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What is a Clay Roaster?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A clay roaster or clay pot is an unglazed clay baking dish intended to be used in clay pot cooking. The use of clay pots for cooking dates back over thousands of years in many cultures. The clay roaster is designed to slowly cook the food inside when subjected to steady indirect heat, typically through an oven, although some clay roasters can be used in a fire. Many kitchen supply stores sell an assortment of clay roasters, and they can also be ordered through import stores, if you are seeking a particular style.

There are two pieces to a clay roaster. The bottom half of a clay roaster typically resembles a bowl, with a flat bottom and a deep lip to hold in liquids as they are cooked. The domed top nestles into the bottom, creating a snug seal while the food is cooked. In most cases, a clay roaster is unglazed. The pot is left unglazed so that it can absorb water, which is an important step in the cooking process.

To use a clay roaster, the cook starts by soaking it for 15-30 minutes in water. The porous unglazed clay sucks up the water readily. As the clay roaster is heated, the water will slowly evaporate, steaming the food on the inside and ensuring that it does not lose moisture. The result is a soft, thoroughly cooked dish. Some cooks like to remove the lid at the end to brown and crisp the food.

Cooks should never place a clay roaster into a preheated oven, as this can cause the roaster to crack. Instead, the moistened clay roaster should be put into a cold oven and slowly brought to temperature. When the food is done, the clay roaster should be placed onto a kitchen towel or cutting board, never a cold or wet surface. Abrupt temperature changes can crack the clay, ruining the meal and making a colossal mess.

To clean a clay roaster, a stiff scrubbing brush and hot water should be used. Since the clay is porous, detergent, bleach, and other inedible cleaners should not be used, as they will leach out into the food the next time the roaster is used. For stubborn stains, salt or baking soda can be used as a scrubbing agent, or the clay roaster can be soaked in a baking soda bath. Always allow the clay roaster to dry completely before putting it away, to prevent the formation of mold.

Many cultures have clay roaster recipes, ranging from the tandoori recipes of Northern India to Moroccan tangines. Different cultures have different traditionally styled clay pots, but it is often possible to cheat, using one clay roaster for recipes from many regions. Try searching for “clay pot recipes” in your favorite search engine for some inspiration.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon304897 — On Nov 22, 2012

If the bottom of the pot is glazed, it is often used for bread, but can be soaked without any problems.

By anon282640 — On Jul 30, 2012

I also found a clay roaster at a thrift store. It is completely glazed with the exception of the exterior bottom of the pot, and the bottom rim of the lid. All I know is that it was made in Italy. Should I still soak these in water before cooking?

By anon143482 — On Jan 16, 2011

I found a clay roaster at a thrift store yesterday. It was taped so I didn't see the inside til I got it home. the bottom inside seems to have a glaze on it, is it still good to use?

By anon91911 — On Jun 24, 2010

This is the most informative article I found on the internet to discuss how to properly cook in and clean a Romertoph Clay Rosater. I have had mine for years but only recently decided to use it, since I had an amazing roast my friend made in his! I never see these in stores any longer. Why?

By chanarochel — On Nov 26, 2008

I'd like to purchase a clay roaster. Are there any other manufacturers besides Romertopf and Schlemmertoth? The closest I can find is Chambra, but one does not soak the pot first.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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