- What is Donabe?
- Why should you have Japanese Clay Pots?
- The difference between Metal and Clay pots
- Properties Of Metal Pots Vs. Clay Pots
- The Best Donabe Pots
- 1. 2.8 Litre Ceramic Donabe from Ippinka
- 2. Nagatanien Rice Cooker Donabe
- 3. Hana-Mishima Donabe
- 4. Hinomaru Collection Misuzu Pottery Japanese Banko Earthenware Pot
- 5. Sumi Kannyu Donabe
- In Conclusion
Japnese food is great when prepared properly using high-quality kitchenware. One of the many kitchenware items that Japan is proud of is the high-quality “Donabe”. A Japanese kitchen is not complete without a Donabe in it.
What is Donabe?
A Donabe is a Japanese cooking ware made of clay or ceramics. The design of Donabe is different compared to most pots made of clay. It is often not too big and not too deep compared to general pots.
It’s circular and has a round bottom, much like a bowl. It also has a dome-shaped lid to keep moisture inside the pot. Donabes are regularly thick, and since it’s made of clay, it is significantly heavier than a metal pot.
Why should you have Japanese Clay Pots?
Donabe is great because it distributes the heat evenly within the pot, cooking the food better and with a lesser chance of the food burning at the bottom than other kinds of pots.
Donabe is awesome at cooking stews, soups, porridge, and hot pots. Nowadays, table hot pots are becoming more and more common because of the influence of Korean and Japanese cuisines around the world.
In particular, if you want to experience an authentic shabu-shabu, or just simply want to enjoy a home cooked stew, Donabe is a must-have. You can even steam meat using Donabe, which guarantees a soft and tender texture. Rice is also fluffier when cooked in Donabe; you won’t have to worry about as much about burnt rice at the bottom. It’s the perfect cookware for traditional foods requiring fine heat distribution.
The difference between Metal and Clay pots
Clay pots have been used in cooking in many cultures for years before metal pans were made. It has been a primary cookware in many kitchens for generations and up until today. And there is a good reason for it. Clay pots have unique characteristics that no metal pots can do: clay retains heat much longer than metals.
Don’t get me wrong; metal pots are excellent, especially nowadays, where technology makes kitchenware more durable and efficient. Moreover, each type of pot has different uses depending on the type of cooking you need.
For instance, iron pots and cast irons are good for a fast heating type of cooking, and iron retains heat much longer than any other metal kitchen materials. Iron pots are often used for long cooking, such as stews, broths, and traditional meat soups. Cast irons are often useful on dishes that require to be served sizzling hot.
Copper cookware is best for precision control since copper is a super heat conductor, which makes it more delicate to use. Copper pots are often used in cooking where fast cooling and heating are required.
Stainless cookware is more durable than copper and iron cookware because they stain much less, which prevents them from rusting. Stainless steel is also a good heat conductor, and when clad with other metallic materials, it becomes more efficient in absorbing or dissipating heat necessary for various types of cooking.
Because they are made of metal, metalware is much easier to handle and doesn’t break easily. While metalware still requires some sort of maintenance to avoid corrosion or other forms of damage, they are far more durable than ceramic and clayware.
Metal cookware is also much easier to mass produce since it only requires melting, moulding, and finishing. On the other hand, Ceramic and Clay cookware are much more delicate and require special handling methods compared to metalware.
Even though it’s not advisable to soak a sizzling hot metal cookware in cold water, it can withstand such conditions for a certain amount of time. On the other hand, if you change the temperature of ceramic and clay cookware drastically like that, the ceramic and clay pots will surely break or crack because clays can’t withstand sudden changes in temperature. You have to let them cool down on their own, so they don’t get damaged.
Ceramic and clay pots are also more fragile, unlike metal pots, making them much harder to store and more delicate to maintain.
Properties Of Metal Pots Vs. Clay Pots
Despite the advantages of metal cookware, many households still try to keep at least one clay or ceramic pot at home. And this is because of its characteristics that metalware finds difficult to replicate.
Better Heat Retention
Clay and ceramic wares have a better capability of retaining heat. You have to remember that while metals are superconductors of heat, they are also very good at absorbing it. This is why metal feels cold to the touch. It absorbs the heat from your skin, making it feel cold. And they absorb the heat of anything it has contact with, including food. When metal absorbs heat, it cools down the source of the heat, which in this case, is the food it is containing.
Clay pots don’t absorb heat; in fact, it retains it. When heat penetrates the surface of the clay, it stays inside for a long period of time. It takes some time before the heat dissipates and escapes through the air. And when you have a hot substance inside a clay pot, the heat stays more because it has nowhere else to go. This is why clay and ceramic pots are best used for stews and soups, which are mostly served hot.
Another disadvantage of metalware is that they are susceptible to corrosion, even stainless steel pots. This is why kitchenware manufacturing companies make sure that the metalware they produce has very smooth surfaces, so the stains stick much less to the pots. Various types of metals are vulnerable to corrosion, especially ingredients found in the kitchen, such as salt and vinegar.
On the other hand, clays and ceramics are not prone to corrosion at all. In fact, clay pots last longer than stainless cookware if taken care of properly.
One more important characteristic that makes clay and ceramic pots better is that they are porous (having many pores), making clay and ceramic types of cookware unique. The pores are important in keeping the ingredients in a dish moist and tender.
