Choosing the right dinnerware can seem so daunting when you step into a China shop (just ask me about the time I had to choose for my wedding registry).
Aside from choosing appealing patterns, colors, and shapes you have to go through different materials and finishes. While some may seem great for special occasions, they can come with a catch of not being microwave safe because of being either too delicate or rimmed with gold edging.
What I wanted to get was something that would be an all-rounder. Something suitable for casual and fine dining along with being microwave, dishwasher, and even freezer safe (Tall order I know). But when I was introduced to dinnerware made of stoneware, it was like everything that I had dreamed of in one single piece.
So consider this article your ultimate stoneware dinnerware guide, here I will share with you whatever I have learned regarding the dos and don’ts of buying and using stoneware.
Is stoneware microwave safe?
Yes, stoneware is fine to be used in the microwave.
Any kind of stoneware dish can be easily used in the microwave as long as it doesn’t have those decorative metallic gold edgings (which would be the only exception to using stoneware in the microwave, because they can create sparks inside the microwave)
Just be mindful of exposing stoneware to sudden temperature changes, like moving a dish directly from the freezer to the microwave, because it can compromise the structure of stoneware and make it more perceptible to cracks.
How can I tell if my stoneware is microwave safe?
The simplest way to check if your stoneware is microwave safe is to check the presence of the microwave-safe symbol or to confirm with the manufacturer.
If you can’t find one, chances are it hasn’t been tested thoroughly enough to determine its suitability for microwave usage.
A crude DIY test that you can do to check if your stoneware is microwave-safe or not is to put your stoneware dish along with some water in the microwave and heat it on high for a couple of minutes. If you find that the dish heats up faster than the water inside then it’s probably not microwave-safe and best not used in it.
Also, any kind of stoneware with gold edging or metallic accents is generally not microwave-safe either.
Is stoneware safe for health?
There is some debate about the safety of stoneware due to the fact that it may occasionally contain trace amounts of arsenic and lead.
Lead and Arsenic both are materials toxic to human health, especially when ingested.
To avoid ingesting these poisonous substances you have to find out where and how your stoneware is made. If your stoneware isn’t manufactured or sealed with glaze properly, then toxic substances from the raw clay material can leach into food that’s prepared, served, or microwaved into these stoneware dishes.
Also, stoneware glaze may contain lead as well since it helps fuse the glaze to the stoneware while it bakes in the kiln. But if it’s not baked for the proper amount of time or at the proper temperature, it won’t fuse with the stoneware and contaminate the food it comes in contact with. The good news is that now some manufacturers have started using lead-free glazes.
However, if you purchase high-quality stoneware from a reputable seller, then it can be completely non-toxic and safe to use.
How do I know if my glazed stoneware is food safe?
There is always a possibility that over time and usage, as your dinnerware becomes more and more exposed to harsh dishwashing chemicals and heat from the microwave, the glaze on the surface of a plate or bowl may crack and allow the leaching of lead and other potentially dangerous chemicals into your food.
It is for this reason that you must inspect your stoneware from time to time.
Luckily there are a few at-home DIY tests that you can perform to check if your stoneware glaze is intact.
Glaze leaching test:
- Squeeze the juice of a lemon onto a stoneware plate and keep the entire lemon in the juice as well.
- For additional measures that the juice and lemon stay in contact with your dish, you could even wrap it up with some plastic wrap and leave it for a few days.
- After a few days, rinse off the juice and lemon and check the color of the glaze.
- If it has darkened or turned black then it has Lead which is leaching out through the glaze and on coming into contact with the acidic lemon juice made it turn dark.
Lead check swabs:
A more accurate test for detecting lead in your plates is to buy Lead check swabs from your supermarket. While they won’t be able to tell you exactly how much lead you may have in your dinnerware, they will be able to give you a more accurate picture and a quicker result than the lemon test mentioned above.
They come in a marker form, and all you have to do is rub them on a piece of chipped plate/bowl where you feel the glaze might be cracked.
The marker will turn red if it detects the presence of lead in your stoneware.
What do I need to do before using my stoneware for the 1st time?
Simply rinse with warm water and soap, towel dry it and then you can start using your stoneware with your favorite foods.
Try baking high-fat foods, like butter-based dinner rolls or cookies first because the fat will help develop a seasoning layer in your stoneware.
Why should stoneware be seasoned?
Seasoning your stoneware allows it to develop a natural non-stick layer in your dish. As your stoneware becomes seasoned over time, it will start to develop a dark brown layer at the bottom. Don’t be tempted to use non-stick sprays in your stoneware though.
How do I choose the right stoneware for my cooking?
Always choose a dish where ⅔ of the surface area is covered with food to prevent your dish from getting exposed to naked heat and possibly cracking during the cooking process.
What are the benefits of baking with stoneware?
Stoneware can be used to bake, brown or roast foods perfectly. Because stoneware absorbs and retains heat evenly, it is great for using to cook foods that need to have a crispy seared crust with juicy moist interiors.
Can stoneware be used for broiling foods?
No stoneware should ever be used on direct heat like on stovetops, grills, or under a broiler.
Do I need to modify my old recipes when cooking in stoneware?
Nope, you are good to go. Use your old recipes as you would normally do. The same type and size of the pan just now you are using stoneware.
Food is sticking to my stoneware pan, what can I do to fix this?
Initially, this tends to happen when starting to use new stoneware dishes because the stoneware isn’t seasoned enough. There is nothing to worry about. With consecutive uses it will develop a non-stick layer and food will stop sticking.
How do I clean my stoneware?
Let the stoneware come to room temperature after being used. Soak it in some warm soapy water to loosen stuck on pieces of food. Using a soft sponge scrub off the food. For stubborn pieces, you may add some baking soda to make removal easier. Wash with running water and dry off with a soft towel.
How durable is Stoneware?
Stoneware is quite a study material for making dinnerware. With proper care and usage, it can last you a long time. However, that being said, it is still susceptible to thermal shock from being moved between extreme temperatures.
Is stoneware still safe to use if I notice a hairline crack/chip on its surface?
No, you need to replace your stoneware ASAP when you notice any chipping or cracking on its surface because now your food can be exposed to the natural trace elements like Lead or cadmium found in the raw clay from which it is made.
I love using stoneware in the kitchen for my baking, quick microwaving, and serving food. It really ticks all the boxes that I look for when choosing things for use in my life.
With proper care, it can really last you a long time.
I hope you found all the tips that I’ve shared above useful and they can help you enjoy your stoneware dinnerware or cookware to the fullest.