The Ultimate Guide To Chinese Claypot Cooking

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.

Chinese Clay Pot

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.

The Ultimate Guide To Chinese Claypot Cooking

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.

Shop all Chinese ingredients, and learn how to cook with a bamboo steamer.


  • I have an electric stove with coil type burners. I use a cast iron trivet from a gas stove to support my clay pots over the coil burner. That way the clay pot doesn’t come in direct contact with the burner. As long as the clay pot isn’t in direct contact with the coil burner, it should work fine. A heat source is a heat source. I have a number of clay pots and this method works for all of them. I never set the burner for more than med high heat. As with any stove, gradually bring the clay pot up to cooking temperature. Btw, clay pots are often cooked whilst in direct contact with burning charcoal. Watch some videos of cooking biryani in clay handi. Sometimes, they even put burning charcoal on the lid in addition to putting the handi on the burning charcoal. Personally, I don’t see why they don’t just put the handi in an oven. Traditions I suppose.

    Tim on

  • Hi Mairi, thanks for your comment. The claypot is best used over a very gentle flame, as extreme heat can cause it to crack. It also needs to heat up slowly, and be soaked before use. A pizza-oven style wood oven would normally be too hot – unless you are able to control the heat to keep it cool, no more than 180 degrees.

    Holly at Sous Chef on

  • 🇨🇾Hi, back again… I do not have a gas oven
    but ceramic hobs,also I have a defuser for clay pots to sit on, so the heat is not direct , could the Chinese pot be used in this instance.. using a metal defuser ..thanks

    Mairi on

  • Hi, I have a wood burning outdoor handmade traditional Clay domed oven ,looks similar to a pizza oven but bigger,to which I add wood that is allowed to temper until it’s ( a white)and I then push wood pieces and embers to the back side of oven and place Cypriot clay pots on base of oven or on a metal stand to slow cook meat for hours .. could I use the Chinese clay pot in this traditional oven..

    Mairi on

  • Thanks for your message, and yes, the 22cm clay pot will serve 1-2 people. Hope this helps!

    Ellie at Sous Chef on

  • How large is a clay pot will they do 2 people

    Woof Barker on

  • Hi Gina, thanks for getting in touch. I’m afraid the clay pot cannot be used on an electric cooker.

    Sous Chef on

  • Hi I have an electric hob can this be used on this

    Gina on

  • Hi Rick, thanks for getting in touch. I’m afraid the clay pot cannot be used on an electric cooker.

    Ellie at Sous Chef on

  • Hi Nelly, thanks for getting in touch. We’ve checked with Cherry and she’s said the following: Usually Chinese claypot is only used on direct fire. If you need to heat up a claypot in the oven you should place the claypot in the oven when it’s still cold. Ideally with some liquid inside the pot so it won’t dry out. Never place it directly inside a preheated oven as it will crack. Hope this helps!

    Sous Chef on

  • I have an electric cooker, can I use the Chinese Claypot on it?

    Rick on

  • I bought one of these recently and love using it but have been too scared to use it in the oven which it says it can also be used in. Can you give any guidance on what temperature this clay pots can be used in the oven.

    Nelly on

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