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Cooking a chicken or duck in unkilned clay (a la Cook's Tour)

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Cooking a chicken or duck in unkilned clay (a la Cook's Tour)

Dylan Yolles | Aug 19, 2002 10:49 PM

On an episode of Anthony Bourdain's Cook's Tour, he shows a Vietnamese dish where a duck is coated with wet, unkilned clay and then put on a hot fire. The fire hardens the clay, the duck cooks inside it. The claim (which I believe) is that the result is extraordinarily juicy and moist.

Now, all of this sounds fascinating, and I am certainly tempted to try it myself. But it also seems fraught with possible problems. Presumably you need a very hot flame (I was thinking perhaps a 150K BTU outdoor butane burner might do). There might be issues with mounting the chicken or duck correctly on the fire, and determining what level of flame is appropriate. It would be difficult to know when the bird was finished cooking, because presumably the clay would have hardened by then. Or, perhaps the clay might not harden at all, which would be disastrous. Or maybe the clay would have some odd sticky toxic substance in it that would make the duck/chicken taste bad and be deadly. Finally, it might be difficult to cleanly remove the chicken from the clay after cooking, and might it need to be rinsed off to remove clay deposits, or is a bit of clay OK to eat? And might one type of clay be better than another for this purpose? And at the end of the day, are the results really that much better than cooking the chicken in a clay pot?

Perhaps all of these are simply western worries. Perhaps if I were Vietnamese, I'd just start a fire, coat a chicken with some clay, thow it on for an hour, and then it would be delicious.

Or maybe not.

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