It’s always preferable to use the manufacturer’s instructions if possible!
Many people have bad experiences when it comes to their first cooking adventure with a clay pot.
One of the most reasons is that they did not prepare the clay pot for cooking, also called curing.
There are as a matter of facts some other reasons like the manufacture; some clay pots or tagines are only for decorative uses, or exposing your hot clay pot to a cold surface (thermal shock)!
Soak the lid and the base of the clay pot or tagine in water for at least 12 hours, or overnight. As some clay cookware is quite large, you may need to get creative. Use a large bucket or a bathtub.
Drain the water and let the clay pot air-dry for at least 2 hours.
Rub the interior and exterior of the lid and base generously with olive oil and let absorb for 1 hour and repeat the same operation a second time. Traditional tagines are seasoned with lamb fat.
Place the tagine or other clay cookware in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 300° F (150° C), and set the timer for 1 hour, than increase the heat to 400° F (200° C) and set the timer for another hour.
After 2 hours, turn off the oven, and leave the tagine to cool completely in the oven. Wash the cooled tagine by hand, and coat the interior with olive oil before storing or using.
Apply a coating of cooking oil to the bottom inside of the clay pot and let absorb during 10 minutes for the first 10 uses. This is the way to continue the seasoning.
Tips and Tricks
Use a heat diffuser to avoid exposing the clay pot to a direct flame.
Never use any soap or other chemicals to clean, always use the hot water tap. You can use sodium bicarbonate, vinegar or lemon juice as alternative if you wish.
Use the rough side of the sponge for the first 5 or 6 cleaning's.
Never expose the hot clay pot on a cold surface, avoid thermal shock.
Avoid cooking on maximum heat, low and slow or medium heat (325° F /160° C) is preferable.
Before using, rinse the clay pot under cold water and let air dry for 15 minutes.
It's a good idea to store your tagine with the lid slightly ajar so that air can circulate.
Some darkening or staining should be expected with the use of your tagine or clay pot but this is a desirable characteristic.