Baking on Stoneware

The ancient Chinese were the first to transform clay into durable stone-like material by firing it in kilns reaching temperatures of 2,000�ºF. The resulting material is what we currently refer to as stoneware. Since ancient times, stoneware has been highly regarded as a fantastic material for baking foods. It gradually develops a durable nonstick surface, and with proper care, it will outlast all other finishes. In addition, stoneware heats evenly and retains warmth for an extended period of time. For hundreds of years, cooks have relied on stoneware for preparing and baking foods.

Although stoneware is durable, it requires seasoning before the first use and occasionally thereafter until it forms a resilient nonstick finish. It also requires proper care in order to last. When correctly cleaned and cared for, it can provide a lifetime of use, and it can be passed down to future generations. The outstanding results attained, far exceeds the cost.

Before the First Use

Before using for the first time, keep in mind that stoneware should never be soaked in water. Soaking it in water will weaken it and eventually cause it to break. Before the first use, simply rinse it under warm running water, and dry it thoroughly.

Before baking on it for the very first time, season your stoneware by lightly spraying it with cooking spray. Choose a higher fat food such as cookie dough or frozen potatoes. As the oils from the food soak into the stoneware, it will begin to develop a nonstick surface, and eventually lower fat foods won’t stick.

Subsequent uses shouldn’t require additional oil, but when baking foods containing very little fat the first few times, the stoneware can be lightly sprayed with cooking spray. With every use, the stoneware will deepen in color and gradually turn from light sandy hue to a much darker shade of brown. The darker it becomes, the better it will perform. It will develop a permanent nonstick coating that will never again require additional oil.

Cleaning and Care

As well as never soaking stoneware in water, never wash it with soap. Cleaning products aren’t necessary when washing stoneware. They will soak into the nonstick surface and cause deterioration. In addition, those who wash their stoneware in soapy water will get a very unpleasant surprise. The next time it’s used, the food will taste like soap!

After your stoneware has completely cooled, scrape off any stuck-on food with a nylon scraper. Place it under hot running water, and gently clean it with a dishcloth or a nonabrasive scrub sponge. Rinse and dry it thoroughly before storing.

Baking Guidelines

Thermal shock caused by excessive or sudden temperature changes is one of the leading causes of breakage. Many people are shocked when their stoneware suddenly cracks and breaks, but you can avoid this costly mistake. By following a few simple steps and practicing proper baking techniques, it will last forever.

Never place hot stoneware in cool water, and never attempt to bake frozen foods that are solid. Dense items such as frozen meats should be thawed in advance. You can however safely bake foods such as pizzas, potatoes, and other items that are more porous and evenly distributed.

In addition, never preheat stoneware before topping it with frozen foods. Preheat the oven according to directions, and place frozen items on the stoneware in advance of placing it in the oven. It will require time to absorb the heat, so add a few extra minutes onto the recommended baking time. Appearance is the best indicator of whether or not food has baked for a sufficient amount of time

If you own a convection oven, for best results, follow specific instructions provided with your oven. Otherwise, if you find the tops of foods browning before they’re done on the bottom, a piece of aluminum foil placed loosely over the top will solve this problem.

Stoneware is only intended for oven use. It can’t tolerate a direct flame, or the intense heat of a broiler. It can be used in a microwave oven, but keep in mind that foods won’t brown as they would in a conventional or convection oven.

Proper Storage and Handling

Proper storage is as important as correctly seasoning and cleaning. Store it on an oven rack or in a sturdy storage cabinet, and never stack heavy items on top of it. In addition, picking up stoneware that supports a heavy item can cause cracking and breakage. Handle it carefully, and store it appropriately, and your stoneware will provide many years of use.

The more you use the fabulous baking material, the more you’ll love it. Although it requires specific care and cleaning, stoneware is by far one of the best materials for baking. Foods baked on it will be moist on the inside, and beautifully browned and crisp on the outside. No other baking material can compare to the durability and quality of stoneware.

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