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Terra Cotta Cookware for Everyday Cooking

How Clay Pot Cooking Brings Out Flavors in Food

Every great chef in Italy owns a clay pot. In fact, great chefs in most countries do. In Africa, they use the Tagine, a clay pot with a cone-shaped lid; the Spanish used the lidless Cazuela; in Provence, the Tian is used both for cooking and serving; in Japan, Donabe pots are popular.

Clay pot cooking uses a singular pot constructed entirely of clay or "terra cotta," the Italian word for "baked earth." This versatile pot can be used for a variety of foods in an endless array of flavor combinations. From tough cuts of meats to delicate fish layered atop julienne-cut vegetables, clay pot cooking brings out the genuine flavors in all foods.

Clay Pot Cooking

The porous nature of clay and the construction of the pot lend to this unique form of cooking. Heat is diffused uniformly throughout the pot in such a manner that foods cook gradually and evenly, as opposed to a stainless steel pot where cooking occurs primarily at the base. When the clay pot is saturated with water and placed in the oven, the water slowly evaporates, creating steam within the pores of the clay. Foods form their own juices through this process, creating a natural and healthy alternative to cooking with added fats and liquids.

One-pot dishes require very little attention and effort. Unlike metal pots, clay does not become extremely hot, virtually eliminating the need to stir the contents or worry about scorching despite the high cooking temperature. When the pot is dry and all water has evaporated, the food is cooked.

La Salute e Nella Cotta (Health Is in Terra Cotta)

Health benefits abound in a kitchen with a clay pot. For the health-conscious, cooking in clay ranks highly for its ability to cook foods that retain nutrients. Joanna White, author of Cooking in Clay (Bristol Pub Enterprises, 2003), attributes this quality to the clay itself. "Clay is a porous material, which, when saturated with water and put into an oven, will allow a slow evaporation of steam from the pores," she says. "This creates a moist, enclosed environment that results in increased flavor, very tender meats and healthier foods. Clay pots require less fat and use less liquid, which means less nutrient loss."

Tagine, Tian, Cazuela, Donabe or Terra Cotta – regardless of the name, clay pot cooking signifies health, versatility and an unequaled taste sensation.

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