Kitchn Love Letters

This Pretty Clay Pot Has Me Making Rice Like a Total Pro

published Nov 2, 2021
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Credit: Kelli Foster

I am one of those kitchen nerds who gets way too excited about new cookware, time-saving gadgets, and cooking tools. And while I can’t claim to be a tool-testing expert (at least not yet!), I do know what I love and what works for me. One piece of cookware I recently discovered and added to my arsenal is simple to use, easy to clean, and incredibly versatile for cooking weeknight rice, grains, and one-pot veggie dishes. Enter: a donabe.

Credit: Stella Totino

Never heard of a donabe? It’s a Japanese clay pot used for centuries as a rice cooker, stock pot, smoker, and roaster. These pots can be used on the stovetop or in the oven and come in multiple styles. One of the major perks of cooking in this special, handmade style of cookware is that it builds flavor, similar to a cast iron pan. So, with repeated use, the seasoned walls of your donabe infuse richness into even the most simple dishes. There are donabe smokers, grill pans, and rice cookers, but I suggest you start with this classic double lidded clay pot (not only because that’s the one I have, but because it’s the most versatile). This 10.6-inch, double-lidded model has a steamer insert, so you can steam veggies while you cook rice or a soup beneath.

I’ve made hot-pot style one-pot dinners, especially when the cold weather sets in. I’ve used my donabe for soups and stew recipes from all over the globe. In my donabe, I’ve cooked simple potatoes, which get a perfectly crisp skin and creamy interior. But the true reason I have fallen head over heels for this cooking vessel: Making rice. Because all donabes are handmade from high-heat bearing clay that remains porous once fired, when used to cook, they warm up slowly and maintain consistent heat. Cooking rice in these clay pots results in perfectly chewy, soft, and flavorful grains. Plus it’s super easy to get a golden and crispy bottom with the addition of a little oil as you cook (and who doesn’t love that)? A little pro tip: This book has great tips and recipes for first-time donabe users.

Now, I could rave about its versatile cooking abilities all day, but the aesthetic-minded apartment-dweller in me can’t help but share that I just drool over the way my donabe looks. I have never wanted to show off anything in my kitchen quite like this. Its beautiful handmade handles, gorgeous lacquered glaze, and elegant shape ensure it never leaves my stovetop. It can also be seamlessly moved from stovetop to table and quickly becomes the most gorgeous centerpiece.

Credit: Stella Totino

This clay pot wonder is seriously the most frequently used item in my kitchen. A perfect gift (for yourself or someone else), once you have a donabe, I promise you’ll never look back