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A sand pot is a clay pot which has a coarse, un-glazed exterior and a smooth, glazed interior. The term “sand pot” is a reference to the texture of the exterior of the pot, rather than a commentary on the type of clay used. Sand pots are used extensively in Chinese cooking, and some other cultures have a version of the sand pot for clay pot cooking, an immensely popular cooking technique which is in use all over the world.
Many sand pots have been reinforced with wire to ensure that they are especially sturdy. The pot usually has a snug-fitting lid which can sometimes be clamped down with wire, and one to two handles, depending on the style. The glazed interior holds juices in, ensuring that the sand pot does not stain or become infused with odor from prior cooking adventures.
Sand pot cooking utilizes a sand pot to make a single-pot dish. The glaze keeps the food moist and flavorful as it cooks, with vent-holes in the lid allowing steam to escape so that the pot does not explode. Many Chinese clay pot dishes are served in the very sand pots they are cooked in, adding to meal efficiency considerably, as people can eat directly from the pot, if they so desire. Stews, curries, and a wide variety of other dishes can be prepared in a sand pot.
Sand pots are made from earthenware clay which has been fired at a high temperature, ensuring that they will withstand considerable heat in the kitchen. Dishes prepared in a sand pot can be baked or cooked on the stove top, and sand pots can also be buried in a fire for more rustic cooking. If the sand pot is to be used in baking, it is a good idea to soak it and preheat it in the oven so that it will not crack from heat shock. Wooden, silicone, or plastic utensils are recommended for use with a sand pot, as metal utensils can damage the glaze.
Hot sand pots should never be placed on tile, metal, or cold surfaces, as these can cause a temperature differential significant enough to crack the pot. Instead, a sand pot should be placed on a wooden coaster or a thick towel to allow the heat to dissipate naturally. After use, sand pots can be washed with warm water and inverted to dry. The use of soap is not recommended, as it can alter the flavor of the food: for stubborn stains, baking soda and a soft cloth can be used to abrade the stain away without damaging the pot.