Old everyday kitchen tools
that we don't see nowadays
Text and images are copyright. All rights reserved.
This page illustrates and comments on tools and equipment that were commonly used in food preparation and cooking before the middle of
the 20th century, but are seldom, if at all, seen nowadays. The introductory page
describes their features in general terms and explains the choice of selection
for this group of pages. I have personally used
all the tools and equipment shown here or seen older people using them.
Food cover against flies, made of a metal mesh and very awkward to
store because it couldn't be flattened.
Steel (not stainless steel) kitchen knife which needed to be sharpened regularly and so gradually wore away.
See below for the knife sharpener.
Knife sharpener. The steel blades of the knife were drawn repeatedly across the
sharpener, blunt edge first. Note the wooden painted handle.
Meat mincer. When the remains of the Sunday roast had to last for the rest
of the week, the remains had to be minced
up for hash. The mincer screwed onto the edge of a table; then lumps or slices of
meat were fed into the top and the handle was turned. There was a
screw arrangement to force the meat
through small holes and into an awaiting bowl. There were different fittings with
different sized holes.
Enamel bowls and pie dishes.
Egg saucepan. Before non-stick coatings, a small
saucepan was kept specially for boiling eggs, because the scale from
the boiling water built up inside it.
Jar for preserving fruit, generally known as a 'Kilner' jar. The
glass jar was sterilized and heated in the oven, boiling cooked
fruit was poured in, filling the jar to the brim, the lid was sealed
shut using a rubber ring and a pressure clip to keep out air.
Various aluminium and copper cooking pots: back left, a kettle; back
right, a pressure cooker; front left, a copper saucepan (whose
handle would have got very hot!) and front right, a regular saucepan
with a Bakelite handle.
Wooden bread board.
Left, wooden stamp for stamping out designs onto butter pats (when
entertaining) and right, the resulting pat of butter.
One cup tea maker. The loose tea was placed in
the mesh case which opened or closed by squeezing the handle. Then
the tool was placed in an empty cup and boiling water was poured on
- rather like using a modern tea bag.
Tea cosy to keep the tea in a teapot hot. Note that it
is made of knitted wool, layered to trap air for
No, not a darning mushroom! It was much larger. When boiled cabbage was a common vegetable,
it needed to be dried after cooking. So it was placed in a colander and the 'cabbage mushroom' was pressed into it to force the water out through the colander holes.
Tin opener and corkscrew.
Mint and herb chopper. Mint grew in most gardens, and mint sauce was the
accepted accompaniment to roast lamb. The mint leaves were placed in
a chopping board and the tool was repeatedly rolled over them.
Toasting with an extending handle to keep hands reasonably cool while holding slices of bread close to a fire to toast.
A more elaborate everyday toasting fork courtesy of Desmond Dyer.
Toasting forks like the one immediately above had four strands of a stiff wire twisted together
to make a loop at one end for hanging up. The other end was a four pronged fork which could be
rotated to suit the angle at which it had to be held against the glowing coals.
Corkscrew with a wooden handle, once painted red but with the paint worn off
Glass orange or lemon juicer. The fruit was halved and pressed into the central spike. The pips were caught in the inner ring
of smaller spikes while the juice flowed out into the larger ring from where
it could be poured off.
Potato peeler. Note the string round the handle which
helped to keep the blade in place and gave a good grip.
The string always got wet and mucky in use, so was very unpleasant
to hold. It took ages to dry.
Enamel steamer. The food to be steamed is put into the top pan
which has holes in the bottom. The lower section
contains water. When boiled, the steam goes into the top
pan and cooks the food there. Note that the pans are
made of enamel.
Glass butter dish, used widely when butter was
weighed out and patted
into shape at the time of purchase.
Butter coolers. See the page on food storage for
Butter knife, used for in the more up-market
families for removing butter from the butter dish. (My own family
used an ordinary knife unless they were entertaining.)
Cream maker. A specified mixture of unsalted
butter and warm milk were put into the top container and forced through a
nozzle by repeatedly pumping the lever up and down. This combined
the milk and butter, so making cream drop into the
glass jug. It was hard work and also time consuming as all butter
was sold salted. So, before use in the cream maker, the salt had to
be removed by pouring hot, but not boiling, water onto the butter, which dissolved the
salt, then cooling the mixture until the butter almost solidified
and scooping it off.