Chinese clay pot

Different types of cooking pots



The various types of cooking pots used in Chinese kitchen

While the wok reigns supreme in every Chinese kitchen, stir-frying is by no means the only cooking method; one-pot dishes are common among rural Chinese families in colder regions. Various types of cooking pot play important roles in preparing stocks, stews and braised dishes. A good stock is vital to Chinese soups, and the wok’s open shape and rapid evaporation rate make it unsuitable for stock making.

Chinese cooking potsDouble-Boiler

This ancient Chinese utensil is much like a French bain-marie, and used for slow simmering and stewing; this model is enamel. A single-handled lower container (for water) is fitted with a slightly smaller upper container (for the food to be cooked), which has with its own handle and a tight-fitting lid. In ancient times in China, it was used strictly for herbal stews that required long, slow and gentle cooking from an indirect heat source. Today, such pots are widely used in Southeast Asia for sweet coconut custards.


Soups and stocks play important roles in Chinese cuisine, so large conventional cooking pots, much the same as those used in Western kitchens, are necessary. The most basic pot used would be a plain aluminium one; however, today they are largely of modern design and made of stainless steel.

Hunan Pot

Originating from the province of Hunan, these finely crafted delicate clay or terra-cotta pots with a funnel in the centre are typically used for festive rituals. They were originally used for serving medicinal brews and herbal soups that only well-to-do families could afford. Hunan pots are not robust enough to be placed over direct heat, and so herbal soups are poured into them after being cooked in other pots.

Chinese clay potClay or sand pots

These glazed or unglazed lidded pots need gentle handling, as they crack easily under intense heat. They can be used directly on an electric ring or ceramic hotplate, but not over a gas fire (a heat-diffusion mat can help to prevent cracking). Clay pots serve as an oven-to-table utensil when food must be presented piping hot or still sizzling. The best way to do this is to cook the dish in a wok, then transfer it to a clay pot that has been preheated in a very hot oven for 30 minutes. Always use a wooden spoon with clay pots.