Kitchen antiques, culinary objects, historic kitchen equipment

Historic kitchen equipment, culinary objects

>>Resources divided into:

>>Museum collections of culinary objects    
>>Fireplace cooking, cast iron    
>>18th and/or 19th century kitchen items    
>>Early 20th and/or 19th century     >>Earlier and miscellaneous

Or jump down to the page to Victorian advice on equipping a kitchen

Old or historic kitchen utensils go by various different
names from “culinary antiques” to “vintage kitchenalia”. Whether they’re ancient
or mid-20th century “retro”, almost all old food preparation, serving, and storage
items appeal to some collector somewhere.

Many objects are easy to identify,
but not all. It’s not always clear if a simple box or pot or implement had a particular
name or a particular use. A collection of jars (earthenware, stoneware, glass in
the 20th century) and boxes (wooden, tin) was needed when food was stored at home
and groceries were sold unwrapped. Households had different beaters, paddles, and
bats – some of them known as beetles – for purposes from tenderising meat to working
butter to beating the dirt out of clothes. Simple wooden boards, stirring sticks,
and large spoons had a wide range of uses. As it says in the article about pudding
sticks linked below, “The most plebeian of kitchen tools are sometimes the hardest
to identify.
“Lower down the page are excerpts from 19th century housekeeping
advice manuals to give some idea of “normal” kitchen equipment then, in the UK and
the USA.

Sometimes kitchen collectibles are
categorised according to what they are made of. Wood (treen), tinware, copper, stoneware
etc. Some of the less well-known materials include tôle or toleware – painted tin-plated
sheet-iron – and American Agate Ware and Graniteware. (See first link in resources
list) In the kitchen these last two describe particular kinds of enamelware, with
a finish resembling agate or granite, although both names can refer to ceramics
as well. 

Online resources about antique, historic, or old kitchen and food utensils

Museums and museum-like collections with a range of different culinary objects

kitchen fireplace with hanging gridirons, skillets etc.

Fireplace cooking and cast iron

dark wood pepper grinder

Other 18th and/or 19th century food preparation and storage items

Enamel perforated skimmers hanging on wooden cupboard

Mostly early 20th and/or 19th century

rusty skillet and other pots

Earlier and miscellaneous culinary objects

Jonathan Levi, Treen for the Table: Wooden Objects Relating to Eating and Drinking,

Amazon UK

Kitchen and food-related articles on this site:

Articles on antique culinary objects at, our companion site


Advice on equipping a kitchen in the 19th century

Catherine Beecher had firm ideas about what was needed for a well-run household.
Her list for the 1840s kitchen in the USA included:

Tin Ware

…bread pans, large and small pattypans, cake pans, with a centre tube to ensure
their baking well, pie dishes, (of block tin,) a covered butter kettle, covered
kettles to hold berries, two saucepans, a large oil can, (with a cock,) a lamp filler,
a lantern, broad bottomed candlesticks for the kitchen, a candle box, a funnel or
tunnel, a reflector, for baking warm cakes, an oven or tin kitchen, an apple corer,
an apple roaster, an egg boiler, two sugar scoops, and flour and meal scoop, a set
of mugs, three dippers, a pint, quart, and a gallon measure, a set of scales and
weights, three or four pails, painted on the outside, a slop bucket, with a tight
cover, painted on the outside, a milk strainer, a gravy strainer, a colander, a
dredging box, a pepperbox, a large and small grater, a box, in which to keep cheese,
also a large one for cake, and a still larger one for bread, with tight covers.

Wooden Ware

…a nest of tubs, a set of pails and bowls, a large and small sieve, a beetle for
mashing potatoes, a spad or stick for stirring butter and sugar, a breadboard, for
moulding bread and making pie crust, a coffee stick, a clothes stick, and mush stick,
and meat beetle to pound tough meat, an eggbeater, a ladle for working butter, a
bread trough, (for a large family,) flour buckets, with lids to hold sifted flour
and Indian meal, salt boxes, sugar boxes, starch and indigo boxes, spice boxes…

In a prosperous American household in 1871 a “prudent and generous mistress” would
supply her cook “with ample provision of all such things as her important department

…such as tables, shelves, closets, pasteboards [pastry boards], sieves, tubs,
pails, rolling-pins, trays, pots, pans, colanders, strainers, skimmers, a saw, hatchet,
cleaver, scissors, mallet, sausage-grinder and stuffer, coffee-toaster, coffee-mill,
tea-kettles, pots, mortar and pestles, soap, candles, ovens or a first-rate stove
or range, tin baking-pans, furnaces, bell-metal [alloy of copper and tin] kettles,
porcelain kettles and stew-pans, towels, boiling-cloths [pudding cloths], bread-towels,
dish-cloths, salt, pepper, spices, etc., spice-mills, egg-beaters, strainers, ladles
and flesh-fork [for lifting meat from a pot], bread-toasters, knives and forks,
spoons, skewers, aprons, a kitchen clock, etc. All these articles are indispensable,
and there are a great many other useful implements which modern ingenuity has brought
into use, and which it would be well to introduce into a fully-arranged kitchen.

(Mary Ann Bryan Mason)

A book aimed at an English couple setting up home in a small cottage in the first
half of the 19th century advised:

A good copper tea-kettle is the most durable (this is an article I don’t know how
to persuade you to do without, though some writers cry out bitterly against it).
The round shape will be two or three shillings cheaper than the oval, and bears
mending better. It is not quite so fashionable, but that you have too much good
sense to mind. The beauty of a copper kettle is in its durability and brightness,
not its shape; and the two or three shillings saved will buy you a handy little
saucepan, or gridiron, or frying-pan: these two last articles, no matter how seldom
they are used, yet most people like to have such things in their house.

You should have two strong iron pots, of different sizes; one or other of which,
I hope, will be in frequent use. I would wish a working man to have a bit of something
hot most days. One pot might do, but not so well, for this reason, you cannot boil
anything large in a small pot; and though you might boil what is small in a large
one, there would, by so doing, be more firing and time taken up than is necessary.
For any very nice, particular purpose, such as boiling milk, starch, or gruel, there
is nothing answers better than bell-metal or brass, which also lasts long.

A Nottingham-ware [brown stoneware] pot, with a lid, to hold a gallon or two, is
very useful; especially if you have an oven: it does well to make a stew or soup,
on which I shall give you a hint presently.

(Esther Copley)

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