The Kalan, also known as a Kalan de Uling, Ulingan, or Pugon, is a traditional earthenware stove used in the Philippines together with the Palayok to cook over fire. It can be used with charcoal or wood fed through the hole in the front and the Palayok placed on the top. Its name is derived from the Filipino term “uling” which means “charcoal”.
Today, even though gas and electric stoves are prevalent in the modern kitchen, some “pinoys” like to go back to the basic and use the Kalan due to the fact that the cooking over burning of wood or charcoal adds a different smell and flavor to the food.
How we measure
As with most handmade products by artisans around the world, the pieces may have slight imperfections in the form or finish of the materials. Sometimes sizes of same model pieces may also vary slightly, however, these imperfection do not compromise the aesthetics or functionality of the pieces and are considered normal and to be expected.
A Kalan can be used with wood or charcoal.
To use with wood:
Remove the “strainer-looking” divider inside the chamber of the Kalan. This divider is for use with charcoal and without it the flame go directly to the pot.
The best wood to use in a Kalan are smaller twigs or branches. Larger pieces are harder to fit in the Kalan and harder to handle. Choose branches that are dried which creates less smoke and less creosote. You can use either hardwoods or softwood. Hardwoods are denser and produce a hotter and longer burn and favored for bar-b-ques, however and softwoods are less dense and easier to burn in a Kalan.
Begin by building the fire inside the Kalan using newspaper or small bits of kindling. Avoid using petroleum fuels including charcoal starters.
Once the fire begins, add the wood through the front hole letting the pieces catch fire. At the start, feed the fire smaller pieces of wood, gradually increasing the size.
You can control the heat by adding more or less wood, depending on your cooking needs.
To use with charcoal:
Make sure that the “strainer-looking” divider inside the chamber of the Kalan is in place. This divider will keep the charcoal elevated allowing it to breath as well as letting the ashes fall to the bottom of the Kalan.
Choose the type of charcoal you will use. Basically there are two main types of charcoal, hardwood lump and briquettes. Hardwood lump made from real hardwood and it burns hot, is natural, and more importantly, imparts flavor on foods. Charcoal briquettes are typically cheaper made from densely packed sawdust, and are more predictable and longer-burning than Lump. Since they aren’t 100 percent wood, they are a less natural option and normally do not impart flavor to the food, unless laced with hardwood chips.
To start a charcoal fire do not use petroleum fuels including charcoal starters as it might impart unwanted flavors to the food. The best way to start the fire is to use a chimney starter. To do so, fill the chimney starter with the appropriate amount of briquettes and place the chimney on a nonflammable surface, place newspaper underneath, and light the paper.
Let the fire burn undisturbed until the charcoals are covered in white ash, about 30 minutes.
Carefully place the coals inside the Kalan on top of the divider using a pair of tongs. Use oven mitts to protect your hands. You can then place the Palayok on top of the Kalan to begin your cooking.
If the charcoal begins to die down before your cooking is done, simply remove the Palayok and add more lite or un-lite charcoals. You can control the amount of heat by adding more or less charcoals, depending on your cooking needs.
Be careful when handling the Kalan and try to not touch or move it once a fire has been started in it as it will get very hot. It is not recommended to use the Kalan indoors as the burning ambers (especially charcoal) can be dangerous. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area; and do not use charcoal in enclosed areas. If outdoors, avoid placing the Kalan where the wind can spread the ashes to flammable materials. Do not put a hot Kalan directly on top of or around any highly-inflammable surfaces. For your safety, use protective mitts when handling the Kalan.
The Kalan requires very little care. Simply remove the ashes after each use to avoid ash buildup. If you like, you can rinse out the Kalan allowing it to cool completely before washing as rapid swings in temperature may crack the clay. Never store a hot Kalan as it may cause a fire.