Glazed vs. Unglazed Clay Bakers
Posted By: Lisa Times Read: 218
Comparing the Glazed Original ROMERTOPF Clay Bakers to the Unglazed RECO Romertopf Clay Bakers
Are you one of the many people looking for an UNGLAZED Reco Romertopf Clay Baker? If so and you think nothing else will do, then we’re glad you stopped by and hope you’ll read on, as we think you may change your mind after reading this post.
Please note that in this article, I am comparing the Romertopf Clay Baker Made in GERMANY with the GLAZED interior bottom to the RECO COMPLETELY UNGLAZED Clay Bakers Made in MEXICO. Many years ago, the Original Romertopf Clay Baker Made in Germany was completely UNGLAZED and many of these clay bakers are still in use today as they were made to such high quality to last a lifetime with proper care and use. Please follow all instructions that came with your specific Romertopf clay baker on use and care (whether made in Germany or made in Mexico by Reco). With ALL clay bakers that have UNGLAZED tops and bottoms, the top and bottom will need to be soaked prior to each use, while with the GLAZED bottom Romertopf, only the unglazed lid need to be soaked.
Original Romertopf Clay Bakers made in Germany (both glazed and unglazed) will have embossed "Made in Germany" on the bottom.
RECO Romertopf Clay Bakers made in Mexico are completely unglazed and have embossed "Distributed by Reco" on the bottom.
Over the years, we’ve had many inquiries from people looking to find an Unglazed Romertopf Clay Baker, so today I’m going to share with you the differences and similarities as we take a closer look at the these two types of Romertopf clay bakers. We've been selling the Romertopf for over 10 years and know both styles of the Romertopf clay bakers very well. Our knowledge comes from first-hand experience using these two very different, and somewhat similar clay bakers.
First difference: The glazed Romertopf available today is made in Germany and is the ORIGINAL Romertopf, while the RECO Romertopf unglazed clay bakers were manufactured in Mexico by Reco, International under the rights from Romertopf Germany.
Let’s get started a picture of a glazed Original Romertopf and an unglazed Reco Romertopf from the top angle. Both are models 113 - Classic Series Large, 4.2 Quart (4 Quart in the Reco model)
From the photo above, showing the two 113 models with the lids on, there looks to be little difference. They both look similar in design and size. But let’s take a look at another picture this time from a different angle.
Now you can see there is a bit of a difference. The Original Romertopf (pictured on the left) is taller than the RECO unglazed on the right. The Original Romertopf is a 4.2 Quart model, while the Reco Unglazed Clay Baker is a 4 Quart model, still little difference right? One wouldn’t think that .2 Quarts would make that much of a difference, but it really does in the fact that taller lid provides more cooking capacity so larger meats and poultry rarely stick to the lid in the Original Romertopf (depending on the model of course). More importantly, if you could pick each one up, you would quickly feel the difference in the weight and quality. The unglazed clay baker made by RECO (on the right) is much lighter and the clay feels almost “thin” and fragile. The glazed Original Romertopf made in Germany (on the left) feels “thick” and substantial. If you take even a closer look, you will see the clarity in the embossed designs in the Original Romertopf made in Germany, whereas, the similar designs in the Reco Romertopf are not as clear or distinct. (The chalice in the middle stands out to me).
A difference in manufacturers, here’s a bit of history…
RECO Romertopf Clay Bakers were made in Mexico and manufactured by Reco, International under the exclusive brand rights from Romertopf Germany. For many years, Reco, International was the exclusive distributor of the RECO Romertopf Unglazed Clay Bakers for both the United States and Canada as the German-made Romertopf was not available in the United States. While the RECO clay bakers were the only Romertopf available in the U.S. for many years, some consumers who had purchased a true Original Romertopf made in Germany, realized the difference when they had purchased the RECO Romertopf and had a hands-on comparison of the two. Realizing the RECO Romertopf was not the same high-quality baker as its German-made counterpart, they were not happy with their purchase of the Reco clay baker and many returned them for refund. (I know as I did a lot of the refunds!) While Reco manufactured their clay bakers with similar designs and capacities to that of the German-made Romertopf, esthetics could not make up for quality. In addition, there were some products that Reco manufactured only for themselves, such as the French Italian Bread Baker, the standard loaf pan, and the mini bread bakers that were embossed on the bottom with "Reco Romertopf", however these products were never offered by the true Romertopf manufacturer in Germany.
Okay, size is a bit of a difference and so is the manufacturer, but you still prefer unglazed and can’t find one…
Well, the Reco Romertopf unglazed clay bakers aren’t made anymore. Sorry to say, but over the years, the quality of the RECO Romertopf clay bakers seemed to be on a steady decline, with many consumers having their Reco clay pots crack or break even with proper care and use. In 2013, Reco, International lost their brand rights from Romertopf Germany and consequently Reco went out of business. Hence, the complete line of Reco Romertopf clay bakers were discontinued and why it is hard to find them now. These UNGLAZED RECO Romertopf clay bakers were also known as “Nature’s Oven.” Today, you will only find these clay bakers on auction sites and third-party sellers who purchased Reco Romertopf products before they went out of business.