Keeps Ingredient Moist While Cooking
The pores in earth wares trap the moisture of ingredients inside. Once the heat reaches the boiling point, the moisture is released back into the atmosphere inside the pot covered with a clay or ceramic lid, which is then reabsorbed by the ingredients.
In metal cookware, there are no pores to trap the moisture of the ingredients. The juices inside the metal pot heat up, evaporate quickly, and are released into the breathing hole at the lid of the metal pot. This often results in having dry meat. That’s why paying a lot of attention to your cooking when using metal cookware is important.
Donabe requires fire
Like most ceramic and clay pots, Donabe only works on an open fire cooking stove. While there are new Donabes nowadays that can be used in induction stoves, they are very hard to find. Not only are induction-friendly Donabes very rare, but they are also merely as good as those used in an open fire.
Artisan Donabes are often only used in open fire because having a clay pot become induction friendly requires an infusion of specialised metal made of iron at the bottom, where the heat will be transmitted to the clay pot. You can also buy induction plates for your earthenware so you can use them on your induction stoves.
The Best Donabe Pots
The best commercial Donabes are often expensive, and artisan Donabes are even more expensive because of the materials they use.
Some of the best Donabe in the market available for you to purchase are the following:
1. 2.8 Litre Ceramic Donabe from Ippinka
This 2.8 Litre Donabe pot is one the best on Amazon. It’s big enough for hotpots, and its flat bottom makes it easier to fit into various types of stoves. It’s also made from Banko-Yaki, which is a specialized clay mainly from Mie Prefecture in Japan. Banko-Yaki clays have higher heat retention capabilities and are more durable than ordinary clay pots.
When taken care of properly, this Donabe pot can surely last for up to generations.
2. Nagatanien Rice Cooker Donabe
If you are looking for a Donabe specialized in cooking the perfect rice for you without using a rice cooker, this Nagatanien Donabe pot is the best one out there. Its shape and size are designed for cooking rice evenly while retaining moisture. It acts like a pressure cooker because it traps inside in the most natural way. It’s also big enough to cook rice for 5-6 people.
You can also braise meat here for a period of time, and you can guarantee that it will be soft and tender. While this Donabe comes at a hefty price, at least you can be sure that it works perfectly as high-quality earthenware.
3. Hana-Mishima Donabe
This beautiful handcrafted Donabe is a multipurpose type and is made of ceramic clay. It’s made by Gimpo, imported from Japan, so you can guarantee its quality made by superb artisans in Japan. It is well designed so you can take it out to cook at the table, especially for hotpots, shabu-shabu, and noodle dishes.
It comes in four sizes, from 7 inches diameter to 11 inches diameter, so can cook more depending on your needs.
4. Hinomaru Collection Misuzu Pottery Japanese Banko Earthenware Pot
If you are looking for a bigger Donabe that looks closer to a casserole and metal pot, here is one for you!
This Hinomaru Donabe is made of Banko-Yaki ceramic clay, which is designed for cooking in unique style. Its shape is a but dufferebt to most pots you can buy commercially, so you don’t have to worry about it taking up space.
One thing you need to remember is that rice is very good at absorbing the smell of its container. So if you plan to use this Donabe for rice cooking, make sure you only use it for cooking rice.
If you have used Donabe before, you will notice that there are times when Donabes have a lingering smell of previously cooked dishes in them. The reason for that is the pores inside the earthen pot. Remember that Donabes have pores on them that can be hard to see in the naked eye. These pores are hard to reach with soap when washing. So when you cook rice in it after cooking some dishes with a strong taste or smell, you will notice that it also affects the taste of your rice. So my advice is not to mix up your cooking in your Donabe pots to make sure the food is not affected by the lingering smell of the previous food.
5. Sumi Kannyu Donabe
Here’s another fine-looking Donabe pot for you with an elegant design from the Hinomaru collection.
It’s also made of ceramic Banko-Yaki clay, a high-quality clay designed for cooking. This one is slightly smaller than the previous ones and is best for dishes with small portions, such as braised meat, noodles, stews, and rice-topping dishes. It’s perfect if you are serving multiple-dish type meals.
Its white is also very elegant, so you can take it to the table to serve your guests. The bottom part is also white, which eventually darkens after several uses in an open fire. But don’t worry! Its performance will not be affected by its cosmetic changes. It’s still one of the best, with a 9.6 rating on Amazon.
Choosing the right cooking ware can be a little tricky, but if you love Asian food, you can never go wrong in buying a Donabe. Just make sure you are buying from authentic Japanese makers of Donabe if you want a guarantee of its quality.
Also, you have to remember that, unlike metal pots, Donabes are made of ceramic clays. It’s very important to consider its fragility when it comes to shipping. If you can contact the seller, ask them to secure the package and add extra paddings to your orders for better security.
Don’t forget to remind the seller to put a “Fragile” label on the package, so couriers handle the package with more care. While Amazon offers a refund or return service for defective or broken products, taking care of such problems is still a hassle. It’s best to take precautions, especially when ordering online.
Have fun with your Donabe, and enjoy cooking!
Article by John Salinas.
Japanoscope uses affiliate links, which means that commissions may be received when you click on links to products from partner retailers.