The claypot has been central to Chinese cuisine for thousands of years, a staple being claypot rice with wind-dried sausage.
Learn more about what a claypot is, how to use it and how to care for it with this guide.
What is a Chinese claypot?
A Chinese claypot is a piece of cookware that is created under high heat using clay. It is often glazed inside but unglazed on the outside. Claypots come with a lid and sometimes with a wire frame, which helps to hold the shape of the pot when it expands during cooking. Generally claypots are suitable for any dish that requires slow cooking.
These Chinese clay pots, or sand pots, are used in the oven or on the hob to make traditional Chinese clay pot dishes. Popular clay pot dishes include chicken with shiitake mushrooms and Chinese sausage, or rice with soy-marinated pork belly. Also known as a shāguo in Mandarin or a bàozai in Cantonese, the pots are made of earthenware clay with a rich brown glaze on the inside.
What makes a Chinese claypot unique?
The main advantage of using a claypot is temperature control. The material allows the heat to be distributed evenly, creating a stable environment throughout the cooking process. This feature also makes the claypot the ideal ‘fire-to-table’ cookware, as it can keep the food warm for a considerably longer time than a metal casserole.
How to care for a Chinese claypot?
There are many tales of claypots exploding - it could happen if the claypot is not treated properly. Due to the porous structure, you must not let the claypot dry out, or expose it to instant changes in temperature. A claypot should only be used on direct gentle fire and never on an induction hob.
Submerge the whole claypot including the lid in water and then soak it overnight before using for the first time. Always start on a low heat. Glaze the pot with oil, or fill it with the cooking liquid before turning the heat up gradually until it reaches the desired temperature of your recipe.
When finished with cooking, soak the claypot in warm water overnight. Any food residue can be easily removed by a sponge after a few hours, or the next day. Try not to use any detergent so that the cooking oil can seal the moisture in the clay.
How is a claypot used in Chinese cooking?
One of the most well known claypot dishes is Hong Kong’s claypot rice, cooked with wind-dried sausage. You know it is the first sign of winter when you can smell the slightly burnt rice lingering in the air. Claypot also exists in a taller form, which is widely used in China for making soups, stews and brewing Chinese herbal medicines. One common use is for making braised pigs trotters with ginger and black vinegar for new mums during their confinement period.