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With a German name that translates to “Roman pot,” Römertopf embraces European cookware traditions that let modern-day chefs rely on ancient cooking techniques. If you’ve never tried clay-oven roasting or braising, Römertopf’s expertly crafted clay bakers are a must-have for your kitchen. With these simple tools, you can create delicious, juicy roasted meat without adding extra fats or resorting to elaborate brining methods. Römertopf cookware, which is made with locally sourced clay in the company’s German workshop, uses clay’s natural porosity and ability to conduct heat to create uniquely tasty and simple roast dishes. Use this cookware to cook everything from braised pork chops to roasted root vegetables and discover how an unassuming material like clay can revolutionize your approach to oven-baked savory dishes.

Clay is a relatively unusual cookware material in modern kitchens, but it’s been quite common in culinary traditions from all around the world before technological innovations such as the Industrial Revolution made metals such as iron, copper and steel the go-to for roasting pans and Dutch ovens. A lidded clay oven was once a necessity for conducting enough heat to bake bread and roast large cuts of meat, and while we now have home ovens that can handle that job on their own, clay bakers nonetheless retain the same sensible features that made them a go-to for ancient humans on every continent.

Though the concept itself is age-old, Römertopf has created a modern take on this enduring classic ovenware style. Founded in the mid-1900s, Römertopf creates cleverly designed lidded clay pots with external embellishments that make them look and feel luxurious, belying the simple functionality that characterizes their use. Because clay is porous, it can be soaked in water before you add food and put it in the oven. This retained moisture does eventually bake off, but it releases into the closed oven and the closed pot, helping to maintain an ideal atmosphere for moist, juicy dishes.

Using the clay pot is simple, though the ideal technique differs slightly from the approach you would take if using a standard open, metallic roasting pan. If you choose to soak your clay pot, do so before adding your ingredients. After soaking and arranging your ingredients, seal with Römertopf’s carefully designed, tight-fitting lid and place in a cool oven. Preheat the oven with the clay pot inside so the clay can bring its own temperature up with the oven. Because the clay retains heat so well, you can pull it out of the oven a little bit early and let the food finish cooking on your counter to prevent overdoneness. The end result is food unlike any you’ve tasted before, and thanks to the thoughtful glazed interior, your food won’t stick to the pot, allowing you to get every last tasty morsel out of the baker and onto your guests’ plates. Cleanup is a snap, too: both dish and lid are dishwasher safe. Do be careful, however, to avoid transferring your hot baker into cold water, as rapid temperature changes can damage the clay just as it does for most other types of cookware materials.

Once you fit Römertopf’s carefully designed lid onto your cookware, you can simply sit back and relax – or focus on other elements of your meal – while the meat braises in its own juices and whatever other aromatics and liquids you add to the pot. There’s no need to baste or use other techniques to keep the meat moist; the pot will do all that work for you.

Because Römertopf cookware is so unique to use and beautiful to behold, it makes an excellent gift for the home chef who seems to have everything. If you yourself are searching for a new way to shake things up in the kitchen, pick up one of these clay bakers from Williams-Sonoma for your own use, too.