Stoneware is a clay cookware material that has been a staple in both modern and traditional kitchens. Whether your stoneware is a family heirloom or a product purchased from an upscale cookware retailer, it can be an invaluable tool as well as an object that collects memories and lore.
Nonreactive Baking Pans
While cookware materials such as aluminum and copper release metal into the food you cook in them, especially if that food is acidic, stoneware cookware is chemically stable. This stability makes them safer and healthier and provides cleaner flavors because the metal that leaches into food from aluminum and copper pans can impart a metallic taste as well. However, some stoneware does contain lead, which releases toxins into food, so check the manufacturer's specifications before buying to make sure the brand you choose is lead free.
Stoneware holds heat well, distributing it evenly and cooking foods efficiently. This heat-holding quality of stoneware makes it especially useful for baked goods, which develop a lovely, browned exterior. Because stoneware baking dishes hold heat so well, food may continue to cook even after you remove the pan from the oven. This quality can save energy, but consider it when baking foods, such as cookies, with sensitive cooking times. Take the pan out of the oven just before the cookies are fully baked to allow them to finish the baking process outside the oven.
Durability of Stoneware
Stoneware pans are durable and can be passed down through generations in families. Although stoneware may crack if you drop it or set it down on a hot surface, stoneware pans tend to be thick and solid enough to withstand the accidents and wear that occur during typical daily use. During its production process, stoneware is heated to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. It is capable of easily withstanding the highest heat level your home oven can generate.
Stoneware dishes can be beautiful, enhancing your baking experience and doubling as attractive serving dishes once the baking is complete. Their exteriors may be enameled in a range of colors or glazed in complex designs. Even simple, unadorned stoneware lends an aesthetic to the process of cooking and serving food; clay was the earliest material used for crafting cookware. Its heaviness offers satisfaction and credibility, resonating with cooks and guests on an almost primal level. However, if you use a stoneware baking dish as a serving dish, let it cool before setting it on a table or buffet to reduce the risk of guests burning themselves.
Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.