Terracotta Clay Pot Cooking & BBQ

A new discovery.  Well for me it might be relatively new, but I believe it’s an ancient tradition having originated in Tuscany, Italy around 800BC.  It involves arranging food in a clay pot and sticking it in the oven.

Photo: d. king Hearty Bolognese Sauce
Photo: d. king
Hearty Bolognese Sauce

My pot resembles a beautiful large bowl. Until recently it was more of a decoration looking so pretty just sitting on top of a burner that I didn’t want to disturb it.  But I decided to do just that.  I was sure that anything this fine looking would make the food equally fine tasting. I felt inspired to actually try cooking with it and so be it!

I’ve been cooking like crazy with it and so far there has been nothing that has not come out other than superb tasting. I know the pot is mostly responsible for this so thought I’d share a few things about clay cooking because I’m not sure how popular it is.  I know that using a pressure-cooker and slow-cooker is more the norm but this is fantastic and since this is also a life/style blog it looks pretty impressive taking it out of the oven.

Photo: d. king Spanish Chicken Marbella
Photo: d. king
Spanish Chicken Marbella (served over wild rice)

“Hey I’ve got a great looking pot and something even better inside it – eat your heart out!” – d. king

Cooking in a clay pot is a lot different than cooking with other materials like ceramic or stainless steel because clay is porous.  In fact, just to be on the safe side I soak the whole pot (lid and all) in water for about 20 minutes before using it.  Then, when all the ingredients are inside, I place the pot in the oven before turning the oven on so everything warms up gradually.

The lack of enamel or glaze means the hard-baked clay “breathes”, enabling water to be absorbed and then released during cooking to achieve moist, intensely flavourful results with little to no seasonings. The slow, steady evaporation of steam from within the clay pot’s unglazed pores and the double sealed lid is what makes this possible.

Slow cooking is so much faster using a clay pot.  It cooked the contents inside set on a low oven temperature of 300F evenly and flavourfully in all of one hour. Unbelievable!

Safety: most risk of lead contamination comes from glazed, ceramic dishes and pots. Make sure your clay pot is unglazed and has been certified by an independent third party lab as lead-free and that no chemical treatments have been applied to the clay during manufacturing of the clay pots.  Then enjoy experimenting with them!

Have you ever cooked using clay?  If so, share your thoughts?

Judgment day:

My experience as a black box judge in the “creative category” from competing teams at a barbeque fundraising event where the winner received thousands of dollars in prize money along with bragging rights. Sponsored by the Kansas City Barbeque Society:

From Farm to Table

FARMThis happened on Sunday out on a farm with lots of people and great live music. It was an interesting experience because all the cooks and organizers take it quite seriously. Southern style BBQ is a technique in which meat is cooked at low temperatures (about 225F) for a long time over indirect heat.  No gas/propane allowed, the heat source is charcoal and wood. Judges were briefed beforehand and there was a follow-up discussion. Each competing team was given a time limit and received four mystery ingredients to be incorporated into a single dish and submitted to the distinguished panel of judges (at least that’s what was printed in the event schedule, ha!) where points were awarded based on originality, taste, texture and presentation.  I was sitting in between the owner of a winery and a man who is almost certainly a professional food judge who had lots of stories.

 The four main ingredients were pork loin, duck breast, dried tarragon and sushi rice so you can only imagine.  Quite impressive what the participants came up with!  A little glimpse into the world of what it must be like to be on one of those cooking shows – nerve wracking but challenging to have to come up with something under pressure. The real meaning of pressure cooking!  I think I awarded points very fairly although I was a tough critic.

So tonight I’m making something with no more than four ingredients……to witness what turns out! A challenge to myself – no award $$$, possible bragging rights!

Photos: d. king










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