted either whole or in segments. There is no need for the addition of any liquids, though onions and herbs often make for a fantastic flavor and aroma.
The Tagine – Originating in North Africa, this clay pot is glazed, with a shallow base and a tall conical lid with a hole at the top for steam to escape. Ideal for stews.
Before we begin…
Just like cast iron, all unglazed clay pots must be seasoned and prepared before use.
- Soak clay pots in water for about 20 minutes before every use. The porous nature of the clay will absorb moisture and release it slowly while cooking, ensuring that your recipes come out tender and moist every time.
- Since clay is such a porous material, it is recommended to devote one clay pot exclusively to savory or sweet dishes.
It’s Oven Time
- To prevent cracking, unglazed clay pots must always be gradually introduced to heat.
- DO NOT preheat your oven. Place the pot in a cold oven and allow the temperature to rise gradually to the desired degree.
- Similarly, it’s never a good idea to add boiling liquids to a cold clay pot, as the sudden change in temperature could cause cracks.
- A soft-bristled brush and hot water are all you need to clean up.
- Again, as is true with cast iron, detergents and harsh soaps will strip the seasoning and are not recommended.
- For tough, baked-on bits, soak the pot overnight in a mixture of hot water and baking soda. This is a good trick for eliminating lingering smells and flavors that may have baked into the pores of the clay.
Clay Pot Chicken Recipe for Your Tagine
First-time tagine seasoning instructions:
- Heat in 325° oven for 10 minutes
- Remove, rub with olive oil and return to oven for 20 minutes
- Remove, cool and immerse in water for 20 minutes
Chicken with Apricot and Almonds
- 4 boneless chicken breasts, thighs, legs, or combination
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
- ½ cup dried apricots (Cranberries, raisins, or pears can be used as well.)
- 1/3 cup whole almonds
- ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon, turmeric, and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon each of salt and ground ginger
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
In a bowl, mix chicken with spices and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the onions and chicken in the tagine and mix thoroughly. Add ½ cup of water along with parsley and cilantro. Place in the oven and raise temperature to 350 degrees. Let bake for 45 minutes,
In separate pan, mix 1 cup of water, honey, cinnamon stick and apricots. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until apricots are tender—about 15 minutes or until sauce is a syrupy consistency, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
While apricots are cooking, toast the almonds in a pan with olive oil until golden. Remove from pan and transfer to paper towel. When chicken is ready, add the honey mixture and serve with toasted almonds. Add a squeeze of lemon on top if desired.
Click here for another great tagine story!
The Etched Lombok Tagine and Cinnamon Branch Spoon Rest come from the Lombok Pottery Center artisan group in Indonesia. Pictured below are artisans and staff from Lombok Pottery with two Ten Thousand Villages buyers.