Hello! We’re Murata WA Lifestyle Store. We’d like to tell you about a type of Japanese cookware we carry called a “donabe” cray pot, including its features and uses.
What kind of cookware have you been using? When it comes to cooking simple recipes, electric kitchen appliances seem to be gaining in popularity. However, a traditional Japanese donabe is also suitable for simple cooking, once you know how to use it.
After reading this blog and learning about donabe, hopefully you’ll include it in your selection of cookware at home.
What is a Donabe?
A donabe (“do” means earth and “nabe” means pot) is a pot made of clay that’s been formed and fired. Other than donabe, there are pots made of iron, copper or stone in Japan.
Unlike metal pots, a donabe will heat up first and then cook the food by radiating heat from the whole vessel. In addition, a donabe retains heat exceptionally well, meaning most foods are cooked through even after the heat is turned off. Cooking in residual heat also allows the food to absorb more flavors as they gradually cool down. This makes donabe a perfect vessel for slow cooking.
Using infrared radiation, a donabe cooks food efficiently. Although it may take more time to cook with a donabe, the food is kept warm for a long time once it's heated.
What to Cook with a Donabe
The most common dish using a donabe would be hot pot. On a cold day in the winter, eating hot pot at the table warms the body and soul. Other than hot pot, you can use a donabe to simmer vegetables or make soup and porridge.
We also recommend cooking rice with a donabe. It’s very easy, involving only a few steps. Please watch this YouTube video for instructions.
What not to Cook with a Donabe
Although a donabe can be used for various recipes, it’s not suitable for making dishes requiring a lot of oil like deep-frying. The temperature of the oil gets too high, which can damage the donabe.
How to Use/Cook with a Donabe
Before first use, a donabe needs to be seasoned. This process is called “Medome” or “Mebari” in Japanese. Being clay, a donabe has many microscopic pores which need to be coated. Failing to do the “Medome” process can lead to cracking, leaking and discoloration.
To season a donabe, boil rice water or water with flour or cornstarch in the donabe for 20 to 30 minutes. After that, dry the donabe completely. Medome is one of the methods for keeping a donabe a long time and needs to be done not only before first use, but periodically.
If you find a crack in your donabe, season it right away. Some donabe don’t require seasoning, so check the product description or ask a salesclerk at the store.
A donabe can be used on the stovetop as well as in a microwave or oven. When using it on the stovetop, make sure the bottom is dry by wiping off any moisture with a cloth. Heating a donabe when the bottom is wet can cause cracks. When using a donabe in the oven, do not use the lid as it’s not oven safe.
How to Care for a Donabe
Donabe need to be treated gently as they are heavy and easily breakable. If you have some food leftover in a donabe after a meal, we recommend transferring it to a container right away. Donabe are highly absorbent and will absorb liquid from any food left in them, leading to odours and mold.
If you find your donabe has an odour, try boiling water with leftover tea leaves in it for an hour. After allowing it to cool, remove the liquid and rinse the donabe. The odour should be gone.
Please make sure to wait for the donabe to cool down naturally. Rinsing a donabe while it’s still hot can cause it to crack as it’s sensitive to temperature change.
When washing the donabe, use only water with a soft sponge. Don’t use soap or bleach as they can soak into the donabe’s pores. However, if there’s food stuck to a donabe, you may use a small amount of soap and rinse it right away. Do not put a donabe in the dishwasher.
If you want to clean burnt food off a donabe, just add some baking soda and water and boil it for an hour. After allowing it to cool, rinse the donabe. The burnt food should then come off much easier.
How to Store a Donabe
As donabe are made of clay and highly absorbent, they can’t be completely dried by just wiping water off the surface. Storing a donabe with moisture inside can cause mold growth. After washing a donabe, flip it upside down and place it in a well-ventilated place to dry completely. If you don’t plan on using your donabe for a while, store it wrapped in newspaper, which will absorb moisture.
Also, it’s important not to stack other pots on a donabe to prevent it from being broken. If you find odours, boil some water with vinegar or lemon juice in the donabe for an hour to remove them.
How to Choose a Donabe
At Murata, we carry donabe of different sizes. In Japan, the size of the donabe is described by “go (号).” One “go” is equal to three centimetres of diameter. You can use this formula to convert from “go” to centimetre. For example, a donabe of eight go has 24cm diameter, and one of nine go has 27cm diameter.
We recommend eight-go donabe for three to four servings, and nine-go donabe for four to five servings, although it differs a little bit depending on the specific donabe or what you cook with it.
Thank you very much for reading our blog! Please choose this traditional Japanese cookware at our store to enjoy cooking at home.
Murata WA Lifestyle Store
15 E. Broadway Vancouver
Monday to Saturday: 10am to 6pm
Sunday: noon to 5pm
Please visit us and find your favourite items.