How to Use Clay Baking Pans

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Clay has been used for hundreds -- probably thousands -- of years as a material for pots and other bakeware. These porous pans, which should not be glazed, absorb water during preparation, then gradually steam foods as they bake in a high-temperature oven. Consisting of a pan and tight-fitting lid, they are simple to use and are ideal for one-dish meals, but because they are porous, you need to follow specific directions to prepare, use and clean clay pans.

Things You'll Need

  • Stiff brush
  • Baking soda

Preparing to Use a Clay Pan

  • Before you use a clay pan for the first time, clean off all clay dust with a stiff brush under hot running water.

  • Submerge the pan and lid in cold water for at least 15 minutes before loading the pan with any ingredients. Do this every time you use the pan.

  • Do not allow the pan to dry before you use it. As the pan heats in the oven, the water evaporates, steaming the food. By the time the dish is completely cooked, all the water in the pan will have evaporated.

Cooking with a Clay Pan

  • Put your ingredients into the pan. Clay pans are designed to cook without additional liquid. Do not use oil, and use any other liquid, such as broth, sparingly. Recipes designed for clay pans call for more salt than usual; the additional salt is necessary for the cooking process.

  • Do not preheat the oven. Place the covered pan in the center of a cold oven, then turn on the heat. Most recipes designed for clay pans cook at 450 degrees. Convert conventional recipes for use in your clay pan by cooking the dish 100 degrees hotter for 30 minutes longer. To brown the food, remove the lid for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time. Use clay pans only in the oven; they are not intended for use on a stove.

  • Remove the pan from the oven for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time; the heat in the pan will continue to cook the food. Use insulated kitchen gloves or thick hot pads to remove the pan; it retains heat from the oven and will be extremely hot. Never place the hot pan on a wet, metal or cold surface; it will crack. Use hot pads, a thick towel or a wooden cutting board to insulate the pan.

  • To reheat food in the clay pan, submerge the lid in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Cover the pan, put it in a cold oven, turn the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

Cleaning and Storing a Clay Pan

  • Do not use soap or detergent to clean a clay pan; clay is porous and will absorb the soap, which can leach out into your food the next time you use the pan. Clean the pan with a stiff brush under hot running water.

  • To clean unusual stains or get rid of strong smells in the pan, fill the pan with water, stir in 3 tablespoons of baking soda and let the pan sit overnight. Then use a stiff brush under hot running water to finish cleaning the pan. For stubborn stains, scrub with a paste made of equal parts salt and water.

  • Let the pan and lid dry thoroughly before storing them. Store the pan and lid side by side, not nested together, to discourage the growth of mold or mildew. If mold or mildew develops during storage, make a paste of equal parts water and baking soda. Spread the paste on the pan, let sit for at least an hour, clean with a stiff brush under hot running water and let dry completely.

Tips & Warnings

  • Even if the product insert that comes with your pan says the pan is dishwasher safe, don't put your pan in the dishwasher. It will absorb the detergent, which will leach into your food.
  • Always remove the lid from a hot pan by tilting it away from your face to avoid steam burns, and be sure to carefully protect your hands.

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