How To Season Your Donabe (Earthenware Pot)

Discussion
  • Commonly used for hot pot dishes such as shabu-shabu, Donabe (Japanese eathenware pot) is made out of  special clay and it’s one of Japan’s oldest cooking utensil. Today I’ll show you how to season and care for Donabe.

    How To Season Donabe (Japanese Earthen Pot) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    During the winter months, the Japanese enjoy many kinds of hot pot dishes and we call them Nabe (鍋) or Nabemono (鍋物).

    The most popular ones are Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki, and some of my favorite regional nabe includes Kiritanpo from Akita prefecture and Ishikari Nabe from Hokkaido.  There are many regional recipes that I haven’t tried and I hope one day I’ll get to try many of the regional nabe dishes in Japan.

    Shabu Shabu | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    Many Japanese nabe dishes are cooked in Donabe (土鍋), a Japanese earthenware pot.  These pots are available oversea as well.  Since I received some questions from my readers about how to use and take care of them, I’ll go over some of key points about donabe today.

    How To Season Donabe

    When you purchase a brand new one and takes it out of the box, you have to season it before using.  We call this processs Medome (目止め) in Japanese.  Why does it need seasoning?  Because the pot is made from clay, the materially is naturally porous.

    To address this, starch from rice or flour will fill microscopic pores in the pot and it helps prevent breakage and damage by heat, as well as preventing smell and stain from cooking food.  Therefore, this medome process helps keeping your donabe life longer.

    We have 3 ways to do it.  They are typically 4-6 serving size so I’ll be using this size for the demonstration.

    Season with Rice Water 

    1. Rinse rice as you always do.  Add rice (I use 2 rice cooker cups here) in a large bowl, gently rub the rice between fingers under cold running water.  For this seasoning process, DO NOT discard the rice water.How To Season Donabe 1
    2. Fill the pot to about 80% with rice water.  Rice water is the water from first rinsing the rice.
      How To Season Donabe 2
    3. Bring to a boil on medium low heat and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
      How To Season Donabe 3
    4. Let the water cool to room temperature naturally.
    5. Once you can touch it with your bare hands and water is close to room temperature, discard the water and rinse with water
    6. Dry it with a clean cloth and allow to air dry completely overnight before first use or storing.

    Season with Cooked Rice

    1. Fill the donabe to about 80% with water.
    2. Add 1 bowl of cooked rice.
    3. Bring to boil on medium low heat and cook the porridge on low heat for 20 minutes.
    4. Let the porridge cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
    5. Discard the porridge and rinse with water.
    6. Dry it with a clean cloth and allow to air dry completely overnight before first use or storing.

    Season with Flour

    1. Fill the pot to about 80% with water.
    2. Add 2 Tbsp. flour or potato starch and mix well.
    3. Bring to boil on medium low heat and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
    4. Let the water cool to room temperature naturally.
    5. Discard the water and rinse with water.
    6. Dry it with a clean cloth and allow to air dry completely overnight before first use or storing.

    How To Season Donabe (Japanese Earthenware Pot) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    How To Use and Care for Donabe

    Donabe is fragile especially with the quick temperature change.   Therefore, you need to pay attention to the heat when using.

    • Don’t heat up without food or liquid inside.
    • Avoid rapid temperature change.
    • When using, make sure the bottom surface is dry.
    • When the pot is still hot, don’t pour or soak in cold water.
    • The best cooking heat is medium heat or lower.
    • Once it’s boiling, reduce heat to low to keep cooking.
    Donabe III
    I recommend a 12 inch (30 cm) donabe for 4 servings.

    The Correct Way To Wash Donabe

    You can’t wash your donabe with soap because it has good absorbency.  For the same reason, you shouldn’t soak it even though the food is stuck on the bottom.  Wash your donabe with soft sponge in warm water (sorry – I wrote in my recent newsletter “cold” water).

    The best way to clean the pot is the following.

    1. Let it cool down first.
    2. If you really need to use soap, use a small amount of soap and quickly rinse with water.
    3. Immediately dry with a clean cloth once you wash.

    How To Fix Hair Cracks

    It is normal to have hair cracks.  When you see hair cracks, you will need season the pot.  Season with cooked rice works the best as cooked rice has more starch and is thicker, and it will fill in the pores nicely.  If the water still leaks, you’ll need to purchase a new one.

    What To Do When Burnt

    No matter how careful you’re, you might end up burning the pot from food you’re cooking inside.  This is a helpful tip to get rid of stain or burnt.  Sometimes it requires to do a few times.

    1. Keep the warm water and let it soak or bring water to a boil.
    2. Turn off the heat and let it cool naturally.
    3. Once cooled, discard the water and gently scrub the burnt area with soft sponge.

    How To Remove Smell

    Donabe has lot of small pores and they might absorb smell from cooking certain food, here’s what you can do to remove it:

    Used Tea Leaves

    1. Put water and used tea leaves in your donabe and boil.
    2. Let it sit for 30 minutes
    3. Rinse in water.

    Baking Soda

    1. Bring water inside pot to boil and turn off.
    2. Add baking soda and set aside for 30 minutes.
    3. Rinse in water.

    How To Season Donabe (Japanese Earthen Pot) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    Donabe Size

    I recommend a 12 inch (30 cm) donabe for 4 servings.  The single pot (1 serving) diameter is 6.5 inch (16.5cm) and can hold 2 cups (500 ml).

    Recipes that You Can Use Donabe For

    Here are some of hot pot recipes that I have on my blog (and I’m adding more!).

    Kimchi Nabe | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    Kimchi Nabe

    Shabu Shabu | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    Shabu Shabu

    Oden

    Oden

    Nabeyaki Udon | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    Nabeyaki Udon

    Mille-Feuille Nabe | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    Mille-Feuille Nabe

    Taiwanese Hot Pot & Homemade Meatballs | JustOneCookbook.com

    Taiwanese Hot Pot

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