Monday, October 15, 2007

In Praise of the Clay Cooker



Many, many years ago I contemplated buying a Romertopf - a clay dish used for cooking meats, fruits and maybe even casseroles in the oven. I didn't. I had no clue how to use one, so I just didn't. Then about 10 years ago I attended a party for "Cookin' the American Way," a home party company similar to Pampered Chef. I bought an apple baker, which the consultant said would be great for meats. I put it up in the cabinet in my kitchen, and there it sat for 10 years.

Recently, a Famous Dave's Barbecue opened up in Redlands, and my husband and I go there occasionally for lunch. They have a roast chicken that's divine, and the waitress let us know about the seasoning that was available for sale. She told us to try doing the chicken in a clay baker, and refreshed my memory for how to use it.

Yesterday I decided to try the baker and the seasoning with a small pork roast. While the oven was preheating to 350˚, I soaked the lid in a large bowl of water. Note: Do NOT preheat the oven like I did. I learned from the commenter below, as well as recipe sites, that if you put a cold clay pot in a hot oven, it's likely to crack. I got lucky!!!! The inside of this one is glazed, so there's no need to oil it. I put the pork roast, some red potatoes, and some baby carrots in the baker, and sprinkled them with some of the seasoning from Famous Dave's. After about 20 minutes of soaking, I put the lid on and placed the dish in the oven. An hour and a half later, all was done. OH MY GOODNESS. I have NEVER had such tender, succulent roast pork. No matter how I've cooked it in the past, it has always come out tough and dry. The meat is so lean, that the experts on the Food Network recommend brining. No need with this cooker. This meat was juicy, cooked perfectly, and so tender you could cut it with a fork. It just melted in your mouth. The potatoes and carrots, which were left whole, were exactly right.

I'm looking forward to trying a roast chicken, and roast beef, and maybe even some ribs. Wow. I can't believe I've waited 35 years to try a clay cooker.

19 comments:

denzylle said...

Just a small point - you shouldn't preheat the oven because a cold clay pot put into a hot oven might crack.

The Cookbook Junkie said...

My cookbook guy had one of these (a rectangular one) and told me I could have it for $7 but I resisted since I have so much stuff in my kitchen. If he still has it next time I see him, I might reconsider.

Dagny said...

I have had wonderful tagines in restaurants as well as wonderful Vietnamese clay pot stuff. And I have a whole cookbook devoted to clay pot cooking. I know that it is only a matter of time before I submit to the clay pot.

msstarlite said...

I too have had my apple baker in the cupboard for approximately 10 years. I have no idea where the directions are and I couldn't find anything online but I came across your blog :-) and I just saw a recipe on tv using a clay pot in the microwave that I wanted to try. My problem is I don't recall how to properly clean the pot and mine is obviously dusty. How did you do it? I didn't know if I should use soap since it may soak in to the clay parts that aren't glazed. Do you still have your directions?

Cyndi said...

Msstarlite, you can use soap on the bottom part, since the part that comes in contact with the food is glazed. For the top, you can use soap as long as you're not soaking it in soapy water. I use a dobie pad to scrub it and it works just fine.

Bonnie said...

I just bought this exact clay Apple Baker at a yard sale for $2.00. I now need to learn how to use it. I was surprised to learn that you can do meats in it too. I searched for an hour before I found your blog and it has been a great help. Any more tips for using it would be greatly appreciated. Now I can't wait to get started. Thanks ya'll.

Wendi said...

I make a layered sausage bake in the microwave in my apple baker (have had it for 10 years too) and it is super easy and delicious. That is all I have ever used it for since I don't have a cookbook for it. Thanks for your blog, I want to try a roasted chicken, how did you do yours?

Sausage bake:
I place lid to apple baker upside down in the sink and fill it with cold water. Let it soak while you prepare the dish.
cut up polska kilbasa and put in bottom of apple baker.
Use mandolin slicer if you have it to make slices of red potatoes, onions, zucchini, bell peppers. You can add fresh green beans, I have and it works too.
Layer the onions, then zucchini, then bell pepper, then top with red potatoes. Bake in microwave for about 10 mins (until potatoes are soft), sprinkle with grated cheese and replace lid until melted. I like to serve with hot sauce. It reheats well, but I pour a lot of the juices off before storing as it can get soggy.

Anonymous said...

I have used my Apple Baker (clay pot) for years. It is known in my family as the "magic pot". Many delicious meals have come out of it. Most any meat dish - season meat (after awhile of use you don't have to soak lid anymore). Put in cold oven - 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours --wa-la--tasty tender meat. I would like to buy a bigger pot if anyone has one for sale. Wish I had purchased the larger pot to begin with--never dreamed my girls would already be getting dubs on who would get the pot when I go!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am soooo glad i found your blog...i thought i had to soak the lid but could not remember - could not even remember where i heard about these before. When we moved into our house, the former owners had left a small one and a large one in the bottom of the oven. there was no way to contact them so i guess they are mine and i get to use them. i plan to do two casseroles for thanksgiving but only have one casserole dish so, we will see how the clay baker works - i may have a new favorite dish!!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved my pampered chef apple baker like the one pictured above. I bought it about 12 years ago and recently, I dropped the bottom and broke it. Any idea where I can find one?

Cyndi said...

The clay cooker pictured above is not a Pampered Chef product. This one is from a now-defunct company called "Cooking the American Way." So far, I haven't been able to find replacement lids or bottoms. I sold this one years ago and now use a Pampered Chef one.

Cyndi said...

Oops-there's one on eBay right now for $20!!!! Search apple baker, not clay cooker.

joanne said...

do i only soak the lid or the whole pot?

Cyndi said...

If you're using the apple baker - the one in the picture - you only need to soak the lid. If you're using the Pampered Chef clay baker, there's no soaking - just put it in the oven BEFORE you turn the heat on.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea I was not alone. Well ladies - another one to add in with ya, I've had mine 10 yrs too. A friend told me about it. Got it 2nd hand so no booklet. Glad to be here.

Anonymous said...

I just got mine , did not sell at church Bazaar, got it for 2 dollars, glad I found your site.Helen

shadykaye said...

Well, I'm not sure how many years I have had mine, but definitely more than 10. Does that mean I win,LOL. I have never used it. I am for sure going to use it now. My question, can you use the same one for meats and also for deserts?? Does the flavor stay in the clay, mine is not glazed on the inside.

Cyndi said...

I haven't cooked any sweet things in mine - just meats & veggies.

Unknown said...

Great blog. Never knew i could cook meat in it. So tonight I'm cooking my cornbeef brisket in it with a brown sugar, guiness marinade.