Donabe is one of my favorite pots in the kitchen. I own four. The oldest one I have is small donabe inherited from my grandmother, which I use to make Yutofu (Tofu nabe). One block of tofu is about all that I can fit in that one. But with the others, I have made all sorts of donabe dishes, including the popular Chanko Nabe.
If you treat donabe properly, it can last a lifetime, and I don't mind that they take up a lot of space in my small kitchen because they are so beautiful to look at. Just yesterday, I bought a new donabe to cook rice. It's huge for a small family like mine but I can use it when I have company and for teaching my upcoming Onigiri class, at Tortoise in Venice, where they also sell these pots.
I also own an electric rice cooker but the Iga-yaki style double lidded donabe makes really beautiful rice. (See my story on donabe rice cooking in the LA Times.
One thing you have to remember though is to treat the donabe pot with tender, love and care. It is a clay pot after all. it looks and feels solid but it is more delicate than a metal pot. Before use, wash it, turn it over and let it completely dry. If you don't dry the bottom of the pot completely before each use, the pot can crack.
Flip it over to dry.
The pot needs to be seasoned before you starting cooking with it. Take some cooked rice and water, and make a porridge to seal the clay pot. For the 5 cup donabe rice cooker, I used 2 cups of cooked rice and enough water to fill it 3/4 of the way up. I cooked the rice over low heat for about an hour. Then I let it sit overnight. This morning, I discarded the porridge. Now I am ready to start using it.
Donabe pot being seasoned with leftover cooked rice and
buckwheat groats porridge. I like mixing rice with other grains.
After you throw out the porridge, wash the pot, and remember to dry it completely before you use it again.
Then you can put it back on the shelf and admire it like I do.