Terracotta is a term interchangeably used for pots and pans made from low fire natural clay. Terracotta cooking pots have been used for ages by different civilizations not just because the raw material was easily available, but also because clay pot cooking was considered the healthiest method for cooking food (consider: Ayurveda & Sidha, ancient schools of plant-based medicine mandate clay cooking for its many health benefits).
Terracotta cooking pots were good for healthy cooking in those times but with modernization, things changed drastically. Industrialization gave rise to different kinds of pollutants that became common in air, water, and land. Also, the manufacturing process was aimed at making pots on a large scale in the most convenient way possible… And with the availability of chemicals and toxic additives to makes things faster, look prettier, its real value in health was compromised.
Unfortunately, with the terracotta cooking pots available today, the quality of clay used is often questionable. It is mostly secondary or tertiary clay mixed with additives. The additives are chemicals added to the clay to increase elasticity, for uniformity in firing, and to add color (glazing) to the fired items. Certain chemicals are added for ease of processing and to increase manufacturing speed as well.
In order to make healthy cooking pots from clay today, it is crucial to take all the measures necessary to make the healthiest cookware in the world. The maker has to keep the following things in mind to ensure the health of its cooking pots:
Use 100% Primary clay – pure and free from natural contaminants. It should be harvested from non-industrialized and unfarmed lands (going back 200 years).
1. To ensure its purity, several samples should be tested in a state lab for contaminants like lead, cadmium, arsenic etc.
2. No chemicals or additives should be used at any stage of making. As the mechanized processes demand the use of chemicals, it is best to follow the good old-fashioned method of making pots by throwing the raw material (clay) on a potter’s wheel using skillful hands. The process may be a bit tedious but it is totally worth it when people’s health is on the line.
3. Use of glazes and enamels is a big NO! Any kind of chemical and metal added to this pure material has the potential to leach into food while cooking. So it’s best to avoid even glazing (a mixture of toxic chemicals and oxides). The natural color of fired clay is pleasant to the eyes and when applied and burnished with the same clay it also makes the cookware naturally non-stick. So, NO glazes or enamels are needed and have to be avoided.
The clay pots made after following all these steps turn out to be the healthiest and make the most nutritious and delicious food.