Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Unglazed Terracotta For Cooking On Naked Flame


  • Please log in to reply
17 replies to this topic

#1 Raro

Raro

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 4 posts
  • LocationSydney, Australia

Posted 16 June 2014 - 09:39 AM

I'm looking to revive traditional spherical Motu functional cooking pots (from Central Province,Papua New Guinea) and need some advice from experienced potters. The Motu have not made pottery since the 1950's and most of those real potters have since died out, taking important information with them. The Motu people today have not inherited the information and only know second-hand stories.

 

I've gleaned enough information from anthropological/historical accounts about how the clay is hand formed into pots (paddle and anvil method), and fired (open bonfire which generally only lasted only about 30 minutes), but there's nitty gritty information about the clay itself that I need to pinpoint.

 

My main hurdle is getting the clay body right so the fired cooking pots don't finally crack when used on the gas flame of the stove-top. I experimented using a German Römertopf terracotta vessel on the gas flame and it cracked big time - obviously it's only meant for the oven, but I needed to test it out.

 

Every western potter I've talked to shakes their head and says you can't use terracotta vessels on a naked flame, only in the oven. Our human history of thousands of years of unglazed terracotta cooking pots on open fires suggests otherwise. Even today there are many cultures that still cook with unglazed terracotta pots on open fires every day. Unfortunately these people live thousands of miles away and don't tend to use the internet, so I can't conveniently ask them.

 

I've guessed it involves using a clay with increased temper, so I've sourced some raku terracotta clay. Will this be enough to handle stove-top cooking? How much temper would make the final vessel withstand the thermal shock of daily stove-top cooking?

 

I'd be grateful for any tips from your direct experience.



#2 Wyndham

Wyndham

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 403 posts
  • LocationSeagrove NC

Posted 16 June 2014 - 09:57 AM

I think you have missed a point in the cooking method. They did not have a gas flame. A gas flame is a relatively short, high temp flame where as a wood and ember fire is slower to develop the flammable gas that ignites into a long slow cooking flame.

Most of the heat is derived from the hot coals which is radiant heat.

The second part is that most cooking is wet cooking, where the liquid in the pot, keeps the vessel cooler that that of a gas flame cooking.

I have even seen on a surviver show where a plastic soda bottle , filled with water was suspended over a low flame wood fire and boiled the water without burning the plastic bottle.

Stove top is out of the question, in this scenario.

Hope this gives some thought to work from.

Wyndham



#3 Raro

Raro

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 4 posts
  • LocationSydney, Australia

Posted 16 June 2014 - 10:03 AM

I see your point. Would it make a difference if the gas flame was kept low?



#4 Wyndham

Wyndham

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 403 posts
  • LocationSeagrove NC

Posted 16 June 2014 - 10:23 AM

No, the radiant heat from coals/embers is where you need to investigate. If you have a charcoal fire pit or can have access to making a small cooking fire on the ground, that would be the better way to learn from.

Wyndham



#5 Benzine

Benzine

    Socratic Potter

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,570 posts
  • LocationThe Hawkeye State

Posted 16 June 2014 - 11:06 AM

And to add to what Wyndham said, wares used on any type of direct heating surface, known as flameware, are hard to make, because of the clay body required.
"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#6 Raro

Raro

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 4 posts
  • LocationSydney, Australia

Posted 16 June 2014 - 11:24 AM

Excellent advice. 

What is the clay body required for flameware? Would that be highly tempered?



#7 Tyler Miller

Tyler Miller

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 323 posts
  • LocationOntario, Canada

Posted 16 June 2014 - 11:42 AM

You can cook on a naked flame with terracotta--sortof.  Very common in Morocco and Spain.  There are specific steps that need to be taken to make it work.  The first is that you fire it well below the usual earthenware maturity of cone 04--notice all the cultures who cook with ceramic tend to prefer very low fired earthenwares to do so.  Then you've got to season the pot with carbon/oil.  Check around the web for steps for seasoning a tagine to confirm but the usual steps are to soak in water for 15 minutes, wipe the pot dry, and then rub with olive oil, set in a cold oven, set temperature to something well above the smoke point--400 F should do it.  Repeat this a few times over a few days.

