Pros: These pots are meant to cook up a feast in a relatively short time.
Cons: Bottom glaze not recommended for some foods.
What's a "Schlemmertopf"? Well, you just had to ask, didn't you? The word "Schlemmer" comes from the German word "schlemmen" and literally means "to feast". So now that I have established that is has something to do with eating, let's get on with the review.
A Schlemmertopf (pronounced: Shlammertoph) is a clay cooker with a glazed base. There is also another pot out there that's called a Romertopf and does not have a glazed bottom. Both work on the principle of evaporation. I have added a link to the Romertopf review on the bottom of this one. The other review is more extensive and might give you additional information you won't find here.
I have a whole collection of clay cookware, collected over many years and most of them were given to me by well-menaing friends and family. I received my first Schlemmertopf many years ago from my grandmother and have loved her even more dearly since. I love to cook and eat and this pot makes it so darn easy to cook a good meal in fairly short time. The pots come in a variety of sizes. A 4-quart glazed is the smallest I have ever seen and an 8-quart the larges. Prizes for these vary and start at about $40.00.
The Schlemmertopf, just like it's Romertopf counterpart, comes in two parts, a top part that functions as the lid and a bottom part (the one with the glaze) that is used for cooking. Both parts are of almost equal size and are made from red clay and have designs etched into the outside. The inside is mostly plain, but the bottom part of the pot has a few ridges that allow for moisture to surround the food inside.
These pots are sold under the RECO or ROMERTOPF brand in both the US and Europe. This company is one and the same, RECO is actually a small subsidary of the ROMERTOPF company. They are simply located in two different parts of the country.
In order to cook with a Schlemmertopf, you will need to re-think your cooking technique. There are a few things you have to do differently:
Before cooking, soak the pot in warm water. The pot has to be completely surrounded by water, but it's okay to rest one half of the pot inside the other while doing that. The soaking allows for moisture to seep into the clay. This moisture will later evaporate into your food. Soak for at least 15 - 20 minutes, longer for larger pots.
Do not pre-heat your oven when cooking with clay. The temperature variation from room temperature to hot oven will cause the pot to crack. Don't set your temperature until after the pot is in the oven.
Add all your ingredients at once. Once a pot is in the oven you cannot open it or the oven. It's okay to put a pie in the oven, while the Schlemmertopf is in it, but make sure you do so quickly. Too much cold air hitting the outside of the pot spells disaster.
Do not put the pot in the dishwasher. After a time they become non-stick and are easy to clean. Also make sure that the pot is completely dry before putting it away. I let mine dry overnight. If you store your clay cooker in a closed cabinet, make sure the lid does not sit all the way on the pot. These pots need constant air circulation, otherwise they mold. I store mine on open pantry shelves. Because they look so good it's more like decoration than storage.
While the Romertopf (the unglazed variety of these pots) is used for tougher cuts of meat and meats that need a longer cooking time, the glazed Schlemmertopf is ideal for stews, fish and anything that does not need to cook quite as long. Unlike it's counterpart, it is okay to add a little liquid to these pots, just don't add any oil. I usually add about a quarter cup of liquid per pound of food. After a while you will figure out yourself how much liquid is needed. Rather go with less than more. The moisture in the clay will do the rest.
During the cooking process, the moisture in from the soaked pot will evaporate into your food. This makes for moist and tender food every time. Because of the glaze, this pot is ideal for most fish (I prefer salmon, trout and any flatfish like sole). But the glaze also makes it nearly impossible to cook foods that need to roast. Because of the glaze, the fat does not properly burn of chicken and it will cook rather than bake. But either way, these pots make for much healthier eating.
Cooking times will vary. I allow about 10 - 15 minutes for each pound of fish and about five minutes more for chicken. If you have porkchops or sliced meat, it's okay to use the glazed pot, for whole roasts it's better to use the unglazed variety. You really should have one of
Just in case some of you did not understand: Of course the lid has to on the entire time the pot is in the oven. Make sure that the lid fits tightly onto the pot. Any openings where air could get too it, would render the evaporation principle this pot is based on null and void.
Clean-up is a snap. Should you really have any stuck-on food in your pot after you're done cooking, simply soak in warm water without dishsoap and later scrub a bit with a dishcloth or a soft brush. When you first use your pot (the first five times or so) it might happen that you get bits and pieces of food stuck to the side of the pot, but the more you use it, the more non-stick it becomes.
Dishsoap that contains lemon essence is not recommended for these pots. The lemon juice will penetrate the glaze and crack it. In effect you then have a Romertopf instead of a Schlemmertopf, but it still won't work as well.
I recommend this pot for anyone who is too busy to watch a meal cook and who enjoys basic recipes like stews, soups and fish.
THIS POT IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR USE BY SMALL CHILDREN. It is a bit sturdier than the Romertopf, but still can be cracked by banging it around too much. It also gets very hot during the cooking process.
Here is the link to my review of the unglazed variety of this pot: