Seasoning Spanish cazuelas or indeed any Spanish terracotta cookware is a very simple process, there are however a few pointers that the ceramics manufacturers themselves like to point out to ensure the longevity of your purchase. You will also find a few varying methods on how to season your Spanish cazuela in books and on the internet, some involve onions, some garlic, others olive oil and these methods are fine. There is however only one thing you need to season your cazuela and that is water. Andalucian Exports works closely with five different manufacturers of cazuelas and terracotta in Spain and each have the same advice for seasoning your terracotta cookware. Follow the simple steps below and your terracotta will last for years and become one of your most useful companions in the kitchen.
Upon receipt of your terracotta it may be tempting to start cooking! However, your cazuelas or terracotta cookware will be very much as they left the production factory in Spain so will need a little care. Unseasoned cazuelas are more fragile than seasoned ones and especially those that have been well used for cooking. When your terracotta arrives the best thing to do is start running the tap . . .
Notes: larger cazuelas due to their size and circumference may not fit in the sink for soaking (see step 2 below), the same applies to deeper casseroles and pots, in this case the bath is the best solution as each piece needs be fully submersed in water.
How long your terracotta cazuela needs to be immersed in water for varies, the general rule is the longer the better – particularly for larger pieces. Water ‘cures’ the terracotta and needs time to soak in effectively which will add both strength and weight. Our suppliers recommend four hours of soaking for larger, thicker cazuelas and a couple of hours for smaller examples up to 16cm in diameter. Even if your cazuelas are destined for cooking purposes straight away a good soaking is always recommended as it will ‘toughen up’ your terracotta.
Notes: Although cazuelas and terracotta cookware are fired at quite high temperatures unless they are soaked they could suffer from ‘thermal shock’ which may result in cracking.
Once your cazuelas have been soaked in water they are now ready to be introduced to heat. The best way to do this for the first time is to fill your cazuelas with water to just below the rim and heat gently on the hob before turning up the heat gradually. It is worth noting that Spanish terracotta cookware can become extremely hot so care is required when handling your cazuelas when they have been cooked in.
Notes: Besides from becoming very hot terracotta also has extremely good insulating qualities and will keep food hot for longer than other cookware. When serving food in terracotta it is worth keeping in mind that the piece will remain hot for longer than expected even if it has been on the table for some time.
Your cazuela has now had its first seasoning and is ready for use. The process of immersing in water only needs to be done once (not before every time it is used). Cooking in the cazuela will continue to season and cure the terracotta so the more you enjoy cooking in your clay dishes the longer they will last.
Notes: After using your cazuela it can be placed in the dishwasher although we recommend washing your terracotta by hand. Avoid abrasive scourers and instead use a brush or sponge, for more stubborn marks as a result of cooking your terracotta can be soaked in soapy water for as long as is necessary.
Although your cazuela is now seasoned it is worth bearing in mind that due to the very nature of terracotta it will still be fragile even to temperature. Our Spanish cazuela suppliers agree with the following when cooking in your cazuela:
Never heat up your cazuela then introduce cold food for cooking, the difference in temperature may cause the cazuela to crack. You can however heat olive oil/cooking oil before adding your ingredients. For flash frying food or quickly searing meat the cazuela is not suitable however terracotta cookware can withstand hot temperatures on the barbeque, open fire, clay oven or hob etc providing it is not subject to adverse temperatures at the same time.