 

Then, get a diffuser--a big hunk of treated aluminum to take the harshness off the flame.  They sell them with tagines.  It won't really work without one--converts the heat from a hard flame back to what Wyndham is describing.  The other thing to remember is that these pots have a very limited service lives, months in some cases.

 

I wouldn't bother with proper flameware, general consensus here has been that it's too much hassle for a studio potter.



#8 Benzine

Benzine

    Socratic Potter

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,570 posts
  • LocationThe Hawkeye State

Posted 16 June 2014 - 12:22 PM

Very true Tyler.  I believe, when I was watching the show "Bizarre Foods", the host was eating at a place in Spain.  They cooked "suckling pig" in a covered earthenware dish.  I believe the heat was more indirect though.  Fun fact, with said dish, most people, who order it, eat nearly every bit of the pig; skin, ears, snout, tongue, brains, etc......


"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#9 alabama

alabama

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 60 posts
  • LocationSlapout

Posted 16 June 2014 - 01:25 PM

Hey,

      Wyndham and Tyler are correct.  What is sounds like you're trying to do is combining Ancient pottery with modern cooking techniques and

it can't be done.  Are you trying to cook in terracotta with some type of pseudo kind of method?

     Pottery allowed food to be cooked in a permanent container with coals.  Prior to ceramics, food was cooked in skins,stomachs, or lungs by dropping heated stones into the liquids.  Around here in the 17th and 18th century the Indians had 4 distinct pottery forms...Two, (the constricted and flare-rim bowls) were used mostly for dry storage, the jar for liquids, and the pots for cooking.  The pots ranged in size from a pint to 8 or so gallons... the pots were basically made,

fired and flipped over and filled with food stuff.  Coals were pushed up around the pot for heating.  When the food got low, more water and corn were added.

It was more like a 24 / 7 slow cooker.  It simmers.  It wasn't moved around and only had to be there until late July or Aug. when during the Green Corn Ceremony, ALL the pottery was broken and new vessels were made.  Back to the terracotta pottery...  When water is added to a pot, it seeps through out the vessel and when an open flame causes any area to exceed 212 degrees that area has to spall.  During field archaeology a good deal of the spalled pottery found in the plow zone were cooking vessels and we know this that since the exterior were brushed with dry corn cobs and were easily identifiable.  A spalled vessel doesn't necessarily mean it broke enough to leak.  It has been my experience, that everything eaten out of primitive pottery tastes like burnt ceramics.  Seems like alot of trouble to go thru for one meal...you might like to look into taking fish and birds and wrapping them in clay and burying them in coals for an hour or so, then breaking the clay apart taking off the skin along with the feathers and scales.  I understand you don't even have to gut the food first.  Not for the squimish...

     I hope this helps in what ever you decide... 

Alabama



#10 Benzine

Benzine

    Socratic Potter

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,570 posts
  • LocationThe Hawkeye State

Posted 16 June 2014 - 02:46 PM

Good information Alabama.

 

My wife, who is part Native American, constantly wants new dinnerware, and has "accidentally" broken several of the set.  I should probably hide this information from her, because she'll just say, that she is breaking them as part of her people's tradition, and not just because she wants a whole new set.


"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#11 Angie Days

Angie Days

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 9 posts

Posted 16 June 2014 - 04:25 PM

Hello! I have what you are looking for. In Mexico, we have used "cazuelas" (clay pots) for direct cooking flame for centuries. You need to get "Barro de Oaxaca" or Oaxaca (a mexican state) clay. Is really cheap less than a dollar a kilo. But I don´t know where you can buy it in your country.  

This is the email from a distributor in Mexico city : informes@arcicor.com

Who knows maybe they’ll send it to you.

