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Cleaning Specialty Cookware

Clean Cookware Lasts Longer and Works Better

Basic pots and pans are reliable pieces of cookware, perfect for the daily grind when a quick meal is the best choice. But there are other, specialized, types of cookware that deserves a place in the spotlight: whether you've inherited a love for cast iron from your grandmother or you have worked your way into more exotic menu planning, you're bound to fall in love with some specialty cookware after you taste the results. Of course, cooking is sometimes the easy part, as the clean-up can pose a dilemma. How do you clean clay, for example? When soap is needed, and when can it be your worst enemy? Learn how to clean some popular specialty cooking devices to preserve them for years to come.

Maintaining Your Tagine

A tagine is a worthwhile addition to your cookware collection, but it's no surprise that it can be one of the more difficult pieces to clean. After all, a glazed, cone-shaped earthenware vessel will defy your regular cleaning instruments and techniques. Traditional tagines are typically made of glazed terracotta and should be properly seasoned, but some modern versions are made of ceramic. Before you let it touch heat or water, make sure you know which version you're working with!

Since it's dishwasher safe, a ceramic cooking tagine is pretty easy to care for; a decorative ceramic or clay serving tagine must be washed gently by hand, though you likely won't have to tackle much food residue. But, like the decorative serving tagine, the traditional terracotta cooking tagine should be handled carefully—keep it away from the dishwasher and use warm soapy water to clean it. If you're dealing with stubborn food residue or stain removal, try using a decanter brush (a helpful wine accessory) that can reach easily into tight spaces to clean delicate surfaces.

Cleaning Your Dutch Oven

Like other cast iron cookware, your Dutch oven can last for many years if you take good care of it right from the beginning. Start by removing the protective coating with soapy water, steel wool and some elbow grease, and allow it to dry before you season it in an oven or outdoor grill. Seasoning the oven is a lengthy procedure carefully completed with oil and heat in three rounds, but it's a crucial step if you want to establish that protective coating.

There are two parts to cleaning your Dutch oven: removing the food residue and maintaining the protective coating. Add some warm water to the oven and heat it until almost boiling, and then use a plastic scrubber to scrub off the bits of food. The most important thing to remember is to stay away from soap, as the soapy foam will break down that protective coating of oil and will taint the taste of your food. After you've rinsed and wiped it clean, let it air dry before heating it again until hot to the touch. At this point, apply a layer of oil inside and out, let it cool completely and voila—it's ready for the next gourmet experiment you have in store.

Preserving La Chamba Pottery

One of the hottest additions to the specialty cookware scene is La Chamba pottery, which is made by hand from a rich clay that is found in one small region of Columbia. The result of this traditional, handmade process is an earthenware cooking vessel that will retain heat, cook food evenly and impress your family and your guests with a remarkably flavorful dish. And La Chamba has a leg up on other earthenware: you won't need to season the pot before use, as regular cooking will seal it naturally, and you can use it on pretty well any source of heat.

When it comes to cleaning this cookware, you simply need to scrub, rinse and dry. Avoid soap and detergents, which can leave a chemical taste, and stick with warm water and a fairly gentle non-metal scrubber. Are you struggling with stubborn build-up or a stain? Soak it in warm water for half an hour or so. If you discover a white coating on the pot, don't fear: it can be easily removed by soaking it in a vinegar and water solution for a while.


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