Cooking Utensils - Old kitchenware provides a fascinating insight into a time when the preparation and cooking of food were very different from the way they are today. Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Decorative Arts > Feature: Kitchen Utensils

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Cooking Utensils

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Old Cooking Utensils

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Cooking Utensils


  The many utensils that were essential equipment for the cook in Regency and Georgian times are now collectable items that can make an effective display in the modern home.

 During the early years of the 18th century, coal replaced wood as the main fuel in town households. Gradually, enclosed kitchen ranges took over from hearths with open fires as the main means of providing heat for cooking.

 In the advanced early 19th-century kitchen, cast-iron roasting equipment such as spits and grid irons were still based on ancient designs, but began to be adapted specifically for use on the new ranges. Larger joints of meat were roasted on a spit that hooked directly on to the grain, or were suspended vertically on a dangle-pit. Smaller spits were designed for poultry and basket spits to hold fish.

 It was at this time, too, that more mechanical kitchen aids came into use, especially those devices that turned meat continuously to ensure even cooking. The smoke-jack, for example, used wheels and chains linked to he spit and was driven by a fan, activated by rising hot air in the throat of the chimney.

 Potatoes and salted meats, such as hams, were boiled in large oval cast iron pots. These flat-bottomed vessels were specially designed for the hobs and hotplates that were soon added to kitchen ranges. For ranges without hobs, pots with handles could still be suspended in the chimney in the old fashioned way. Bread and oatcakes were placed in the oven on bakestones and for pies there were oval dishes made of tinplate.

 But roasting, boiling and baking were only part of the culinary story. For behind the new innovations of the age were the serried ranks of utensils for chopping, pounding, beating, cutting and serving. Many of these would still be familiar today, but there were countless others whose odd and obscure uses we cannot ever know about.

 Antique kitchenware is usually collected for its historical interest, but many of the sturdier items, such as boards, butter stamps, pestles and mortars and small storage units, could still find a practical place in the modern kitchen.


 At the time they were made, 18th and early 19th century basic cooking utensils were regarded as simple functional items with little intrinsic value. In any case, continuous use took its toll and when a piece failed to work it was simply discarded.

 Consequently, early cooking utensils are comparatively rare compared to other household objects from the same period. Nevertheless, some pieces have survived and now even the humblest of kitchen tools are beginning to attract the attention of a number of collectors, mainly for their historic interest.

 Small pieces of earthenware and wooden utensils still occasionally turn up in junk shops. Other items, especially the more mechanically intricate devices, such as spits, jacks, metal pans and trivets, tend to be found only in antiques shops.

 It is seldom possible to date early cooking equipment accurately, but surviving utensils lend to show signs of the rigours of a hard working life. Beware, therefore, of any piece that betrays nothing of its history. But condition is important and unless a piece is rare, damage beyond the wear that is to be expected severely reduces its value.



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