Spodumene me up a meal, will ya.

In my most recent post I referred to my experiments with HotBag/Thermal cooking . While the business is still busy I was keen to concentrate my culinary skills  on the heating and cooking with the bags by establishing some ongoing protocol.

In that regard I've been looking for Terracotta casserole dishes.

Clay pot/Terracotta cooking is thousands of years old. Today, I guess, the best known terracotta cooking pot  is the Moroccan Tajine which is
formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.
Terracotta has to be soaked in water  before it is used but it can be heated -- albeit slowly -- in the oven, stove or microwave. Terracotta is porous and will absorb water and contrary to standard usage, terracotta can be heated on top of the stove as that's the way Tajines are traditionally cooked.

  • Food cooks with a minimum of liquid and no additional fat.
  • Food browns in clay, even with the lid on.
  • More of the essential nutrients and vitamins are retained in foods cooked in clay pots because food cooks in a closed environment with limited liquids.
  • The ridges on the bottom of clay cookers elevate the contents to help the steam encircle the food and assist in totally browning the meat.
  • As long as you don’t overfill the cooker, your oven will remain clean.
  • Clay cookers may be used in the microwave very successfully. It is best to use lower power settings.
  • Food can be kept warm by leaving the lid on the cooker after removing it from the oven without overcooking.
  • Meats cook especially well in clay cookers because they have a tendency to stay moist and juicy.
  • You only use one pot for the whole meal.
  • Unglazed clay cookers can soak up a considerable amount of water. This is best for tenderizing meats because of the super steaming quality. Use this type of pot for tougher cuts of meat, stews roasts, poultry, poaching, steaming and microwaving.
An alternative to terracotta is stoneware.
Stoneware is a stronger material, fired at 1264 degrees C, and usually glazed - much ceramic ovenware is of this kind and can be placed in a preheated oven without fear of damage.(ref)
This is where it becomes a tad confusing in regard to material attributes. The core advantage of terracotta clay pots -- as far a I can tell -- are that they absorb water and keeps the contents of the pot moist while cooking by generating steam. But as soon as you glaze terracotta that advantage is frustrated. ... and you may as well use stoneware, which is stronger and not so fragile. While it can  be placed in a hot oven, stove top cooking may be too much to ask of a stoneware vessel and you can't microwave it.

Here at maison Dave I've always used cast iron for cooking -- and rely on a Dutch Oven to do my ontop and oven cooking.
It's my everyday tool, supplemented as required by deploying a fry pan.

But, as any washer upper knows, your everyday Dutch Oven is a very heavy cooking pot and you wouldn't want to drop it on your foot...and lifting a  Dutch Oven from within the confines of a cavernous oven is job lot work worthy of weight lifters.

Nonetheless, my Dutch Oven was gonna be my Hotbagging pot until, that is, I came upon Spodumene
File:Spodumene-usa59abg.jpgSpodumere is an important source of lithium for use in ceramics. The largest deposits of Spodumere world wide are located in Greenbushes, Western Australia.
And -- here's the rub -- this obscure mineral, a crystal, part gem stone, when combined with stoneware ...
...creates a thermal shock resistant, flame proof stoneware body that is suitable for cooking on both electric and gas stove tops as well as in the oven and microwave.
The Stoneware/Spodumene blend pots are being marketed as Microstoven. They're cheaper than  terracota and metal ware . They're also lighter than either of the other two materials.  

And so far, so very good. My Microstoven makes for fun cooking on top of the stove, in the oven and in my HotBag.

I may be waiting for it to crack -- cook's angst -- but so far so good. It is recommended that in the oven you keep you cooking temp below 200 Celsius and while  I braise and fry with it carefully, I note that there is no easy way to dry out of the food. I'm sure if burning of the food was an issue, the casserole pot would itself be under threat.

However, as per 'my protocol', after initially frying and browning the food and bringing it to a simmer I have the choice of continuing to cook it on top of the stove, putting the dish in the oven and baking it, or placing it a HotBag and walking away knowing that nature will take its course. If on opening the bag something ain't right I need only do some  finishing off cooking. But the norm is straight from the bag to the table and down the gob. 


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