Would like a photo of one of mine in direct flame? I didn’t make it, it belonged to my grand mother.

 

You’ll need to cure it, is a special way to seal it and prepare for cooking. Send me a message when you need to do it.

 

In this video he's curing a "Comal" a clay grill.



#12 bciskepottery

bciskepottery

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,422 posts
  • LocationNorthern Virginia

Posted 16 June 2014 - 07:58 PM

This site might be helpful. Micaceous cooking using local clay that has mica deposits. Brian hand digs his clay, coil builds pots, and fires in a pit. Can be used on stove top.

http://micaceouscookware.com/

#13 Babs

Babs

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 920 posts

Posted 16 June 2014 - 09:15 PM

Good information Alabama.

 

My wife, who is part Native American, constantly wants new dinnerware, and has "accidentally" broken several of the set.  I should probably hide this information from her, because she'll just say, that she is breaking them as part of her people's tradition, and not just because she wants a whole new set.

Well there is a challenge setting for 8 before the school vacation finishes! And then you can beech when she breaks one!



#14 Benzine

Benzine

    Socratic Potter

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,570 posts
  • LocationThe Hawkeye State

Posted 16 June 2014 - 10:08 PM

Ha! Funny thing is Babs, I don't have a lot of wares of my own around. Most are given away as gifts. I gave my wife two mugs, that my daughter helped me underglaze, for Mother's Day last year. Other than that, I just have a few decorative pieces.
"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#15 CarlCravens

CarlCravens

    Long-time Dabbler

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 116 posts
  • LocationWichita, KS

Posted 16 June 2014 - 11:45 PM

Benzine, using my own work is a lot of what drives me... since I started using my own bowls, I have been loathe to use one of our Corelle glass bowls.  My bowls feel like they were made for the human hand.  Factory bowls feel like they were made for the convenience of the machine.

 

Working on throwing more now.  (And on finding a form that fits in the dishwasher efficiently, and stacks well, but doesn't feel factory-made. :)


Carl (Wichita, KS)

#16 Stellaria

Stellaria

    Maker of Stuff

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 237 posts
  • LocationPetoskey, MI

Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:01 AM

Yeah, in general, indirect heat from a fire is going to be your best bet when cooking in pottery vessels. Gradual warming of the vessel is an important part of that - you can't really just fill a pot with cold stuff and smack it on a fire of any sort. You put it next to the fire. Turn it occasionally. Gradually move it closer. Put coals around or under it. I mean, once you've got it properly ramped up, it'll withstand sitting in the fire just fine....but you have to do it all gradually. You shock it in one direction or the other, you kill it.

#17 Raro

Raro

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 4 posts
  • LocationSydney, Australia

Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:11 AM

Thanks for all your kind responses. 

 

Angie Days, I love the link you sent - very encouraging, and exciting to see!

 

From your comments, I'll take some ideas and continue to experiment in many ways - eg using a heat diffuser, or removing the flame jets to soften the flame. But I'm also inclined to think that temper in the clay has a strong influence, so I'll experiment with various proportions to test the reaction to stove-top flames. I may not succeed, but I'd like to at least try.

 

As Wyngham said, the open fire is very different to a gas flame, so I'll bear that in mind.

 

This revival project is not just to accumulate pots to cook with - it's also very much a cultural re-connection for me. My mother's people (the Motu of PNG) cooked in these pots every day, but sadly lost the culture to aluminium and plastic. It's my way of paying my respects to my ancestors and touching their culture while I have life in my hands. Along the way, if I can create durable service ware for personal enjoyment, then I've really achieved something.

 

If I succeed I'll post my results here and share with you.

 

Thanks again! I love this Forum!



#18 mss

mss

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 20 posts

Posted 17 June 2014 - 01:17 PM

There is micaceous clay in New Mexico; pots made from this is used on an open flame.  See http://www.felipeort...ouspottery.html.  http://www.felipeort...ryourVessel.pdf






0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users