Do you know anyone who has open, empty kitchen cabinets yearning to be filled? No, me either, so if I’m going to devote storage space to something, it better be good. Clay pots are worth every inch of space, secondo me.
I use the deep cooking pots on my stovetop, directly on the flame. As long as you start out at a low heat and gradually warm up the pot, you have no worries about cracking the pot. Clay pots also solve the problem of stovetops that don’t have a low enough heat setting. When making a sauce, like spaghetti Bolognese, you don’t want any more than a few little bubbles working their way up to the top, and most stoves are just too hot. I make my Bolognese sauce in the oven, and the problem is solved. Set the oven at a low temp and you are good to go. Clay pots seem to cook more evenly, probably because the entire vessel cooks the food, while with traditional stovetop cooking, only the part closest to the heat source is cooking the food. I also think clay pots add a depth of flavor and they look beautiful right on the table. Which means one less plate to wash.
I don’t recommend searing or frying food in a clay pot, as that sort of intense heat needs a good metal pan. Then again exploding ceramics could be considered an art form, so that’s a decision you’ll have to make (and clean up after).
Paula Wolfert, the doyenne of slow clay pot cooking is coming out with a new cookery book, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, and if there is anyone that knows her way around a clay pot, it’s Ms. Wolfert. I can’t wait to read it, and find an excuse to buy one more clay pot.