This post is sponsored by Le Creuset.
Colorful, shapely, and durable, stoneware elevates everyday meals. Cooks have used it for centuries, and it still has an elemental appeal.
From oven to table, it makes even the humblest casseroles feel luxurious. If you’re new to baking in stoneware, you’re in for a treat.
WHAT IS STONEWARE?
Stoneware is earthenware—clay—fired at a high temperature, which makes it more durable. It’s resistant to chipping and it holds heat beautifully.
You’ll find stoneware in all sort of sizes, shapes, and colors. The stoneware used in most modern kitchens is glazed, and that’s what we’re focusing on here.
WHY BAKE IN STONEWARE?
There are plenty of baking dishes out there, from metal to glass. What’s so great about stoneware?
- Versatility: Stoneware is dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe, and oven-safe. It can go from the freezer to the oven. Some styles can even go under the broiler. And unlike glass, there’s no need to adjust your baking temps.
- Ease of use: Good-quality stoneware has a glaze so smooth and strong it’s nearly nonstick. Cooked foods release with ease, and cleanup is a breeze.
- Resilience: You don’t need to handle stoneware delicately. From dishwasher to cupboard to oven, you’d have to work really hard to scratch, crack, or chip any of it.
- Ability to hold heat: Stoneware holds heat very well and distributes it evenly. If you like the browned corner pieces of casseroles and gratins, stoneware is for you! Not just that, but stoneware’s superior heat retention makes it perfect for oven-to-table serving, keeping your food warm for meals.
- Curb appeal: The things we use every day should offer functionality, but there’s utility in cheer and beauty, too. Le Creuset stoneware, in particular, offers an enticing palate of colors. In the kitchen and at the table, those pops of color perk up your food and your mood.
TIPS FOR COOKING WITH STONEWARE
Here are a few more tips and tricks for working with stoneware. We mention Le Creuset in particular here; if you’re using a different type of stoneware, be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Can stoneware go under the broiler? Not all stoneware can go under the broiler, but Le Creuset can, as long as it’s at least 2-1/2 inches away from the heat source. This means you can get those nice, bubbly tops on gratins and your favorite macaroni and cheese.
- Freezer-to-oven! Into freezer meals? Le Creuset stoneware can also go from the freezer to the oven—the key is that it’s a cold oven. Put the frozen dish in the cold oven and then set the temperature, so the dish and the oven heat together.
- Avoid direct heat: Most stoneware is not made for direct heat—don’t use it on a burner or grill.
Choosing between round, oval, square, or rectangular dishes isn’t rocket science, but there are a few considerations:
- Corners: Love browned, crispy corner pieces? Then you’ll want a square or rectangular dish. Round baking dishes won’t give you as much of the crispy edges that you desire.
- Depth: Do you like crusty tops, or custardy centers? Round, deep dishes will give you creamier, oozier middles. Deeper dishes often take longer to bake. Shallower dishes, meanwhile, will create more surface area—perfect if you like browned and crunchy tops. They tend to bake faster.
- Presentation: Switching up the shape really does make a difference in how you perceive the finished recipe once it’s on the table. There’s something elegant about oval dishes, while dishes with corners have a more casual feel. The classic French gratin dish is oval, for instance; if you bake a gratin in a square pan, it seems homier.
PUT A LID ON IT
Some stoneware comes with lids, and some does not. When is a lid an advantage?
- Storing leftovers: If you have leftovers, just pop the lid on your cooled dish and stick it in the fridge.
- Transport: Lids do a great job of keeping food warm if you’re taking it to a potluck. You can cover the dish with foil and then the lid for a one-two punch of insulation.
- Protection from over-browning: A long bake time can make the top of a cake or casserole quite dark, or result in a dry texture. Some recipes call for covering during all or part of the bake time.
- More curb appeal: Lids are cute, let’s face it.
No lid? No worries! Foil is a great lid. If you’re covering a dish for most of its baking time, we recommend greasing the foil so any cheese or other gooey ingredients don’t stick once you remove it.
SIZE, CAPACITY, AND CONVERSIONS
Some recipes call for a dish with a specific capacity—say, a 2-quart casserole—and some call for a dish with specific dimensions, like a 9×13 dish. If you don’t know the size or capacity of your dish, how you tell if a recipe will fit?
- Look it up: Manufacturer’s websites will tell you the capacity and dimensions of specific baking dishes.
- Measure the volume: Fill the dish with water all the way to the top, and then pour out the water into a liquid measuring cup. This will tell you its capacity. If it’s 2-1/2 quarts, then a 2-quart recipe will probably work in there just fine.
- Measure the length, width, and height. Because most baking dishes are fluted on the sides and therefore not exact rectangles, this method is imperfect, but it can give you a general idea. Measure the length, width, and height of the dish, measuring from its the inside edges (not the outside). Multiply those three numbers together and you’ll get its volume. (For instance, an 11-1/2” x 7-3/4” x 2-3/4” dish has a capacity of 245 cubic inches. A 9” x 13” x 2” has a capacity of 234 cubic inches. Swapping one of those dishes for the other is likely a safe bet.)
Last but not least, see the chart below. We did the conversion work for you!
CONVERSION RULES OF THUMB
Any time you do a dish swap, be mindful of the baking time. It may very well be a little shorter or longer than the recipe says.
It’s better to use a larger dish than called for versus a smaller dish. No one wants an overflow situation—particularly if it means any spillover burning on the bottom of the oven.
Doubling or halving recipes often will work, but you want to think of two factors: depth and surface area. Those will affect the baking time and consistency of your recipe.
CLEANING AND CARE FOR STONEWARE
A smooth, sturdy glaze is your friend here. Le Creuset stoneware’s strong glaze is nearly nonstick and extremely hard. Besides a plastic-bristled brush or scrubby sponge, you shouldn’t need any special tools.
Melted or burned cheese on your casserole? Fill the cooled dish with soapy hot water and let it soak 10 to 20 minutes. That alone will resolve 95% of your cleanup issues.
You can use metal utensils to cut on the surface of your stoneware, but they can leave marks on the glaze. To get rid of those, a small sprinkling of a mild abrasive (such as Bar Keeper’s Friend) in the afflicted area should do it. Amazingly, it won’t leave any scratches.
STORING YOUR STONEWARE
If you have multiple dishes, you can stack them and not fret about scratches. To prevent them toppling over, it’s best not to stack baking dishes more than two or three high. If there’s a lid, you can invert it and store it in the casserole with the knob or handle facing down, creating a stackable upper surface.
TRY THESE CASSEROLES!
Got a yen to bake comforting casseroles and desserts now? Try these!