The clay makes a difference…
The clay and blending ratios used in the RECO Romertopf unglazed clay bakers made in Mexico was different than that of German-made clay bakers. The German-made Romertopf is manufactured in the idyllic Westerwald area in Germany (Google it-the area is beautiful!) and the clay used in the Original Romertopf clay bakers is extracted from a specific region, the Ransbach-Baumbach region. It is pure elemental clay that is a very high-quality and blended in a secret ratio to produce a durable and functional work of art, the Original Romertopf Clay Baker. The German-made Romertopf is made to such a high-quality as to last a lifetime with proper care and use while the RECO Romertopf clay bakers may only last a few years before the bakers will develop cracks even with proper use and care.
So why is the German-made Romertopf glazed?
Romertopf of Germany began glazing the interior base of clay bakers many years ago to provide easier cleaning and, more importantly, to avoid the clay bakers from holding bacteria or odors. (nobody wants bacteria in their food!) Because Reco Unglazed clay bakers are completely unglazed, the clay is subject to holding bacteria and odors and should be cleaned with a baking soda or vinegar solution after every use, preferably soaking the clay baker overnight. They are also highly susceptible to mold if they are not allowed to dry thoroughly before storing. From my experience, even with proper cleaning of the Reco Unglazed bakers, I could still smell a roast chicken aroma from a previous meal when baking lasagna or subsequent meals. Not necessarily a good thing. The flavors and seasonings seem to get “trapped” in the clay of Reco clay baker, whereas I have not had that happen with the many, many meals I've cooked in the German-made Romertopf.
But you think you won’t get the same moisture in your food right?
WRONG! The great thing is that the GLAZE IN NO WAY AFFECTS THE PERFORMANCE OF THE ROMERTOPF CLAY BAKER!
A common misconception is that if the clay baker has a glazed bottom, then moisture is not being released into the food. However, the moisture released from the Romertopf clay baker has always come from the lid. Once the clay baker base is filled with ingredients, the only moisture released from the unglazed base during the cooking process is from the exterior of the baker, not into your food. In the German-made Romertopf Clay Baker, the lid remains unglazed and needs to be soaked for about 15 minutes prior to each use. The lid then releases sufficient moisture during the cooking process to provide the superb, moist and tender Romertopf results! The glazed base seems to hold in the moisture better than the unglazed clay pot that eventually dries out during the cooking process.
Is the Glaze Safe?
RӦMERTOPF® Keramik GmbH assures food safety of the transparent glaze as well as food safety of any other material used in the making of the clay bakers. The glaze is NOT a non-stick coating (many non-stick coatings contain harmful chemicals), and occasionally foods may stick to the baker, however, soaking the baker for a half hour or so will usually release any baked-on food particles and the glazed base will clean-up to nearly new condition. The Romertopf has been tested and 100% passed all FDA requirements, California Prop-65, as well as extensive European Food Quality and Safety testing.
So what’s that about bacteria again and cleaning?
Well, let’s take another look at the same two #113 clay bakers from above, this time with the lids removed.
Each of these clay bakers were used ONCE at the same time for a simple 7 lb. roast chicken. While they both roasted the chickens to a flavorful result, there was a slight difference in the moisture retained after cooking was complete. That day I had prepared our Roast Chicken with Sherry recipe with 2-approximately 7 lb. chickens as I wanted to compare unglazed Reco to the glazed Romertopf clay bakers. (I had an unused RECO clay baker from before they went out of business). I soaked the Reco Unglazed bottom and both lids of the 2 models. I put the same ingredients in both bakers, put in the cold oven and set to 425°F. My oven is large, so I was able to fit both bakers side by side on the same shelf so as to make sure the comparison would be accurate. About 45 minutes into cooking, I got an important phone call and knew dinner was going to be delayed, so I turned the oven down to 325°F to let the chickens roast slowly until I was ready. After cooking for 3 hours (yes, I said 3 hours – that’s what I love about the Romertopf, it works regardless of MY schedule!), the chicken in the German Glazed Romertopf, even after 3 hours, was super juicy, moist and delicious! The chicken in the Reco clay pot was dried out a bit when compared to the one cooked in the glazed Romertopf. When looking at the Reco baker, it seemed that both the top and bottom had lost all the moisture after the extended cooking time of 3 hours. I understand that many of you may think that 3 hours is much too long for a roast chicken, but at 325° in a Romertopf, that time shouldn’t be an issue. I do apologize that I don’t have pictures of the two chickens to show you as it was 9 pm by the time I was able to finish dinner and we were all so hungry, especially after smelling the divine aromas filling the kitchen, I wasn’t going to delay dinner any longer to take photos.
