How to Cure Your New Cazuela
(Thanks to author Paula Wolfert for this information)
Clay pots are fragile - they inevitably do break - but proper curing will harden them to the point that they can be used with a flame-tamer over direct heat.
Soak the entire dish in water to cover for 12 hours. Drain and wipe dry. Rub the unglazed bottom with a cut clove of garlic (we are not sure how the garlic works, but why argue with tradition?) Fill the dish with water to 1/2 inch below the rim, then add 1/2 cup of vinegar. Place the dish on a flame-tamer over low heat and slowly bring the water to a boil.
Let the liquid boil down until only about 1/2 cup remains. Cool slowly and wash. Your cazuela is ready for use - the garlic has created a seal. This technique has been used since the Middle Ages. It seasons the pot, kills bacteria and hardens the unglazed parts.
Especially if you intend to use the cazuela to cook strong flavored fish or seafood, after soaking, rub the inside of the base and lid with olive oil and put into a preheated 300 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Turn off the heat and let cool. Either method will strengthen your cazuela.
To clean, soak in sudsy water and scrub with a soft brush to remove any hardened food.
If you have not used the cazuela for an extended period of time, you may need to re-cure it before use.
"Is a flame tamer needed with an electric stove?"
Joanne, New Hope, PA
"I don't think so. The idea of the flame tamer is to distribute the heat more uniformly. But I think that is what electricity does by design. Just be careful you do not have extreme temperature changes -- gradual ones are safest." - Don Harris
"I love my cazuelas but wow, that is a lot of work to do before using them. Oh well, I'll try it and hope it works."
Gloria Viorge, United States
"Dear Gloria, I think you like the cazuelas a lot. As you may have read the clay comes from a clay pit near Girona used since Roman times; and they add some gravel to the clay mix before firing it so that heat will be especially retained and it will be more resistant to cracking. You will enjoy cooking with it -- or just using it as a serving dish." - Don Harris
"Can you cure the cazuela on a gas stove without a flame tamer, so its taking a direct flame, if you gradually increase the heat? Can these handle a direct flame?"
Andrew, Fairfax, VA
"Yes, you can use a cazuela without a flame tamer - but be sure that you have first soaked it in water for a while. And when you use it over a direct flame, be sure to increase the heat gradually. It is the extremes you want to avoid - you need to allow for expansion and contraction of the clay. " - Don Harris
"Can I just do the garlic and soak method and then oven - and not flame thingy? "
Eileen, Decatur, GA
Sure you can cure it that way. The important thing is to reintroduce some moisture into the baked clay of the cazuela so it will be less likely to crack at an extreme high temperature. And what is better than garlic and olive oil?" - Don Harris
"Right much work! What happens if I don't cure? I just use mine for warm dips and melted cheese plates."
Nazaria Vandensteen, Los Angeles, California
"It really isn't a lot of work.
The main thing to remember, if you're going to cook with them because, well, you need to soak it in water for a while to moisten the clay, so that it won't crack if it is exposed to high heat.
Otherwise the way you're using it is just fine, that is often the way I use them." - Don Harris
"Hi - can they withstand a pizza oven - 500 to 600 degrees F?"
karen, Los Gatos, CA
If the cazuela is properly cured it should be able to handle those temps if gradually heated. The issue is drastic changes in temperature. If a room temp cazuela is put directly into a 500 degree oven it may crack. I would recommend that you do some experimentation with one piece before buying a large quantity." - Don Harris
"Will this method also work for clay pots that are going to be used for drinking water? "
Danny Coronado, Pico Rivera, CA, USA
"Yes, this will work for clay pots used for water. In reality, you probably only need to soak the pot until it is fully saturated, and it should hold the water fine." - Don Harris
"Yes, the process is convoluted, but it's worth it. We have several cazuelas that serve us faithfully. Our newest one, alas, cracked during the curing process. I am assuming that something very small was wrong very deep on the inside. It happens. I'm crushed, but I will live. It is still beautiful and will serve other purposes. The others are intact and work beautifully. "
Maria D Garcia, Morgantown, WV