Is It Safe to Use Palayok (Clay Pots)?

What is the meaning of palayok?

Palayok is a Tagalog word that refers to the traditional clay pots used by Filipinos for hundreds of years. In other parts of the Philippines, such as the Visayas region, it is referred to as kulon while clay pots smaller in size are referred to as anglit. These clay pots are used for cooking traditional Filipino dishes, usually over burning coals and can double as food containers to serve the freshly cooked food on the table.

What are clay pots made of?

Clay pots, like all other forms of pottery, are made of clay that is molded with the help of water, dried, and fired to high temperatures with a glaze for decorative purposes. But with clay pots, it’s usually seasoned so that it can serve as an earthenware used for cooking. The clay itself that is used to make the clay pots is not pure clay, it’s made up of clay with a mixture of different other materials such as sand or other forms of sediments. The clay makes the clay pots porous that makes it easily observed water as well as its reddish coloring. 

Is clay toxic?

Working with clay is probably one of the safest jobs or past times in the world. Especially in the process of pottery when the clay is dried into the intended shape, there’s very little that people need to worry about. Some types of clay are even used for medicine. 

However, there are circumstances with clay that can be a cause for concern. There are three ways that clay material can become toxic to the body and that is by inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin–usually through cuts or abrasions. Being exposed to clay materials through these three ways can cause health problems like asthma, diarrhea, irritation, etc. So despite the low risks, it’s still very important to follow safety procedures when working with clay. 

Are clay pots toxic?

Clay pots can be toxic if the process of making the clay pots use chemicals that can be harmful to the body. Glazed clay pots can commonly cause health problems because of the materials used for glazing the clay pots to make them less porous. So it is important to buy your clay pots wisely. The purer the clay pot materials the better. It’s also safer to choose clay pots that are unglazed and made in the traditional Filipino way for lesser health in the future. 

Are glazed clay pots safe?

As stated above, glazed clay pots commonly cause health problems for those who use them in cooking or as containers for food. The glaze used on the clay pots is sometimes made up of harmful chemicals like lead or arsenic. Definitely not good for the body, especially when mixed with food and digested. If there is glaze on the clay pot you purchased, make sure to double-check if it’s government-regulated to make it safe to cook with. It is best that the clay used in clay pots are as pure as possible and made traditionally to make sure that no harmful additives like chemicals are used in its making.

Are clay pots dangerous?

Clay pots made with pure clay are some of the safest cooking ware or earthenware there is. As stated above, manufactured clay pots that use chemicals on the clay pots can become a health hazard, mainly because of the chemicals used and not the clay itself. These types of clay pots are not ideal for cooking use and are mainly made for decorative purposes, especially the ones made with ceramic or the glazed ones.

Is it safe to cook in palayok?

Yes, it is definitely safe to cook in a palayok or clay pots. Because it is made up of clay and molded in the traditional Filipino way, palayok has no chemicals that can cause harm to the ones using it. There are no toxic products in clay that can seep into food once it’s prepared for cooking. Just make sure that you buy the highest quality palayok you can find and treat it before and after cooking.

What is the advantage of making pots with clay?

Cooking in clay pots have many advantages for us as well as for the food we cook in it, especially if we cook our food with a lidded palayok. The clay pot’s porous properties allow heat to circulate evenly inside the pot making the food retain more nutritional value when compared to other forms of cooking and makes the dishes more aromatic and flavorful. Meats cooked inside palayok remains tender and juicy for longer.

Clay pots are healthier for us as well as clay pots require less oil to cook food. Clay pots take longer to cook for ingredients inside to cook properly. The enclosed space in the pot allows the moisture to circulate inside that helps retain the ingredient’s natural oils and fats. Thus making it less necessary to add extra oils and fats along the cooking process.

How do you treat clay pots?

Treating clay pots is an important step for the palayok to be able to properly cook the food inside it, to strengthen the inner surface inside, and makes it more durable for long time use. There are different ways to treat or season a clay pot. But generally, you should first soak the clay pot in water for at least 15 minutes and up to two hours, rinse and dried without using soup. Second, once the clay pot is dried, coat the entire thing with vinegar or olive oil. Lastly, it should be filled up to ¾ of water and heated on the stovetop on low temperature until it’s boiling. Do this for about 2 to 3 hours and you’ve just treated or seasoned your clay pot.

Do you need to seal terracotta pots? 

