My slow cooker bit the dust awhile back, and I started researching a good replacement. Then I started to read about possible toxic issues with slow cookers: the ceramic inserts can have lead or cadmium in them and leach into your food. The reason is that ceramic is porous, so it needs to be glazed in order to seal the pores, and the glaze usually involves lead. Some people have been using an Instant Lead Test you can buy online to test slow cookers for traces of lead, however some sources say this isn’t really an accurate test. (To read up on other people’s testing on slow cookers, check here, here and here.)
Clay pots seem to be the best non-toxic alternative I could find. I was almost about to purchase a VitaClay pot (rice cooker and slow cooker in one – on amazon.com and amazon.ca) because I’d read good reviews about it, but the largest capacity ones are only 8 cups. Not big enough for one of my favourite slow cooker meals – roast chicken (recipe from Don’t Mess With Mama). So! I started looking at clay pots on their own that are used in the oven or stove top, and found Miriam’s Earthen Cookware, a US-based company.
This is what they say about their clay: “There are no additives, plasticizers, feldspar, extenders, dyes, talc, mica, petalite, glaze or anything else added to our clay. It’s made with ZERO negative impact on the environment. The complete composition of our clay is tested and certified to be 100% free of any heavy metals and toxins including Lead and Cadmium.”
Well! That sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? I thought so! So I decided to give it a try – I got the extra large 6 quart pot so that I could ensure that a whole organic chicken would fit in there.
My pot came well packaged to ensure that it didn’t break during shipping. It was a lovely bright terracotta colour. I was a little worried about how much effort it would take to season, but it wasn’t difficult at all – I just followed the directions included in the box (also here).
The first few times I used it, I put it on a cookie sheet in the oven, and did notice that the pot “sweated” a bit, especially with more soupy concoctions. I did the slow cooker chicken recipe I love and because no liquid was added, I didn’t see any sweating of the pot. (The juices from the chicken did come out during cooking so that the pot was about 1/4 full of liquid at the end.) Here are some things I’ve learned while using my clay pot for a few months now:
1. If you use it like a slow cooker, use half the cooking time. The slow cooker roast chicken normally would have taken 6-8 hours in a regular slow cooker – I was able to do it in 3 hours in the clay pot in the oven at 300F.
2. The pot does absorb from what you cook in it, so this means it will not look as pretty and uniform, and it can contain a bit of a smell after it is washed. I checked with Miriam’s Earthen Cookware about this so here’s their response: “It’s normal for the pot to have a general smell/fragrance of a cooking pot… it could have the smell of food. Not of a specific recipe or food unless using sauces that have staining agents, or preservatives (some Asian sauces like soy sauce or oyster sauce etc. have that), their smell could be slightly more obvious in the pot, but will go away over time.”
3. Although it does absorb from what is cooked in it, I haven’t found this to be a problem (i.e. not everything I make in it tastes the same!). I made a spicy butter chicken with a coconut milk sauce in it, then did a roast chicken after that. My roast chicken did not taste like butter chicken.
4. The clay pot really does infuse more flavour into what you’re cooking, and make meat super tender and juicy. The roast chicken was the most flavourful and moist it has ever been!
5. If you want what you’re cooking to have a bit of a crisp to it, take the lid off and let it cook for awhile uncovered. Presto! Crispy chicken skin on top (the only way I can get my daughter to eat chicken right now!).
6. It’s recommended that it just be washed with baking soda, and I’ve found it really easy to clean with baking soda and a heavy duty scrubber. No need to worry about scratching the surface!
7. It will keep food warm for a long time; so if you set your oven for a certain cooking time, your food will stay warm after the oven turns off. Likely it will stay warm for a couple of hours – it did for me for at least 1 hour before we ate it!
9. Use your pot often when you first start off. I noticed what looked like mold or mildew on the bottom inside of my pot when I had it stored in my cupboard, so asked Miriam’s Earthen Cookware about it. (They have awesome customer service!) Here’s the information they gave me:
“Sometimes if the pot doesn’t get used often in the beginning, for example once seasoned, if you had used it once or twice only and put it away, it could form mildew. This mold/mildew is not toxic and is easy to clean off. We have done several tests on the pots to see if there is anything that grows in between the walls and there’s none: The mildew is only limited to the surface.
Best cleaning method: Wash the pot thoroughly and add some warm water to the pot (about 1” up), then add some vinegar and lemon juice to water and scrub this liquid mixture throughout the walls of the pot, rinse, let it sit to dry for 5 minutes then wipe with cotton towel to dry it out fully. Following this, heat the pot in your oven at 250 D F, for 20-30 minutes. Take pot out and let it cool outside. This should help get rid of the mold and prevent it from growing again.
Use the pot at least 6-7 times, back to back, meaning once you cook in the pot you can wait till the food is finished, then use it again to cook… and so on for a few times… before you put it away for some time. If you didn’t do it in the beginning, you can even do it now. This is ideally what will prevent mold from forming.
Storing it on a dry cotton cloth or putting one inside the pot and storing with its lid open are also things that can help. Silica gel is not recommended.”
So far I’m loving my clay pot! I’ve made things like beef stew, chili, roast chicken, butter chicken, a beef roast, and bone broth – all super yummy (stamp of approval from my husband as well). If you’re looking at an alternative to a slow cooker – I would definitely recommend a clay pot! Of course the clay pot is even more versatile than a slow cooker – it can be used for virtually any kind of cooking.
I hope you found this Miriam’s Earthen Cookware review helpful!
What do you love to cook with?
(Disclosure: I received an Extra Large 6-qt pot at a discounted price to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received, and the opinions expressed are purely my own. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon.com.ca, Inc. Associates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com & amazon.ca. I am also an affiliate for Miriam’s Earthen Cookware. This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase products via these links, a small percentage of the sale will be given to me at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting juicygreenmom.ca!)