10 November 2010

In which we learn to treat our stoneware nicely

"Pizza's ready!"

If you cook with stoneware, you are probably well aware of its perks. If you don't, please let me enlighten you . . . and either way, here are a few tips that I have learned for taking care of stoneware, ensuring that it works at full capacity.

Stoneware is a sturdy and attractive material that's a pro at conducting and retaining heat, producing golden pizza crusts, tender muffins, and caramelized vegetables with a much lower chance of burning. It doesn't warp, there is no coating to scratch or peel, and if you care for it properly, it will last for a very long time. Pampered Chef probably has the most famous line, but other companies sell it as well. You just have to make sure you're not trading quality for a "better" price. Some cheaper versions crack easily, or have lead in the clay.

Once you have acquired a piece (or two or three . . .) of stoneware, you need to keep a few things in mind.

1) For the first several uses, be liberal with the non-stick spray and go for foods with fat, like butterlicious scones or green beans tossed with olive oil. Cooking foods in that delicious category will help to season the stoneware: eventually it will build up a smooth, dark finish and be virtually nonstick. You can always coat it liberally with canola oil, coconut oil, butter, or bacon grease and bake it at 400 for half an hour with a cookie sheet underneath to catch the drips. That will get the seasoning process well underway.

2) No soap. Ever. Hot water and a good scrubbing is quite enough, especially as the smooth finish builds up over time. If you have a seriously crusty mess, soak it overnight and use a nylon scraper to work it off in the morning. A thick layer of baking soda, left on for a while and then sprayed with vinegar, can work as a scrubbing aid. Just be patient. Cleanup definitely gets easier the more you use and "season" it.

3) Preheat your stoneware. Things turn out so much better this way! It took me a long time to realize this, but when using stoneware, everything from stromboli to pumpkin scones benefits from a preheated dish. If you don't preheat it, the baking time will be longer and the interior will probably get dry. No good.

4) Even when you do preheat, baking time may be a tad longer anyway. When I make chocolate chip cookies, they need 18 minutes on the stone rather than the recommended 12-15. Just experiment.

5) Stoneware has an "ugly duckling" stage. Somewhere between brand-new and well-loved, there is a period of time where it just looks blotchy and weird. I've had my three pieces for over 10 months now and they are finally getting that nice dark patina. It probably helps that I make pizza once a week and use my bar pan for everything I possibly can!

6) To avoid cracking. First, spread or distribute food evenly over the stoneware to avoid concentrating heat in one spot: bake ten biscuits, not two. And second, do not pour cold water into a hot piece of stoneware! (Yes, I've made both of these mistakes. Pampered Chef so mercifully sent me replacements.)

Other dish materials that I love: glass (good old Pyrex is a winner) and ceramic (such as Emile Henry).

p.s. Ironically, I had already planned to post on stoneware, then ran across this post at Keeper of the Home on the same topic. Now you get a double dip of advice. :)

{image from KAF website}


  1. I have a Pampered Chef bread crock that I am no longer using. Would you be interested in it?


  2. Goodness yes-- I would LOVE it! Email me to let me know how much you'd like for it.