What is a Donabe, and How Does it Compare to Other Clay Cookware for Healthy Cooking?


Donabe clay pots have been used in Japan for centuries, and are typically used for cooking Japanese cuisines. Their steady delivery of heat enhances the flavors in even the simplest dishes, and they also work as a beautiful serving vessel. Many are drawn to donabes because of the wonderful taste brought to food after cooking in one. A one-pot rice dish cooked in a donabe adds a level of flavor that is hard to experience in any other way — making Japanese restaurants with this style of cooking a popular dining choice for people around the world.

What is a Donabe?

Donabe are semi-stoneware pots made from a special clay for cooking over an open flame in Japanese cuisine. They originated centuries ago from the Iga province of Japan and are traditionally used to cook Japanese hot pot recipes called Nabemono or Nabe. Dishes like Nabeyaki Udon (a thick noodle made from wheat flour) are often served simmering right off a gas burner or open flame.

If used and maintained well, these pots can last for years. In fact, in old Japanese restaurants (called ryōtei) located in the city of Kyoto, special guests would be served food in decades-old donabe. Some special donabes are even centuries old!

How Donabe Differs From Other Clay/Ceramics

Donabe is particularly known for ability to cook on open flame like a gas burner or charcoal fire. Although their material is similar to stoneware and ceramics, they are usually glazed on the inside and porous on the outside. They are fired at a very high temperature in production.

This Japanese clay pot is typically deep and comes with a tall lid. Because of better heat resilience, they often last longer than ceramic pots. Traditional donabes were created with the original intent of being cooked over an open flame. Although you can use them on a gas stove, they are not commonly found in a typical home kitchen like other clay and ceramic pots.

Can a donabe be used on electric stove?

Some donabes can be used on an electric stove, but it takes an extremely long time for the pot to heat up compared to gas stoves, which is the optimal way to cook with a donabe. This is not so with Miriam’s Earthen Cookware: they are versatile for use on both gas and electric stoves, taking about the same amount of time.

Is Cooking in a Donabe Healthy?

Donabes are indeed beautiful cooking pots that offer better tasting hot pot meals, but are they 100% healthy? Modern donabe pots have come a long way from what they must have been when they originally came in use. The new age donabe variants have been modified throughout the world in different ways to match the needs of local customers.

You might often find donabes glazed both on inside and outside, just like ceramics. These glazes coupled with additives have done a great job of bringing out their beauty and reducing the effort it takes to season them. But unfortunately, it all comes at the cost of your health. Glazes contain various chemicals and heavy metals like lead and cadmium, and the use of glazed cookware poses risk of exposure to these heavy metals and chemicals.

Additionally, the clay material that makes up a Donabe pot contains a high amount (40-50%!) of petalite: the mineral that acts as the primary source of lithium. This gives the pots their distinctive heat resistance, but lithium has historically been highly controversial, given its highly volatile effects on the body.

All metals are reactive and leach while cooking, meaning they end up in your food. When ingested in the body, these toxins accumulate and affect the central nervous function. This eventually leads to mental disorders, damages the blood constituents, and likely causes detrimental changes in the lungs, liver, kidneys, and other vital organs (promoting several diseases!). Furthermore, long-term accumulation of heavy metals or their compounds in the body may even damage nucleic acids, cause mutations, mimic hormones (thereby disrupting the endocrine and reproductive system), and even lead to cancer! (Source: Mechanism and Health Effects of Heavy Metal Toxicity in Humans)

But how can you enjoy the great taste of a donabe hot pot without compromising your health? You would need a clay pot that uses a pure material with no glazes. Luckily, there is one that you can use not only for Japanese one pot recipes but a wide variety of cuisine from all around the world! Keep reading to learn more.

The Healthiest Clay Cookware (That Can Cook the Same Recipes as a Donabe & More!)

Miriams Earthen Cookware (MEC) is a US-based cookware brand that offers clay cookware made from lab-tested primary clay without using additives, chemicals, or glazes. These ergonomically designed and uniquely finished cooking pots are known for far-infrared heat cooking that preserves even the most delicate nutrients (including flavonoids and complex carbs in rice). This results in flavorful and aromatic food, which tastes just as great as when you can cook it in a donabe!

Cook Any Recipes You Would in a Donabe with These 100% Non-Toxic Pots

Made in the USA with cultural dishes of the world in mind (including Asian cuisine), MEC’s clay pots offer some great healthy features that take your favorite clay pot recipes to the next level. Not only that, but you can use them both on the stove and in the oven, meaning you can easily prepare these dishes in your own home!

For example, try this recipe here in MEC and you can see for yourself how amazingly flavorful this popular Asian dish comes out: Thai Chicken & Basil Stir Fry

Many flock to try the unique & delicious flavor that comes out of cooking out of a donabe, but as we see in this article, getting a healthy one can prove to be a great challenge. If you are looking to buy a more versatile and healthier version of the clay donabe, Miriam’s Earthen Cookware offers just that! You can experience these versatile and unique products and their health benefits for years to come: order yours today!

Can you put a donabe in the oven?

Yes, you can put a donabe in the oven, provided it is completely dry, otherwise water in the porous walls may expand and crack the pot. Miriam’s Earthen Cookware pots (which are a modern and healthier version of the traditional donabe) can go in the oven without an issue, even with some water.

Thai Chicken & Basil Stir Fry in MEC Pot


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