Ollas de Barro

Do you have any clay cooking pots – ollas de barro? They are inexpensive, not-too-durable but once you have seasoned them, your favorite recipe will come out tasting better than ever before. Now, a lot of my friends worry about using them… stories of lead poisoning frighten them away. I’m sure there is some metal in the glaze but I’ve cooked in these pots for decades and have not suffered any ill effects. I believe this is because I followed my mother-in-law’s instructions for proper preparation.

Doña Bertha says there are certain steps that must be taken to ensure your barros are safe. You need to undertake the “seasoning” I spoke of in the preceding paragraph. And, I don’t mean a sprinkling with salt, pepper and herbs!

When you bring a new pot home, wash it in lots of soapy water, rinse and then allow it to completely dry before seasoning. 

To season, coat the entire inside of the pot with cooking oil (you don’t need to use a high quality oil). Put the pot over a medium flame for about 15 minutes or until it begins to smoke.  Remove the pot from the heat and wipe it as clean as possible with paper towel. Allow it to cool, and then repeat the process about three more times. You will be able to see the pot is seasoned when it has a nice shiny patina. My mother in law told me that this procedure removes the lead and that it “seals” the surface. If your barro is well seasoned, your food will not stick and you’ll notice the special flavor it gives to food…  Here are a few tips for the proper care of your barros.

After a few months, the surface may start losing the sheen. Repeat the whole seasoning method.

One thing I never do is to put anything really acidic in the pots like orange juice, ceviche,  or chile.

Do not bang the pots they will crack easily, especially if they are hot. And once they crack, you can no longer use them to cook in.

Don’t put the hot pots into water, again, this will cause them to crack.

But the good news is… cracked barros make great plant pots!


Filed under Vida Latina

10 responses to “Ollas de Barro

  1. Ted Dascoli

    I just purchased a cazuela de barro from Mexico on line. It has no seasoning instuctions. The inside is glazed, but not the outside. Aren’t you supposed to soak it over night and let it dry before putting the oil? I wish it was as beautiful as the one pictured here. It looks more like a 5th grade art class project lol. But as long as it works.

    • I have never soaked the barro… I just put lots of oil and heat it over medium heat until it smokes… let it cool then, remove the oil and repeat the process at least three more times. After the final cooling, wash the barro in warm sudsy water. let it air dry (this takes a while) and that’s it

  2. Nancy

    I am trying to find out where I can purchase some small cazuelas in Merida. I looked all over in March, asked at the mercado, was pointed in different directions but never did find any. I want to buy some little ones like queso fundido or salsa is served in, and a couple maybe 6-8″ wide. Does anyone know where I can go within Centro to buy them? I’ll be there in March.

    • On the Avenida Technologico, there is a little puesto by the side of the road, on your right as you are going south into Merida, where they have a huge selection of beautiful clay pots, talavera, eye dazzlingly beautiful items from Puebla.

      • Yes, I was going to mention this but as the reader asked for places in el Centro, I thought better of it. But yes, it is a good one. There are two more. One is close to Clinica Merida and the other is on Circuito Colonias near the Tamlum glorieta

  3. Barb

    Thanks for this information. I’m going to print it out for future reference.

  4. I’ve admired these from afar just because I did not know how to properly season them! Many thanks to you and Doña Bertha for showing me the way. It’s very similar to seasoning my much used cast iron skillets!

  5. I too have had great tasting results from cooking in a barro pot. But thanks for the seasoning information, it makes good sense, and I am sure will help preserve the pot. Elizabeth

  6. I love my ollas de barro, or cazuelas. I too followed doña Bertha’s advice and seasoned mine in the time honoured tradition. In fact tonight I served a monster cassoulet, straight from oven to buffet line, looked good, and tasted great!

    • Oo-la-la Debi… Cassoulet right from the oven in a barro – that’s got to be a great cross culture experience !

      Nancy I, you can find barros in the market and at Casa Rivera (Calle 55 & 54)

      Barb, Nancy II and Elizabeth… good to know you all use the barros too. You can tell I think they’re great!

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