Cooking with Ceramics
Ceramics are a great tool for use in campfire cooking. Cheap to make, there’s a reason that pottery fragments are the most common find in any archeological dig. Ceramics, particulary for use over a campfire are a lot less common now. Company of the Staple provided some great tips which they’ve kindly allowed us to reshare for everyone to spread the word about ceramic cooking.
- Ceramic pots will eventually crack. Even with love and tender care they will eventually fail or be dropped. They do not last forever. Be prepared to replace them. Luckily they’re very reasonably priced! That said, our pots last an average of 6 years with 6 weekends per year and cost about $40, so they’re great value.
- Ceramics must be soaked prior to use. They should be soaked at least overnight before the first time they are used, and for a couple of hours every time after that. (They don’t need to be resoaked during an event if they were soaked before coming to the event, just before the next event.)
- Ceramics don’t like rapid temperature change. They must be placed on the edge of the fire, and gradually moved closer to the heat source. Similarly, when removed from the fire, avoid putting them into cold, wet ground. If possible, move them out to the edge of the fire to cool.
- Ceramics have to be rotated during the cooking process especially if coals aren’t on all sides. Ceramic doesn’t transfer heat as evenly as metal does.
- Cooking is slower. Always takes at least twice as long as you think it will. Allow some extra time for gently bringing the food up to temperature. This is a combination of ceramic cookware and campfire cooking.
- Plan your pot movements. Know where the pot will be moved and ensure the landing area and path is clear before you move the pot. You do not want to be holding the heavy, hot pot any longer than absolutely necessary.
- Ceramics are hotter than they look. Your medieval pots will not show the heat shimmer or discoloration of metal cookware. A cold pot is visually indistinguishable from a hot one. Don’t pick up things that have been on the fire with your bare hands, always use a tea towel to get it off the heat. Likewise, don’t assume a pot near the fire is safe to touch.
- Charcoal is way better than firewood for cooking. Charcoal and a bellows will give you a clean, easily managed cooking fire. (Less smoke, more even heat, heat is more tightly contained, meaning you can get closer for stirring, or checking, doesn’t need to be topped up as much)
- The outside of the pot is going to get grubby. It will never, ever be as clean as it was when you bought it. Bring a cloth to wrap the pot in after the event and prevent black smudges getting on your other gear.
- For frying, braziers are just the best. Braziers, or chafing dishes are stands hold a small charcoal fire to give a compact, focused heat source more like a modern stove. Trying to fry on an open fire (such as the one pictured above) is just painful.
We buy our cooking pots from Flaming Gargoyle Pottery. We can’t recommend them highly enough for their meticulous research, consistent craftsmanship, professional communication and reliable delivery.
This article was originally published on Company of the Staple (Living History in 1376 Calais) It has been republished here with full permission.