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Friday, December 07, 2007

Third Day of Gadgets — A Römertopf

RömertopfLong before there were Crock-Pots — before there was electricity, even — there were clay cookers. Cooks long ago discovered that all kinds of food could be put in an earthenware vessel and cooked under a bed of coals. It's true that cast iron Dutch ovens can do about everything that clay cookers do and aren't as fragile, but there is a difference: Cast iron isn't porous, and clay is.

Clay cookers like the Römertopf are soaked in water for at least 15 minutes before they are used for cooking. The water they absorb helps keep their contents moist while cooking as long as the lid is on. (Typically, the lid is only taken off for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time when it's desirable to crisp up the contents.)

Römertopfs and similar products come in a variety of sizes, from garlic roasters to large enough to accommodate a turkey. I've found a couple of practically new ones at my local Goodwill store for under $10, and now have three. (My favorite is the one I've had for years that says "Made in West Germany" on the bottom.) They're great for making stews, soups and roast chicken, and they help retain nutrients, keep the inside of your oven clean, and fill the air with wonderful aromas when they're in use. And, much like a fine meerschaum pipe, they gain color and character as they age.
Anonymous, 9:52 AM