Awhile back I read about in a fictional book a person who had no cooking utensils placed a gutted, cleaned fish in clay and baked it, and afterwards broke the pottery on the outside to get the fish out. If someone were to really do that

A) would it work? If so how long would it take?

B) What would the benefits of doing so be over skewering the fish and cooking it over an open fire? and

C) What would its flavor be like (i.e. would the clay impart any flavor in and of itself above any beyond any seasonings used on it)?


2 Answers 2


Baking fish in clay is like baking the fish in an impromptu duch oven: it keeps the moisture inside the meat, unlike roasting the fish on a skewer.

The clay should impart only very little flavour. If you use the clay directly on the fish, the skin typically sticks to the clay and is removed with the clay. Other methods wrap the fish in large leaves first and then in clay. Hay is also used occasionally, also for flavour. In all cases, the clay won't actually touch the bits you eat.

As for cooking times, this varies greatly, depending on

  • the size of the fish
  • the thickness of the clay layer
  • the heat and position in, on or next to the fire.

Sources vary from "ten to fifteen minutes on each side" (small trout in 1/2 inch of clay, right in the embers (1)) to "up to three hours" (2 inch thick clay layer, baked in heated stones and covered with soil (2)). The clay layer should be totally solid by the time the fish is done and depending on the type of clay, might show some cracks.

  • 2
    Side note: Wrapping in clay is a method that also works for other meat, like chicken and hedgehog. Both can even be baked unplucked / unskinned with the feathers or spines remaining stuck in the clay layer.
    – Stephie
    Feb 11, 2017 at 19:51
  • 1
    I have successfully used sticky mud (not quite enow clay in it to be called clay) to wrap the fish and cook it in coals (buried), From experience, wrapping in leaves first is recommended for mud as it has a tendency to crumble when dry and leave particles stuck to the skin/flesh. Feb 11, 2017 at 23:02
  • 2
    Cooking in clay is actually a traditional Chinese technique. Check out the recipe for Beggar's Chicken
    – slebetman
    Feb 12, 2017 at 3:11
  • 1
    @slebetman, cooking in clay goes way back to neolithic times and is still used in many cuisines, not just Chinese.
    – Stephie
    Feb 12, 2017 at 16:54
  • @wumpusD'00m : The leaves can also affect the taste. Many of the buried pork recpies (hawaiian kalua pig, mexican puerco pebil, etc.) use banana leaves for the flavor. I suspect if you were to use pine bows, it might not protect as well, but you'd get a more turpentine ... I mean rosemary-like ... quality to it.
    – Joe
    Feb 12, 2017 at 18:51

Yes & chickens. You need a white clay. Or here you do. Gut fish or chicken. Stuff with wet grass not to tight. Dig round hole in sand. Start fire in hole. Let burn to coals. Add a little more dry wood. While doing this prepare your clay. Should be like molding clay by adding water. Wrap fish or bird in clay 2 inch's thick. Place on coals. add some rocks around it & 2 metal pipes 1 to each side for vents. Next cover with sand. The vent pipes let some air in so coals burn slow. Cook 4 hours. Dig up. Clay should be baked like pottery. Lay on flat rock. Hit with other rock by hand to break clay. Pull clay loose. this will remove the skin on fish or feathers & skin on a chicken. Living in a land were only 50% of the people have electric refrigeration 25%. It is better to take a live bird or fresh caught fish. Than eat spoiled meat in the tropics. So this is still done here on outings.

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