How to Season a Japanese Donabe Earthenware Pot

Here at the KyotoFoodie House (also known as Beagle House) I have really been getting into gohan nabe. That is a donabe, earthenware pot, for cooking rice. Gohan is the word for rice in Japanese.

Gohan Nabe: Earthenware Pot for Cooking Rice
Rice cooked in a gohan nabe is noticeably tastier than in an electric rice cooker. Of course electric rice cookers are the norm in modern Japan. But there is a lot interest in gohan nabe recently, especially among the younger generation. The gohan nabe is different from a regular donabe in that it has an inner and outer lid. Any donabe needs to be seasoned before its first use.

I have noticed from comments and search access keywords that there is a fair amount in interest in donabe and gohan nabe among foodies abroad now. We have a good discussion going on in our Kyoto Support forum about how to season a donabe.

I thought that it would be useful to make a demonstration video on how to season a donabe as well.

Video: How to Season a New Donabe

Steps to Season a Donabe
Seasoning is done by boiling cooked rice in the donabe until it becomes a thick porridge. This fills microscopic pores in the donabe and will help to prevent breakage and damage by heat.

  • Fill the donabe to about 80% with water then add cooked rice.
  • The amount of cooked rice should equal about 1/5 of the volume of water. A little more rice is said to be better than less.
  • Simmer gently over until the rice forms a thick porridge. This took me about an hour. Be careful not to cook it down so much that it burns.
  • Allow donabe and porridge to cool to room temperature and then discard. Don’t leave to porridge in for more than a few hours.
  • Wash and wipe well. Allow to dry overnight before first use.

Donabe Maintenance

  • All donabe accumulate hairline cracks with use.
  • When not in use never cover a dobane if it is not completely dry inside.
  • Avoid mold developing inside the donabe.

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14 Responses to “How to Season a Japanese Donabe Earthenware Pot”

  1. Brenda says:

    Do you wash the donabe with soapy water, or simply water?

  2. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Brenda, I used dish detergent. Donabe are just like any other ceramic, very, very hard. They just need to be seasoned for heating.

  3. tangentbot says:

    I’ve been using my unseasoned donabe for years without incident… would I still benefit from seasoning them now?

  4. Mora says:

    Congratulations on adding this video to your site, it’s nicely done. I can now refer my friends here rather than instructing them over and over. Not that I mind spreading the word about gohan donabes.

  5. Peko Peko says:

    Hello tangentbot, Ah, yes. Actually I used my first 3 donabe pots without seasoning without incident and they seem fine. I would think think that if you have used them for years you have got the seasoning effect on them through and through.

  6. […] in a Donabe article here for lots of details and explanation. Also, we have an article and video on How to Season a Donabe if you have a new […]

  7. Kerrut says:

    Hi there, I saw in the video you used wet rice to season the donabe. Is that a serious necessity for filling the cracks in the donabe, or will dry rice suffice? And if I do use dry rice will I have to let it cook for longer to get to the “porridge rice” stage?

  8. Marc Foo says:

    Can you recommend a place in Kyoto to get a small Donabe pot? Thanks!

  9. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Kerrut, Sorry, I thought that Miwa replied to your question a long time ago. I know she researched it. I will ask her to reply soon.

    Hello Marc Foo, Please check out the donabe in the photo near the bottom of this KyotoFoodie article.

    I got that donabe at Tachikichi, on Shijo Street, about halfway between Kawaramachi and Karasuma Streets. Tachikichi is very famous, but in my mind, not the kind of Kyoto company that I want to introduce and recommend to the world.

    I bought this donabe a year or two ago, so they may not have it in stock now. If you bring a print out of the photo to show them, they might be able to order it.

    I don’t know where this donabe is from, but I like it very much and it is the perfect for cooking for one or two. Also, it wasn’t that expensive, less than 10,000 yen, I think.

    We are in the process of making opening an online store and plan to offer some excellent donabe. Check back in a month or so if you can’t find one that you like in Kyoto.

  10. KK says:

    Hi, this video is very helpful however I was wondering if I could use the earthenware on electric hob. Unfortunately I only have an electric hob but missing the taste of gohan and all sorts of other dishes that the pot can magic up.

  11. Patti V says:

    Thanks for the very helpful video. I too want to cook on an electric stove as KK above. Do I need to use one of those metal rings that are supplied with glass tea pots, or is it OK to put the donabe pot right on the burner?

    Aloha, Patti V

  12. mark rockwell says:

    i have some very old donabe cookware over 100 years old with with designs on both,would like to find out more about them.Can you help me.

  13. blkprnc says:

    My donabe is developing a black crust inside. Should I leave it or try to scrub it out?

  14. Dear Mark, Sorry. I missed your comment. I don’t know if I can help you but it certainly sounds interesting. Please feel free to send more info!

    Hello blkprnc, All the donabe I have seen in restaurants are do not have any kind of crust inside. That must be from burning. My experience is that once you get that crust in there it is easier to stick and burn. I always scrub mine out the best that I can. By the way, one of my donabe has a few black specks that I have not been able to scrub clean. Let us know how it goes.

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