Cooking with earthware might be an age-old practice, but there’s something about these earthen vessels that still makes them popular today. Clay pots have their own secret of making food taste much better, and their metallic counterparts seemingly can’t find out what it is.
But before you start stocking up on your preferred terracotta cooking pots, it makes sense to examine if these pots are safe for cooking. For instance, you might want to know if they contain harmful elements like lead.
So, do terracotta pots have lead in them? Well, in this article, we’ll take a closer look at terracotta pots and find out if they are, in fact, safe for cooking. So, to find answers to all your questions, keep reading!
Do Terracotta Pots Have Lead In Them?
Terracotta pots can have lead in them, but not all. Clay seldom contains lead, so as long as the pot is unglazed, then it almost certainly will be lead-free. However, if the pot is glazed, then it might have lead in it.
Glazes make the pot more durable and give it a smooth, shiny finish. But the thing is, most glazes contain lead – which means there’s a possibility that the terracotta pot you’re using has lead in it.
And just so you know, lead is highly toxic when ingested. It isn’t something you will want to introduce to your body however small the quantities.
An article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows overexposure to lead may have a significant impact on health.
According to the publication, someone exposed to high levels of lead may experience;
- Memory loss
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain
In severe cases, lead may even cause;
- Kidney and brain damage
Of course, the amount of lead in cooking pots may not be enough to cause these symptoms.
In fact, if several sources are to go by, the lead will only leach to food when you are cooking high acidic foods like tomatoes. So, if you’re cooking with other ingredients, the likelihood of lead leaching is very low.
But there’s another thing to consider here – some studies have shown that even low levels of lead exposure may be harmful, especially to children below 6 years. So, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Is It Safe To Cook In Terracotta Pots?
Yes, it’s safe to cook in terracotta pots, but only if it’s an unglazed pot. If the cookware is glazed, it might have lead element that can leach into food, especially when cooking high acidic foods.
So, to ensure your pot is safe for cooking applications, go for an unglazed one. These pots are usually of pure clay, so they are lead-free – well, for the most part.
On the other hand, if you want to use a glazed pot, buy one labeled ‘lead-free.’ These pots usually don’t lead and other harmful chemicals.
And to be sure that the pot you bought is lead-free, consider purchasing lead-testing kits. The easy-to-use kits allow you to use swabs to test for lead in the pots. If there’s no lead, then you’re good to go.
Benefits Of Terracotta Pots
Terracotta pots have several benefits that make them ideal for various household chores. For instance, they are porous, a feature that makes them just as good for cooking as for other purposes.
Some of the most notable benefits of these pots include;
1. They Are Porous
Terracotta pots are pretty porous. And this is a good thing because it helps them to ‘breathe.’ As a result, the vessel won’t hold on to moisture for too long, so your plants won’t be susceptible to root rot.
When using them as cookware, the porous nature absorbs excess moisture from the food, preventing the food from becoming soggy and keeping it as moist or dry as you like it.
2. They Conduct Heat Well
Another notable thing about these pots is that they conduct heat quite well. So, if you’re using them for cooking, the food will be cooked evenly throughout.
You see, like other clay pots, terracotta pots heat up slowly and release the heat to the contents just as slowly! So, you won’t have to worry about your food getting burnt.
3. The Pots Come In A Variety Of Sizes And Shapes
Terracotta pots come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. So, you can easily find one that is just the right size for your needs.
From small pots that can serve ideally to grow herbs to large ones that are perfect for plants and trees, you’ll find all sorts of terracotta pots to choose from.
4. You Can Use Them Both Indoors And Outdoors
One advantage of terracotta pots is you can use them indoors and outdoors. So, if you want to move your plants around, you can easily do so without worrying about them breaking.
Plus, these pots are generally aesthetically pleasing, so they enhance the look of your décor.
5. They Are Inexpensive
Even with their versatility and beauty, terracotta pots are surprisingly affordable, making them ideal if you’re on a budget. These pots are also quite durable, so you won’t have to replace them soon.
Do Terracotta Pots Mold?
