Earthenware refers to pottery which, after firing, is still permeable or porous. It will normally absorb 10-15% of its weight on immersion in water and will not hold water unless the surface is sealed with a glaze. Firing of earthenware pots is normally done at relatively low temperatures, say 1700-1900 degrees Fahrenheit. The easiest way for someone who is not familiar with potter to recognize earthenware is to put a drop of water on an unglazed section of the pot. If it absorbs into the pot quickly the pot is earthenware. Potters will often use their tongue to supply the water and can tell earthenware by whether or not the pot sucks the water away from their tongue.
With regard to functionality, earthenware chips more easily than stoneware but is more resistant to thermal shock. It is also less likely to shatter when dropped than is stoneware or porcelain. Because earthenware will absorb water unless totally encased in a durable glaze, glazes craze more readily on earthenware and they are likely to get extremely hot if used in a microware oven.