Tips for Cooking with a Clay Pot

White radish prawn served in clay pot
Getty Images/Henger Lin/EyeEm

Clay pot cooking is easy, fast, and also saves energy. Another advantage of cooking with what is often called a Chinese clay pot is that it's pretty enough to take from stove to table. The food will bubble and stay hot while you're eating. When you're done, the pot can go straight into the refrigerator until you're ready for leftovers (saves you from washing extra dishes). Impress your guests by cooking up a ​Thai curry (or another Asian dish) in a clay pot.

Purchasing a Clay Pot

If you don't already own a clay pot, it's easy enough to buy one. If you shop at the right place, they're also inexpensive. Look for a medium-sized clay pot at an Asian/Chinese store or market. They will be much cheaper there than in specialty cooking stores. If it's brand new, clean your clay pot thoroughly and dry it before using it.

How Cook With Your Clay Pot

Follow your recipe and fill the clay pot with your curry or other recipe ingredients. Leave some room at the top, about 1/2 to 1 inch, for the ingredients to bubble.

If this is the first time using your clay pot: Start with minimum heat for 5 minutes, then gradually increase up to medium-low for at least 15 minutes. You can then turn the heat higher. If the pot has been used before, you can start at a medium-high temperature. Once your dish begins to rapidly bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low or low. You want just enough heat to keep the dish simmering nicely. Cover the clay pot with the lid.

Remove the lid after 15 to 30 minutes to give ingredients a stir, and also to see how much longer your dish will need to cook. Most meat dishes will take between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on meat type and thickness. Fish and vegetables will cook in a matter of 5 to 10 minutes once the pot is bubbling. Use a spoon or tongs to taste test the ingredients and see if they are done.

When your hot pot dish is done, turn off the heat. Watch the temperature of the handles. Depending on the type of clay pot you own, the handles may be quite hot and require the use of oven gloves when you move the hot pot.

Make sure the lid is on securely. Carefully lift clay pot from the stove and place directly on your table. (Make sure to use a trivet or potholder to protect your table from heat.) Remove lid and serve your guests a perfect clay pot meal!

Tips and Tricks for Clay Pot Cooking

  • The best dishes to make in a clay pot are those with a sauce, like a curry, soup, hot pot, or other liquid-based dishes. The sauce needs to be abundant and liquidy, otherwise, your dish may burn.
  • Leftovers can be refrigerated in the clay pot. Once the pot is cooled, just put the lid back on and store in the fridge.
  • When heating up leftovers, gradually warm up the clay pot in the same way you would for a new clay pot. Heat it very gradually, beginning with minimum heat. Otherwise, the clay may crack. If possible, don't heat a hot pot when it is freezing cold, straight out of the refrigerator. Let it come to room temperature first and then heat it up slowly.
  • Clay pots are dishwasher-safe, although it is not recommended to use in the microwave.
  • Note that clay pot cooking is done at lower temperatures than regular cooking, as the clay holds heat well. It's a great way to save energy!