So there was a bit of a difference in retaining moisture in the final result, but a big difference in the two clay pots was revealed at cleaning. As you can see, the RECO clay baker (on the right) looks dirty, even though it was soaked overnight and scrubbed quite a few times. The stains in the RECO baker remain after much scrubbing and soaking with a baking soda AND vinegar solution! The chicken skin stuck to the sides of the baker and I had a very hard time trying to get it off and as you can see, the rim area still shows stains as I could not, for the life of me, get it all off! So much scrubbing and soaking and still stains remain. I could try boiling the baker for a deep cleaning, but generally that is done after the baker has been used at least a few times and this baker has only been used once.
Can you clearly see the difference in the Original Romertopf glazed baker on the left? It still looks brand new doesn’t it? This clay baker, as with most all Original Romertopf models, has a slightly larger capacity than the RECO counterpart with many of them having a bit taller lid and a bit deeper base. Even though I had some chicken skin stuck to the sides of the German-made baker (remember the glaze is not NON-stick), the baker cleaned up with ease and looks brand new. And I don’t have to worry about the baker harboring bacteria or odors! Now granted, a glazed Original Romertopf will not always stay looking brand new, the glazed bottom may still look new, but after a few uses, the unglazed lid will start to season, which is a natural occurrence in elemental clay. This seasoning will not affect how the Romertopf performs until it gets heavily seasoned (around 100 uses or so).
I Won’t Go Back to Unglazed…
Really, I won’t! I cook in my glazed Romertopf clay bakers DAILY and I won’t go back to my Unglazed Reco clay bakers, in fact, I’m just going to get rid of my unglazed Reco bakers or use them as terra cotta planters. When I’m ready to make dinner or bake bread, I always reach for my German-made Original Romertopf, for a few good reasons. I have found the results from the German-made Romertopf are better than the results I got from the RECO bakers. For many years, I loved my Reco clay bakers, and as this was the only Romertopf clay baker available on this side of the Atlantic, U.S. consumers didn’t have much of a choice. I honestly can say that the Original Romertopf, in my opinion, is far superior to the Reco Unglazed bakers. The glaze seems to hold the moisture in the baker that is released from the lid during cooking keeping it INSIDE the baker which always results in a tender, moist, flavorful meal, even when the cooking time has been extended to suit my schedule. I’ve roasted chicken, leg of lamb, beef, stews, lasagnas, baked bread, casseroles (this list goes on) with the German-made Romertopf and I don’t smell what I made last night in tonight’s dinner. The German clay does not seem to hold the odors or flavors from one meal to the next the way the Reco bakers did. I only smell the food that is being cooked at the time and it always smells as it should without other “flavors” or aromas from previous meals.
Reheating leftovers? Sure! in the Original Romertopf, but not so easy in the unglazed Reco…
Another thing I love about the Original Romertopf is that once dinner is finished, if there are any leftovers, I simply put the Romertopf in the fridge (letting it cool down to room temp first of course). When I want to reheat them, I let the baker come back up to room temperature, soak the lid, and pop the baker in the oven or microwave. If leftovers have been stored in the Unglazed Reco clay baker, and since the top and bottom of Reco bakers need to be soaked prior to each use, then reheating leftovers is nearly impossible. How do you soak the base of the unglazed clay baker with food in it? Very difficult indeed! Well, I guess you could remove the food to a different container while the base was soaking, but I prefer not to dirty more dishes! With the glazed Original Romertopf clay baker, reheating leftovers is easy since the base does not require soaking.
Making a Home Cook’s Life a Little Easier…
We’re all busy these days, especially this time of year with the Holidays, and I’m thankful that Romertopf of Germany, in nearly 50 years of making the wonderful Romertopf Clay Baker, has always considered how to make the home cook’s life easier. The Original Romertopf Clay Baker is specifically designed to cook a wide variety of foods with minimal effort. So then why should effort be put into the cleaning it and keeping the clay pot sanitary? It shouldn’t. Cleaning the baker should be just as easy as creating delicious, flavorful meals and realizing this concept too, Romertopf began glazing the bottom interior. Romertopf of Germany has been around for nearly 50 years! When a product has been around that long, you know it’s gotta be good! I have found that any changes Romertopf of Germany makes in their products consistently makes them better for all of us.
Well, have I converted you from unglazed clay pots to the glazed Original Romertopf yet? I hope so because I feel so confident in the high quality and superb results of the Original Romertopf that I believe if you were to try the Original glazed Romertopf, you would abandon your search for an unglazed. If you still insist on an unglazed Reco Clay Baker, then I wish you much luck in finding one, my friend. An unused, unglazed Reco Clay Baker is nearly extinct. Sometimes there are reasons why things aren't around anymore.