Yes, terracotta pots can mold since their design provides the ideal environment for mold and mildew to grow. Since they are porous, terracotta pots absorb water from the soil, promoting mold growth.
The porous nature of terracotta pots is essential when using the pot for plants or cooking. For instance, when serving as a growing pot for plants, the porosity of the pot regulates moisture and aeration around the roots. That keeps the plants healthy, ensuring they don’t get too much or too little water.
However, it’s also worth mentioning that all about their porosity isn’t rainbow and sunshine. For instance, the porosity of terracotta pots can attract mold more easily than other pot types.
So, if you’re using terracotta pots for your plants, it’s essential to take some mold-prevention measures.
- Avoid overwatering your plants since that will make the pot soggy and promote mold growth.
- Make sure the pot has adequate drainage.
- Ensure there’s good air circulation around the pot.
- Avoid using your terracotta vessel in humid areas.
If you notice mold growing on the pot, scrub it off with a brush and soapy water. That way, you can prevent mold from spreading to other parts of the vessel or your home.
Mold may not do much harm to your plants, especially if it grows on the outside of the pot. But that doesn’t make it any safe. You see, mold spores can be harmful to your health, and you don’t want to take any chances.
So, if you notice mold growing on your terracotta pot, take care of it right away.
Do Terracotta Pots Leak?
Yes, terracotta pots leak. Since they are porous, these pots will slowly release water into the soil. However, the rate at which that happens is too low that you can hardly tell if the pot is leaking.
When we say that something is porous, we mean that it has tiny holes that allow water and air to pass through. That’s why terracotta pots are often used for plants since they can help regulate moisture and aeration around the roots.
However, the same quality that makes terracotta pots great for plants makes them more likely to leak. So, if you’re using these pots for your plants, keep an eye on the soil’s moisture level.
Do Terracotta Pots Fade?
Yes, terracotta pots fade. Over time, the sun will cause the pot to lose its color with time. So, if you want to keep your terracotta pot looking new, it’s best to keep it out of direct sunlight.
The orange-red color you see on terracotta pots comes from iron oxide. And when exposed to sunlight, that compound will slowly break down, causing the vessel to lose its color.
You may notice the pot gaining a crusty, old-world look. Some people prefer the faded look, whereas some prefer their terracotta pots to look brand new.
If you fall in the latter group, keep your terracotta pot out of direct sunlight.
Can Terracotta Pots Be Painted?
You can paint terracotta pots using acrylic or spray paint. So, just in case you’ve noticed that your pot is beginning to lose its aesthetic appeal, you can quickly give it a makeover.
As said, it’s normal for terracotta pots to fade with time, especially when exposed to sunlight. But the good news is, that you can always refresh the look of your terracotta pot by painting it.
You can use acrylic paint or spray paint to give your terracotta pot a new lease of life. But ensure that you clean and use a primer before painting the pot to help the paint adhere better.
Once you finish painting, you can seal the pot with a varnish or polyurethane to protect the paint job. But ensure that you allow enough time before sealing. Leaving the pot for about 24 hours is good, although that mainly depends on the paint you’re using and the outdoor conditions.
Can Terracotta Pots Be Recycled?
Unfortunately, you can’t recycle your terracotta pot. Once it breaks down, you can either repurpose it or throw it away but not put it in the recycling bin. That also applies to cement and ceramic pots.
Recycling is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment. But it’s not always possible to recycle everything.
For example, you can’t recycle terracotta pots since they’re of clay. Once they break, you can’t mold them back into their original form.
The same goes for other materials like cement and ceramic. While you can recycle some ceramic items, you can’t recycle pots and other similar items.
So, if your terracotta pot breaks, you can reuse or dispose of it properly.
Terracotta pots are great for cooking as well as for plants. But before using them as cookware, ensure that the pot is safe. In most cases, glazed terracotta pots may contain lead, which can be harmful if ingested.
So, if you have to get one that won’t expose you to lead, go for an unglazed terracotta pot instead. These pots are just as good as glazed ones and are safe to use. And as usual, always test the pot before using it for cooking to see if it indeed doesn’t contain lead.