Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How To Season a Clay Cooking Pot

Cooking in an unglazed ceramic cooking pot is a time-honored and marvelous way to create soups, stews, grain and legume dishes, and braised-meat dishes. The thermic properties of clay, which allows for cooking a dish at low temperature over a long period of time, unattended, makes cooking in clay ideal for the cook that wants to assemble a dish then basically let it cook itself, leaving the cook free for other activities. Think of cooking in clay as the origin of the slow cooker - it only lacks electricity.

Before using a clay pot for the first time it is essential to season it. Because the clay is unglazed and therefore somewhat porous, the earthy taste of the clay itself will leach into the food if the pot is unseasoned. Once seasoned, however, you can use a clay pot without fear of the taste of clay spoiling your dish.

Seasoning a clay pot
This technique for seasoning an unglazed clay pot is adapted from from Brazilian food writer and blogger Neide Rigo and can be found on her blog Come-Se. Her seasoning process is a two-day process and begins with a twenty-four hour soaking of the pot in cold water. One the second day, she removes the pot from the water, drains it completely then fills it half-full with fresh water. She fills the pot with chunks of pork belly with its rind in the water and heats the pot slowly over low heat. She lets the water come to the boil and then continues the cooking until the water evaporates completely and the pork belly begins to fry. She continues to fry the pork belly using a silicone brush to paint the entire interior of the pot with melted fat until the pork skin becomes crispy  - fried pork rind (torresmo in Portuguese). At this point, she removes the pot from the heat, allows it to cool completely, drains it completely, wipes the interior dry, then washes the pot in hot water only. Once the pot is completely dry it's ready for its first use. (Added bonus - the pork rind, or cracklings, are delicious!)

Clay pots should be cleaned with water only - detergents can have an effect on the taste of food cooked in clay. Use hot water and if needed a plastic scouring pad to clean. It's also important to dry the pot quickly after washing to avoid musty flavors developing. In Brazil, cooks just put the pot in direct sunlight. In less tropical climes, fifteen minutes in a 150F oven will do the trick.


  1. Hi,
    Really enjoying your blog! As a Canadian foody who grew up in Rio Grande do Sul, it brings so much together for me, and evokes "muitas saudades" though I have to admit much of the regional foods you blog about are unfamiliar to me. Two foods I would love to duplicate, but have not found online yet are a thick dough pizza with palm hearts (unfortunately I have no idea of the name)served as sort of a finger food at one of my friend "aniversario de quinze anos". Savoury and oh, so yummy! Also, I always loved the picole flavour called "coco queimado." I wonder if it still available?

    1. Thanks for the nice comments, Rebecca. It's true what you say about unfamiliar regional foods - Brazil is so big that dishes that are well known in one region are totally unheard of in another. All part of what makes Brazilian gastronomy so interesting, I think.

      Your pizza with palmito is something that isn't familiar to me. There is a palmito pizza that's often served in Ceara, but it doesn't have a particularly thick crust. It's basically pizza dough covered with Catupiry cheese and thick slices of palmito. Was yours something like that?

      As for coco queimado ("Burnt coconut") I'm in totaly agreement with you - I love the flavor. I often buy coco queimado ice cream here in Fortaleza, but although regular coconut is available in popsicles (picole), I've not seen coco queimado picole. Sure wish I would though!