When it comes to choosing your first donabe, there are several important factors to consider. Donabes come in different shapes, sizes and materials, so it’s important to know what you want to use. That’s why Don Abe has put together this first-time buyer’s guide – to help you find the best beginner donabe for your kitchen.
What stove do you use?
The biggest question before you purchase a donabe hot pot is what type of stove you have in your home. Donabes are traditionally made of clay and are intended to be used on flame stoves, like gas stoves or barbecues. Unfortunately, this means that most donabes cannot be used with an induction stove, because the heat from an induction plate does not distribute as evenly through the clay. Luckily, the geniuses at Kinto have invented a kind of donabe that works just as well on an induction stove as on an open flame.
Induction heating donabes
The Kinto Kakomi range features a design of donabe for induction surfaces, meaning you can make a delicious donabe hot pot on a portable stove in no time at all. The Kakomi induction-plate donabes are available in 1.2 litre or 2.5 litre sizes.
All Japanese donabes are designed to withstand high heats, which means that you can use them directly over an open flame. This could be a gas stove, a barbeque, or a small camp stove. They are also oven-proof, microwave-proof, and many can be stored safely in the fridge.
All donabes can be used to make tasty one-pot meals. Japanese hot-pot is a great idea, of course. But you can also make tagines and French stews, too, and some donabes let you steam vegetables as you cook. There’s even a donabe that specialises in smoking meat and vegetables. Picking a donabe is thus also a matter of picking a cooking style that works for you.
The traditional use for a Japanese donabe is making donabe hot-pot, so almost all donabes can make very fine stews. But for all-around versatility, you can’t beat the Ime-Yu, from igá-monó. It’s just as happy in the oven, on a barbecue, or on a gas stove. It comes in the classic Kyoto-style donabe shape, which means it’s ideal for quick simmering and sharing meals around the table.
Steaming is a healthy way to prepare meat and vegetables, as it keeps the nutrients locked in. Traditionally, Japanese chefs steam quickly and lightly, so that the original flavours stay present. Steaming donabes, like the Mushi Nabe from igá-monó, or Kinto’s Kakomi, have a removable steaming plate. They’re just as capable of preparing classic donabe hotpots too.
Developed in 2010, the Kamado-san rice-cooker from igá-monó has become an instant classic in Japan. Rice cooked in a Kamado comes out extra shiny and fluffy because of the way in which moisture stored in the ceramic is gradually released during the cooking process. Like with the steamers, the rice-cooking lid can be removed so that you can use the donabe to make a soup or stew. Or if you’d like to keep it in, it also can be used as a pressure cooker.
igá-monó’s renowned Ibushi Gin has been a gift for people who want to achieve the delicate, smoky flavours of a barbecue without the space requirements of an actual barbecue. However, because its main use is to be filled with burning wood, we would recommend against using it for non-smoking purposes.