Caring for Chamba

Black clay Chamba cookware is well-known throughout Colombia and is used in restaurants and homes for preparing and serving traditional dishes (such as a Ajiaco). Its origins can be traced back at least 700 years to vases and pitchers found in pre-Columbian archaeological sites. It is still made in the traditional manner, by families in the village of La Chamba, on the banks of the Magdalena River in Central Colombia. Each piece is hand-crafted using local clays, burnished by hand and fired on-site. The painstaking process and natural materials give the dishes an authentic, distinctive and elegant look, yet Chamba is strong enough to use on the stovetop, oven or microwave. Chamba cookware heats evenly and is renowned for retaining heat. Cooking with clay creates food that is healthier, tastier and moister!


Chamba cookware is practical as well as beautiful and is ideal for cooking and serving. It can be used in the oven, in the microwave and on the stovetop (many recommend the use of an inexpensive heat diffuser when using it on an electric range). Do not expose your Chamba to sudden changes in temperature—such as moving it directly from the refrigerator to the oven, placing it in a hot oven (don’t pre-heat the oven), or placing it on a cold surface when it is hot.


Before you use your clay Chamba cookware for the first time, the piece should be filled three-quarters full with water and placed uncovered in an oven for 30 minutes at 400ºF. This usually seals the cookware, although a complete seal is sometimes achieved only after it has been used several times for cooking. Boiling milk in the vessel may help if it is still found to be too porous, but this is rarely necessary. All of the cookware and tableware can be used over any direct source of heat, including an open fire. Over time you will notice changes in color of the pot from exposure to the heat source.


After it has been seasoned, Chamba cookware cleans easily. A quick soak and wipe down with a sponge or soft cloth is all you need to clean it. Cleaning in the dishwasher or use of abrasive cleaners is not recommended, nor should you soak your Chamba for long periods of time.


There are no toxins used in the production of La Chamba dishes. The pieces are not glazed and there is no lead found in the clay. The black color comes from the firing process and the smooth finish of the pieces is the result of painstaking hand-burnishing with stones. 


Small imperfections in the finish and flecks of minerals in the clay are due to this handmade process and materials and can be considered a characteristic of the pottery. Mica in the surface gives the cookware the ability to heat evenly and not crack under temperature changes. Lids are made individually for each piece, but do not always fit perfectly as the lid may shrink at a different rate from the pot during firing. Because the pieces are handmade (sometimes by different artisans) dimensions will vary from piece to piece.