Cooking and Baking with Terracotta Kitchenware

What is Terracotta?

Terracotta is a reddish/brown-colored earthenware clay that is kiln-fired at low temperatures. Iron compounds and heat intensity are responsible for the terracotta’s brownish-orange color. The color of terracotta earthenware may range from earthy shades of brown to lively reds. After firing, the clay loses water and becomes a solid, but still porous material – terracotta. After being shaped into the desired form, terracotta can be glazed, which makes it waterproof and easy to clean.

People have used terracotta throughout history for pottery and sculpture, as well as for bricks and roof tiles. Terracotta, which in Italian means “baked earth,” is one of the oldest materials used for cooking food. Ancient Romans cooked in this earthenware, and now many chefs around the world are keeping this old tradition alive.

teracotta plate

Using Terracotta in the Kitchen

This type of fired clay is perfect for long cooking over low heat. Terracotta pots are suitable for simmering, slow cooking, roasting, frying, baking, and boiling. Terracotta vessels can be used to serve meals straight from the oven to the dinner table.

Terracotta is ideal for baking purposes, since it distributes heat evenly, helping your baked goods turn out perfectly.  Traditionally, pizzas have been cooked in brick ovens. Porous terracotta draws in moisture from the dough, producing a perfect crust.

The following rules must be followed when using terracotta cookware:

  1. Wash your terracotta cookware piece thoroughly with hot water before using it for the first time. Do not use soaps as they may block the delicate pores and affect the taste of the food cooked in a terracotta pot.
  2. Unglazed terracotta needs a good soak in water for at least 15 minutes before every use. This way unglazed terracotta absorbs water, which will evaporate slowly from the pores during cooking.
  3. Always place terracotta cookware filled with food in a cold oven and then set the temperature. This way you can avoid cracks and breakages in your cookware.
  4. Cooking in terracotta requires a higher oven temperature than other types of cookware. Regular recipes can usually be converted for clay pot cooking by raising the cooking temperature by 100F and adding half one hour to the regular cooking time. This is necessary because the dish is placed into a cold oven and because the clay does not get hot as fast as metal cookware.
  5. To make sure that your terracotta cookware is made of clay that is tested and free of impurities, always check the label and purchase only high-quality pieces from reputable vendors.

Advantages of Using Terra Cotta Cookware

  • Cooking with terracotta cookware has a reputation as a “green” way of cooking.  All nutrients and flavors remain preserved inside the pot, making an excellent foundation for a wholesome meal.
  • Heat and moisture circulate slowly in the porous terracotta pot, which is the perfect environment for delicate and slow cooking.
  • Terracotta is good at retaining heat.  Meals cooked in a terracotta pot, then set aside with the lid on, retain heat and moisture for a long time, protecting food from becoming soggy.
  • Unglazed terracotta absorbs oil and becomes seasoned with age and use, which improves the non-stick performance and quality of the bakeware.
  • Terracotta kitchenware looks natural and it brings a touch of retro to any kitchen. These are great cookware pieces for serving and add a nice touch to the dinner table.


  • Terracotta cookware cannot withstand sudden and extreme temperature changes. Going from a hot surface directly onto a cold countertop or into cold water in the sink can cause terracotta items to crack.
  • Terracotta pots need a heat diffuser before being placing it on an electric or gas range, and the cooking process should be started at low heat.
  • Cookware made of unglazed terracotta is porous and can absorb and transfer the flavors of meals cooked in it. A paste made of baking soda and water will eliminate most odors.

The Most Common Terracotta Cookware

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Terracotta Tagine

Tagine is a traditional Moroccan slow cooker with a wide, shallow base and a high conical lid. The unique shape of the lid allows steam to condense and fall back into the food, preventing it from drying out. This way the ingredients are cooked in their own juices, keeping the food moist and tender.

In addition to popular slow-cooked tagine stews, terracotta tagine can be used for roasting, cooking rice, couscous, beans, and much more. These cookware pieces can be carried directly from the oven to the table.

