Colonial American Cooking Tools

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Some modern and Colonial cookware tools are similar.
Some modern and Colonial cookware tools are similar. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Unlike all the gadgets, appliances and plastic cookware that are available to the modern cook, Colonial Americans used mostly wood and metal to prepare their meals over wood fires and ovens. Preparation began very early in the day, and it took hours to cook the daily meals for the household.

Materials

During Colonial times, the majority of household tools, including cookware, was handcrafted from wrought iron by blacksmiths who formed each implement to endure through generations of usage by cooks. Mashers, funnels and measuring tools were often made of wood because heat was not a concern; plus, wood was cheaper and didn't need to absorb as much abuse as iron cookware. Some tools were adorned with brass, which served more as an aesthetic flourish than for any practical purpose.

Common Cookware

The Colonial and modern kitchen share some similar tools that have endured and changed very little over the years. To remove food from hot water or oil, cooks used ladles and strainers. Strainers are small bowls, which are perforated and attached to a long handle. Colonial cooks used spatulas to manipulate food they were preparing on a hot, flat surface such as a skillet, just as do modern cooks. Colonial cooks also used forks, but for a different purpose. Instead of a diner using a fork to put food in their mouths, the Colonists used a much larger fork to toast small pieces of meat.

Specialized Cookware

Like the salad spinner, the orange peeler or the variety of chopping devices available to the modern cook, Colonial cooks used cooking tools that were less common to perform specific tasks more efficiently. For example, they used a sugar nipper, with a lobster-like pincer, to pinch off small pieces of sugar from the hardened cone shape in which sugar was molded into and sold at the time. When they needed to finely chop or mince an item, cooks used a chopper with a handle and several blades affixed in a flat star pattern that was flush with the cutting surface.

Collector's Items

According to Colonial Wrought Iron, the Sorber Collection, skewers, which were long needles of iron used to hold meat to a roasting spit, are exceeding rare today despite their prevalence among Colonial households. Of course, most Colonial cookware is collectible, but the value is determined by the maker, quality and age of the piece. Looking for the blacksmith's stamp is the easiest way to identify the maker.

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