If you've read The Kitchn for any length of time, you know that I am a big fan of beans. But not just any old beans — fresh, heirloom dried beans that have rich flavor and meaty texture. I like to keep a big pot of beans around in the winter for lunches and weeknight dinners. But I have been curious for a long time about clay pot cooking. Clay pots are supposed to be the very best vessel for cooking beans; supposedly they impart a smoky, richer flavor. So when I got a piece of black clay La Chamba cookware, I gave it a try! Here are the results.
La Chamba Cookware
We are pretty big fans of Chamba, here at The Kitchn. What is La Chamba cookware? It's a line of black clay pots, bowls, and other cookware made in Colombia using traditional methods. All the pottery is made in the village of La Chamba, and it is made from natural clay mined in the area. Each piece is handmade, and burnished with stones for a smooth finish. They are not glazed; the black color comes from the way they are fired in the kiln.
This clay construction may appear more delicate than traditional metal pots and pans, but it's quite resilient. It can be used on the stovetop and in the oven. The only caution is that you need to avoid rapid changes in temperature; don't heat a pot over the stove, then run it under cold water, for instance.
We love the organic, hand-crafted shape, and the beauty of the soft black color (after all, black is the new white, on the table!) and also the natural properties of clay. See, clay is much more porous than metal, so when you cook in unglazed clay cookware, heat and moisture circulate better, and the fired clay imparts a smoky flavor to the food.
I was especially curious about beans — were they really better cooked in a clay pot?
Cooking Beans in a Clay Pot
The short answer is: Yes! I made a big batch of adzuki and navy beans in my Chamba pot last week, and the flavor was richer, deeper, and better than my usual batches of beans.
First, though, before I could cook the beans, I had to season the cookware. This was quite easy: You fill the pot with water, and place it in the oven for half an hour. This helps the surface become truly nonstick.
Then I placed the newly-seasoned pot on my gas stove, and cooked a little onion and celery and bacon with the beans, then filled the pot with water and brought it to a boil. Then I put the lid on and put it in the oven. A couple hours later, tender meaty beans with so much flavor. Now, the bacon of course helped; they wouldn't have been so smoky without that! But I noticed a real difference from other times when I've used bacon in the beans; there was an earthy, lovely flavor that seemed to be from the pot.
Apart from that, it was also just such a lovely vessel to cook and serve beans from. My only criticism of these pots is that the handle on the lid is so small as to be non-functional; I actually burned myself when trying to remove the lid to check the beans in the oven. It's very hard to grasp the small, slippery knob, especially with a hot pad.
Other than that, I really can't recommend these lovely pots strongly enough. They are a rustic, practical multi-use style of cookware.
• Find La Chamba La Chamba cookware can be bought in many places, but perhaps the largest selection is at Toque Blanche. Prices range from $11 for small pieces to $170 for an extra-extra-large roaster.
More on Beans & Clay Pot Cooking
• A Pot of Beans: 10 Tasty Ways to Cook Beans
• How To Cook Beans: A Fast, Foolproof, No-Soak Method
• Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo
• Recipe Basics: How to Cook Beans in the Slow Cooker
• Product Review: Chamba Cookware
Do you use Chamba or any other sorts of clay pots or cookware? What do you like to cook in them?
Related: Tabletop Trends: Is Black the New White?
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Faith Durand)