Want to Cook Healthier? Switch to Claypot Cooking
Clayware has been a part of Indian households since times past. It is now making a comeback even in the metros.
Do you remember the taste of surahi water in summer? It not only quenched your thirst, but also made you happy. There is something more subtly satisfying in the cool water stored in a clay pot than the water cooled in a fridge. Clay pots are not only used to store water but also to cook food. A Handi chicken tastes better than a kadhai chicken.
Clayware has been a part of Indian households since times past. Even today, in smaller towns and cities, people cook on clay tawas. Clay pot cooking is making a comeback and many shops are selling clay pots even in metros.
Experts believe that pottery was invented somewhere in eastern Asia between 12,000 and 20,000 years ago. Earthenware has been used for cooking across geographies and cultures because of the porousness of clay that slowly circulates the heat and moisture to cook a tender and luscious dish.
Why cook in Clayware?
Clay pots are heat-resistant and cook the dish slowly. Apart from enhancing the taste, there are distinct health benefits. Clay is alkaline and after interacting with the acids in the food it balances the pH, makes it rich in iron, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium. Here is a list of benefits.
Slow and even cooking
Porous and insular properties
Lower loss of moisture and nutrients compared to metal and other cookware
Retains the nutritive value
Cuts on oil to make it healthier
Prevents burning dishes. Amateurs can cook with ease
Imparts flavour to food
Kalpana Manivannan, Founder of Kalpavriksha Farms works towards a sustainable lifestyle and recommends buying thick and heavy pots free from cracks. To check the quality of clayware, she suggests, turning the pot over and tapping with your knuckles. If you hear a clear metallic ‘tung’ sound, it is good pot.
Buy a rough looking pot, because untreated pots retain their porous quality and provide health benefits. In glazed clayware, the pores are closed and this coating defeats the purpose of cooking in these pots.
Seasoning a Clay Pot
After buying a pot wash it thoroughly with water. Do not use soap. You can use rice water, chickpea flour or salt to clean it. Then soak the pot in water for 5-6 hours or even overnight. Remove and dry thoroughly. Leave it in sunlight or air to dry. Repeat the above process of soaking in water two more times for long-lasting effect.
The next step is to season the pot.
Apply a generous coating of oil (sesame, coconut or any cooking oil). Coat it completely from both the inside and the outside and let it soak for 4-5 hours or overnight. Now take this pot and gently rinse it. Your clayware is seasoned and ready to use!
Dagny Sol from Jabalpur switched to clayware cooking 5 years ago because she feels it is the healthiest way to cook food. She bought the clay pots from the local markets. “I prefer the black pots. I feel black pots last longer and are more robust,” she shares.
For seasoning, she soaks the new pots in water for three days and then drains and puts them out to dry. Once dry, she fills them with water and places them on a low flame until the water boils. She then removes them from the flame and lets them cool. The next day, she cooks rice. The pot then becomes ready for any kind of cooking. She also uses her clay pots in the microwave to cook food with great results.
When cooking, remember to switch off the gas when the food is 60-70% cooked. The pot is hot enough to keep cooking even after the flame is off. When you start cooking, let the pot heat up on a low flame. Once it is fairly hot (after 8-10 minutes), wipe off the inner surface with a paper towel and then add oil to it according to the moisture content of the food. If you keep the flame low, most veggies will cook fine. The clay pots tend to use more moisture to cook.
“Initially, during the first few uses try not to temper in clay pots, because tempering requires the oil to reach a certain high temperature and subjecting the clayware to such high temperature initially isn’t a good idea.”Kalpana Manivannan, Founder of Kalpavriksha Farms
However, this advice applies only to initial cooking. Once it is in regular use, you can start tempering directly in clay pots, she explains.
Tips and Precautions
Clay pots should always be handwashed. Use warm water to dislodge food particles with a natural fibre scrub. Avoid using chemical detergents as pores may absorb the soap and lend a soapy flavour to the food. Excessive scrubbing should always be avoided.
Clay pots take about 15- 20 minutes longer to heat than any conventional cookware.
Never add cold water or cold spice pastes to a heated pot as it may lead to cracks and even break the pot. Do not over-heat the pots.
If the clay pot becomes mouldy, scrub gently with baking soda and boil it for 30 minutes in water to unclog the pores.
Always apply a layer of oil and leave it while the pot is not in use. This helps in seasoning the pot and also retains the non-stick quality. If your pots are showing signs of leaks, it’s time to replace them.
Any change of habits requires patience and perseverance. Make the switch slowly with only one pot. Initially, you might find cooking in clay pots a complicated task, but practice will make it easier.
Try it to experience a difference of taste in your cooking with added health benefits.
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting, and travel.)
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