Terracotta Tagine

Terracotta Cazuela

Spanish Cazuela is a shallow round earthenware pot that can be found in every kitchen and restaurant in Spain. These versatile cooking pots are usually glazed and come in an array of sizes. They are safe for cooking on the stove, over a fire, in the oven, and in the microwave. Cazuelas are suitable for roasting and baking, as well as for making soups, stews, and other slow-cooked dishes. Its insulating properties keep food hot for a long time. It also makes a nice addition to the dinner table because of its beautiful glazed finish and traditional rustic feel.

Related product: Portuguese Hand-painted Vintage Clay Terracotta Cooking Pot Cazuela

Terracotta Cazuela

Terracotta Clay Baker

This is a functional and beautiful addition to your kitchen and a great baking tool, particularly for baking loaves of bread. The slow evaporation of water content during the baking process results in perfectly crispy crusts.

This cooking item is perfect for achieving succulent, tender, and full-flavored roasts. The baker should be heated gradually to achieve the desired temperature. The food comes out evenly done and is very moist.

Related product: Eurita by Reston Lloyd Clay Cooking Pot/Roaster

Clay Cooking Pots

When a terracotta pot is placed in an oven, the water slowly evaporates from the clay’s pores, producing steam. Foods are cooked gradually and evenly in their own juices. This is a more natural way of cooking compared to a stainless steel pot where cooking occurs mostly at the base of the pot.

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6 thoughts on “Cooking and Baking with Terracotta Kitchenware”

  1. I made a terracotta tandoori. It’s currently 17 degrees farenheit outside. Will the tandoori crack if I put coals in it and light them?

  2. I just picked up a terracotta bakeware casserole, it’s make is ABC USA, has farmhouse on top.
    I don’t know if it’s glazed or not. Can this be washed?
    Also, how long does it have to soak before putting in the meat and vegetables?
    If anyone knows , that would be great if you could give any information you have, Thanks

  3. I bought several half glazed Cazuela style terracotta dishes from a supermarket in Spain last year. I use them mainly as decorative dinner /tapas bowls on the table. I find they develop a mould if stored in my kitchen cupboard. I have tried soaking in water for 12 hours, putting through a dish washer and oiling the unglazed area, nothing has worked. Over time the mould seems to be less but can I do anything to stop it happening.
    Please advise – Rosemary

    • You either didn’t air-dry them long enough (I do this for three days on a table with a cotton placemat underneath – that may be extreme but I want to make sure it’s dry – I also turn it on it’s side to make sure the bottom is drying also)…Or you must live in a tropical-like area. Also, perhaps it’s damp inside your storage area, from perhaps a previous leaky roof?

  4. Teracotta cookware comes looking either shiny on the inside and not on the outside or shiny both sids or no shine on the surfaces.The best cooking overall is the dual shiny ones or where the shine is on the inside. It means that th flavours of the prvious dishes are not transferred to the current one. However some people love the “richer” impregnated flavours of all the previous dishes to show through in subsequent cooking so they love totally unglazed ware.(they are after all the typical nuances of their favourite spices and herbs.) Do NOT wash the terracotta unless it is glazed inside AND outside (double shine). Rinse and dry… The unglazed one will be best just cleaned with a clean pad and left to dry. Any bacteria etc will be negated by the heat factors in long slow cooking. Soap, on the other hand is NOT good!
    You will find each dish you cook will be an experience in learning! Start with room temperature items when cooking…both the edible and the cookware. High temp for 30 minutes to allow the food to get hot right through…then lower to Medium to low depending on your desire for speed /time or whatever. Include all veggies with the meat from the start. They add steam and flavours. The seasoning is only limited by your favourites!
    If you wish you can take the top off three quarters of the way through and brown the main meats but be careful to avoid too much drying out. It is not only a different set of flavours that are produced but an interesting series of experiments as you achieve perfection. Good Luck…I’m 87 and still cooking1


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