Human beings have been cooking in clay pots for thousands of years. In many cultures, entire cooking styles like tagine or tandoori have developed around specialized clay cooking pots. However, until recently, practical and beautiful clay cookware for everyday use didn’t really exist in the United States. Cook on Clay, the brainchild of clay artists Robbie Lobell and Maryon Attwood, offers flameware cooking pots that cook food evenly, can withstand extreme temperatures, and look beautiful on the table.
The development of clay cookware in the U.S. dates back to the early 1900s when advances in the chemistry of clay made clay pots more able to handle high temperatures and resist cracking. It wasn’t until the 1950’s, however, when a small group of clay artists started working to produce high-fire flameware clay bodies. When they added petalite, a material used for tiles on the space shuttle, the pots were able to withstand temperature changes without expansion or cracking and flameware was born.
Robbie Lobell and Maryon Attwood come from this tradition of flameware artists and create a beautiful line of high-temperature cookware in their studio on Whidbey Island, Washington. Their pots are made with a custom-mixed high-fire “flameproof” clay body formulated to withstand thermal shock when heated. Cook on Clay pots and platters can withstand more extreme temperature changes than typical earthenware pottery, they’re microwave and dishwasher-safe, and easy to clean. You can cook with them in the oven, on the stovetop, or even on your BBQ. They can also go from the refrigerator to the flame without worry. And, while they’re elegantly beautiful, they’re heavy and very sturdy.
Additionally, these artists care about the environment. Their cookware is 100% environmentally safe and non-toxic. The pots are fired at an extremely high temperature (2300 degrees F.), which creates a durable, non-porous surface that doesn’t leach metals or other chemicals into food or the environment like some metal cookware can. They fire all their pots in a clean-burning gas-fired kiln (they’ll soon convert to biofuel). They also ship their pots in 100% recyclable and re-useable materials
RFT Editors Anne Weaver and Bobbie Hasselbring recently put one of Cook on Clay’s square baking pots to the test with a macaroni and cheese recipe. Normally, we use a Pyrex glass baking dish. It works well enough, but sometimes foods sticks and, often, we have to scrub off blackened food from the white surface. We had no such problems with our Cook on Clay flameware pot.
We immediately noticed two differences with the Cook on Clay pot: the food cooked much more evenly and it slipped out of the pot easily. Of course, our pan of macaroni also went from the oven to the table and looked great. There was no unsightly burned on food like we often get with Pyrex dishes. In addition, the macaroni stayed hot much longer.
Our final surprise was when we cleaned the pot. It was absolutely effortless. A few swipes with a plastic scrubber and it cleaned up nicely. These clay pots also do well in the dishwasher.
All Cook on Clay pots are designed by Robbie and Maryon. As savvy cooks have become aware of their beautiful cookware, demand has risen, so Cook on Clay has some of their pots made with a mold and ram pressed. All are hand finished and fired for 28 hours in their soda-vapour kiln, which produces beautiful Boudreaux or Tuscan gold finish finishes.
Cook on Clay pots aren’t inexpensive. Our small square flameware pot retails at $95. However, these are works of art you’ll have for a lifetime. Beautifully handmade, they’re pots you’ll be proud to pass onto the next generation of cooks. They make casseroles, platters, paella/oval roasters, and square and rectangular baking pots. They’re pots are available or in their small showroom at their studio on Whidbey Island.
For us here at RFT, we’re looking forward to trying all of Robbie and Maryon’s designs. If fact, I’m dreaming about using Cook on Clay’s paella/oval pan on the BBQ grill with a wonderful recipe for Spanish paella we got from a chef in Spain or maybe using a Cook on Clay pizza stone to make that incredible lobster pizza from Boston chef Lydia Shire…
UPDATE: I was so impressed with the even cooking of Cook on Clay products, I ordered a Cook on Clay pizza stone from master potter Robbie Lobbell. Of course, I’d shopped around. I could have purchased a standard $30 stone from a kitchen shop, but it was RFT Editor Anne Weaver’s birthday and I wanted to give her a really great pizza stone. So I shelled out the $150 and ordered a Cook on Clay pizza stone. We weren’t disappointed.
Like all Cook on Clay products, Anne’s new Cook on Clay pizza is stone is beautiful. More importantly, it bakes perfect pizza– crisp yet chewy. In addition, the stone cleans up easily with a little soap and water, even when cheese bakes onto the surface.
Real bottom line: Cookware comes and goes, but Cook on Clay’s, beautiful, handmade ceramic flameware can withstand extreme temperatures and is cookware that you’ll treasure for a lifetime. And you’ll have great fun baking pizza with one of their incredible pizza stones. http://cookonclay.com/ – Review by BH