Terracotta pots are a kind of clay pots with a brown/reddish color that is also used for cooking. They are ideal in backing because it can distribute heat to the ingredients evenly when heated. Terracotta is often referred to as baked earth throughout history and is one of the oldest materials used for cooking. As with any other kinds of clay pots like the palayok, terracotta pots when not glazed needs to be treated or otherwise known as sealed. The same process discussed above with treating or seasoning clay pots can also be applied to terracotta pots to make it more durable and better perform in the cooking process.

How do you cook in clay pots?

Before using clay pots for cooking, you need to first soak it in water for 15 minutes. This will help in the steaming process during cooking. Then, it’s just a matter of putting your ingredients in the pot for your recipe and follow the cooking instructions of your recipe one step at a time. Make sure that not to make extreme temperature changes when cooking with your clay pots as this can cause it to damage and crack. Gradually adjust the temperature in your stove when you’re cooking to prevent damaging you palayok. 

What foods can you cook in clay pots or palayok?

You can cook tons of different dishes using a clay pot or palayok. It is said that the first thing you need to cook in your palayok is rice to bring good luck. Other than that, traditional Filipino dishes cook great in a palayok and turns out with more nutritional value compared to when they’re cooked using other cooking wares. The most common traditional dishes that use palayok are pinakbet and sinigang

How do you clean palayok?

Do not use soap or detergent to clean your palayok as the chemicals in these products will be observed in the porous surface of the palayok. This can leach off into your food the next time you use your palayok for cooking. You can use hot water to clean your palayok and use either baking soda or salt while using a brush to wash off stains.

For particularly stubborn stains, use a stainless steel pad or you soak the palayok overnight and add four tablespoons of baking soda to help absorb the leftover stains and odor inside the palayok.

Can you eat out of clay pots?

Yes, you can. If you can use clay pots for cooking, that means you can also use clay pots to eat out of just like you can eat out of other kinds of kitchenware you used for cooking. Clay pots or palayok are also often served directly on the table as food containers for everyone to easily grab their portion. So it’s safe to put on the kitchen table as long there’s some kind of heat resistant coaster underneath if it’s still too hot from the stove.

Can clay pots go in the fridge?

Yes, you can store clay pots in the fridge. Just remember as discussed above that clay pots can be sensitive to dramatic temperature changes that can cause it to crack or break. So make sure when you’re storing your clay pots in the fridge that it’s completely cooled down to room temperature if possible.

Can you microwave clay pots?

Yes, clay pots are microwave-safe containers. In fact, putting clay pots in the microwave is an ideal way to heat food once you got used to it. Remember that clay pots need longer heating time to properly heat the ingredients inside it so it needs a longer time inside the microwave. And clay pots take a longer time to cool once taken out of the microwave compared to other containers making your food stay hot for a longer time.

Can you bake in clay pots?

Yes, you can bake in clay pots. Clay pots are versatile as both containers and cookware because of its many uses. As discussed above, clay pots like terracotta pots are ideal for baking in the oven. You can get clay pots in different shapes that are best for the type of food you want to bake. 

Baking with clay pots does come with adjustments, though. Firstly, don’t preheat the oven as sudden extreme temperatures can cause it to break or crack. Bake in higher temperatures than the recipe requires as clay pots take longer to heat. Also, remember that clay pots retain heat longer than other containers so it’s best to take it out of the oven earlier than instructed or immediately take the lid off because it can continue cooking even when it’s outside the oven. And lastly, don’t place the oven-fresh clay pot on cold surfaces as this will cause it to break or crack. Instead, place it on a potholder that’s heat resistant or a wooden surface.

Is palayok better than Teflon?

Teflon is the compound that is coated on top of modern pans to make it not stick to food particles. It was deemed safe at the beginning of its manufacturing however cases of something called Teflon flue started popping up because of exposure to overheated Teflon that releases hazardous chemicals in the air. This can also leech into the food that’s being cooked using a pan coated with Teflon. Clay pots on the hand need to be unglazed and treated to make them safe for cooking. Just make sure to buy clay pots of the best quality and that are specifically meant for cooking.

Are clay pots better than plastic pots?

As a safety rule, don’t cook with plastic pots even when it’s advertised to be safe to use for cooking. Chemicals can unknowingly burn off the plastic cookware with just enough heat that can leech into our food. Plastic containers to serve our food in is a much safer option but be cautious of their expiration dates because that means the containers are going to lose their quality over time. Clay pots are much more preferable. It’s much safer to use than plastic pots as book cookware and containers, it lasts longer, and has an overall better quality than plastic pots.


Further Reading: Health Benefits of using Palayok

Image Source:


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