On stoneware, other pottery

Burning questions

March 15, 2006|By ERICA MARCUS | ERICA MARCUS,NEWSDAY

What is stoneware and why is it so popular? Is it a better conductor than metal or ceramic bakeware?

Pottery, that is vessels that are made of fired clay, can roughly be divided into three categories: stoneware, porcelain and earthenware.

Stoneware is fired at a high temperature (about 2,185 degrees) which makes it very hard, durable and impervious to water. It is vitreous or semivitreous, though still opaque. Porcelain can be classified as a type of vitreous stoneware, one in which very fine clay becomes translucent when fired.

Earthenware is fired at a relatively low temperature (about 1,915 degrees) and, depending on its glaze, is often not impervious to water. It is more likely to chip and break than stoneware and cannot withstand the range of temperatures that stoneware can. Earthenware is sometimes called ceramicware and is usually lighter and cheaper than stoneware. Some earthenware can be used in the oven or microwave, but it is used more often as serving pieces than as cookware.

Stoneware may not conduct heat any better than earthenware, but it can withstand heat and cold better. When you see cookware that can go from the freezer to the oven to the microwave, chances are you are looking at stoneware.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday.

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