At in-person sales and craft festivals I sometimes have people ask me questions about the use and care of their ceramics. Can I bake a casserole in this dish? Can I put this in the dishwasher? Can I heat food in the microwave on this? I get these questions all the time and I’m glad that people buying handmade pots are invested in the care of their ceramics. It shows me that they value the piece enough to want to know its limitations and care for it properly.
This article is meant as a guide for those people who buy my work online. Disclaimer- I cannot speak for the work of other potters. They will be using different clays and glazes that may have more or less imitations than my work. So please defer to the guidelines given by the potter from whom you have bought your pieces.
The first concern about baking in a ceramic dish is common with serving type dishes. For this answer it may be helpful to think about ceramics as glass. It can withstand extreme temperatures but it can only do so by heating and cooling slowly. Even Pyrex glass, which is made for extreme temperature situations, has its limitations when it comes to this. Once my father and I placed a frozen hot dog on a glass pie dish that had been sitting in a 400 degree oven for about thirty minutes. The sound of it shattering made an indelible memory of effects of temperature.
Ceramics even more so than glass needs to heat and cool slowly. I test my clay bodies to make sure they can stand a certain amount of thermal shock. So for instance pouring a hot liquid that is just below boiling into a cold cup should be fine. I have not tested or formulated my clay body for cooking so I don’t recommend this. Some clay bodies are formulated for oven use so again defer to the potter you buy from. It is possible that my pieces could withstand being warmed up with the oven to reheat food. However I have yet to fully test the limits of the clay in this way so I cannot make any guarantees that they will not eventually break as a result of this treatment.
One last word in that regard, heating any ceramic piece with a localized direct flame or heat source is explicitly not recommended. Ceramics expands and contracts as it heats. If this occurs unevenly cracking is almost inevitable. You may come across flameware bodies that can be heated over a direct heat source but they will be clearly marketed as such.
Dishwashing is more of a personal preference. I have known many people to place handmade ceramics in dishwashers and I have not heard of any problems. However, if a pot is particularly precious to you, hand washing is fine. I do not currently have a dishwasher so I also have not put my work to a strict day-to-day test. I very much hope this will not always be the case and I if/when I have a dishwasher I will relate to my readers what my experiences are.
Microwaving has much the same guidelines as dishwashing. I have placed many pieces in the microwave and I have yet to have a problem with it so I can say even more confidently that it shouldn’t be a problem. The only exception is if a pot has any shiny metallic surfaces. This material is known as luster and is usually gold or silver in color. Lusters contain actual metal and it could very well spark if used in the microwave. I don’t currently use any lusters on my functional pieces but if I do in the future they will be labeled. There are potters who have spent a lot of time formulating glazes that have a shiny metallic-like surface such as my friend Matt Fiske, whose blog you can find here. He does not use luster to achieve this effect, so it is possible that these pots would be fine in a microwave.
As always if you have any concerns, contact the potter whose work you have a question about. People who spend the time to make handmade ceramics want you to not only love using the ceramics you buy but also feel confident about how to use it. Please comment below with any questions or clarifications you may want answered about this topic.
Thanks for reading