Is it safe to cook in clay pots? This is the first question that comes to mind of any healthy cook who is considering clay pot cooking as an alternative to metal cookware. All metals are innately reactive, which is why any cooking pot made from any metal can leach into food while cooking, with heat acting as the catalyst.
To avoid food contamination, it is good to look for an alternative, and what could be better than an all-natural material that is naturally non-toxic and inert? What makes a clay pot a safer choice than conventional cooking pots? This article acts as your guide to clay cooking safety and how to find the right clay pots for cooking.
What Makes Clay Cookware so Much Safer than Conventional Cookware?
In contrast to conventional cookware, pure clay pots offer many benefits that make them safer and healthier. As discussed above, clay is naturally inert, which means it is naturally non-reactive and there is nothing in it that could leach during cooking. However, this is true only for the purest form of clay, primary clay, when nothing is added to it or removed from it while making clay pots.
Cooking food is a biochemical process and pure clay pots provide the perfect inert medium to carry out this process uninterrupted. Therefore, food cooks 100% non-toxic and the integrity of food’s nutrients is maintained. Otherwise, these nutrients can form toxic compounds by combining with toxins leaching from the cooking pot.
The unique far infrared cooking preserves even the most delicate nutrients like flavonoids, that are damaged when cooking in high heat from metals. Therefore, food retains its natural taste and color, and nourishes you with all the nutritional value of your food intact.
Lastly, these pots do not pollute the environment at any stage: from harvesting clay, to the pot production, to using them until the end of their lifecycle. But before you jump into clay pot cooking with just any clay pot, is it important to understand that not all clay pots are the same.
Is all Clay Cookware Fully Safe?
With increasing popularity of clay cookware being the safest choice, we get to see a lot of clay pot varieties available for purchase. But, unfortunately, not all of them are safe.
The impurities in the clay and the toxins in the additives and glazes can make the cookware toxic. Some makers use low quality clay and use additives because it reduces the manufacturing costs and ease the process. The glazes give the final pot a glossy and colorful look to make it attractive, and also give it heat resistance and strength. But these features come at the cost of your health!
Clay Cookware vs. Ceramic Cookware
Ceramics is an amazing material for making a number of things including bricks, tiles, synthetic bones, implants, and industry equipment. Since the past few decades, cookware developers have also started making cookware from it, which is also popularly called ‘clay cookware’ but there is a clear differentiation between ceramic and clay cookware.
Ceramic material (like terra cotta, stoneware, porcelain etc.) only has up to 7% of natural clay and the rest is chemicals, oxides, and other inorganic substances. The unique combination of chemicals in ceramic cookware is often concealed under the blanket of ‘proprietary information’, often including some toxic materials and chemicals like petalite (an ore of lithium), frit (glass powder), feldspar, quartz, and so on. These are intended to increase strength, create density, add color, improve elasticity, and take away its porosity for waterproofing. The glazes used in some of these cookware sets have been found to contain traces of lead and cadmium, among other heavy metals.
On the other hand, clay cookware can be made from the purest of clay through and through. This material is is semi-porous, and takes the deep red hue of fired clay. Clay cookware is truly inert, but this can also be treated in the same way ceramics are! How do you differentiate between the junk and the good stuff, then? Read on for more information on how to identify safe clay cookware for your health.
Identifying Chemically Treated Clay Cookware
Chemically treated clay cookware is a bit of an oxymoron. The whole point of choosing clay over metals is to get rid of toxins, but when clay pots are chemically treated, they are subjected to many toxic substances. In chemical treatment, the makers paint, dip, or spray raw glaze (made from metal oxides and/or chemicals) onto the low-fired pot and fire it again. The glaze melts and hardens forming a glassy and shiny layer over the pot. This process makes it waterproof like other coated cookware, but this also can compromise your health. How can you identify untreated clay cookware?
There are no colors or glossiness on the surface of an unglazed clay pot. Unglazed pots only have the deep red hue of fired clay. If you are unsure whether or not your clay pots have additives or not, or if you want to see the chemical leaching of treated clay cookware for yourself, you can perform the alkaline baking soda test at home to see if it is truly inert.
A Great, Fully Safe Clay Cookware Option
Looking to buy pure, fully inert and non-toxic clay cookware? Miriam’s Earthen Cookware (MEC) is a US-based cookware brand that offers pots and pans made from lab tested (here are the test results for MEC clay) primary clay. Their handcrafted cookware pieces are free from additives, colors and glazes, and completely inert.
Healthy clay cooking your favorite food in MEC avoids the risk of contamination by leaching and the ingredients retain their nutritional value because of MEC’s gentle far infrared heat cooking. This unique heat also makes it possible to cook food at less than medium heat. Furthermore, MEC’s clay pot retains heat for 4x longer, which means there is no need to reheat food again and again.
The unique hand-finishing allows for food to cook with sufficient supply of oxygen through the semi-porous walls of the pot. The ergonomic design of the pot and lid lets steam (water soluble nutrients) condense on the inner side of the comparatively cooler lid and gets absorbed into food, instead of escaping through the vents like in conventional pots. As a result, food cooked in MEC is extra rich in nutrients including much needed water soluble nutrients.
MEC pots are naturally free from contaminants and are never subjected to any toxin during the making process, so the pots are made in a truly eco-friendly manner. At the end of their lifecycle after cooking healthy and non-toxic food for years, they can be reused for storing fruits and vegetables, sprouting, fermenting and micro gardening. And after that, they go back to the same earth where they come from in the most planet-friendly way.
For more information on clay pot cooking and important tips, click here.
Interested in switching to the safest clay pots made from 100% natural clay? Head over to MEC’s online store and order a clay pot today!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are clay pots healthy?
If you are looking to cook food in the healthiest way, then clay pots are your best bet, provided they are made from 100% natural clay without any additives or glazes. It is safest to choose unglazed primary clay pots for cooking healthy and non-toxic food.
Do clay pots contain lead?
Some clay pots are glazed with chemicals that contain lead. Even though lead might be in ‘safe levels’ in these clay pots, the cooking heat increases the chances of leaching 10 times more. And food contaminated with lead even in the smallest amount can cause serious health problems.
Is ceramic and clay the same thing?
Although, the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a huge difference between ceramic and clay. The term ‘clay’ refers to natural clay found in the earth but ceramic only contains up to 7% clay and the rest is a combination of chemicals, metal oxides and other inorganic materials.