logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Old everyday kitchen tools
that we don't see nowadays

YOU ARE HERE: home > housing > suburban housing > facilities & equipment > food preparation equipment

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.

Old food cover against flies, made of metal mesh

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

Steel (not stainless steel) kitchen knife which needed to be sharpened regularly and so gradually wore away. See below for the knife sharpener.



Old kitchen knife sharpener

Knife sharpener. The steel blades of the knife were drawn repeatedly across the sharpener, blunt edge first. Note the wooden painted handle.



Old manual meat mincer

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.



Old enamel bowls and pie dishes

Enamel bowls and pie dishes.



Old egg saucepan with scale built up inside it

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

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 old aluminium and copper cooking pots

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.



Old wooden breadboard

Wooden bread board.



Wooden stamp for stamping out designs onto butter pats   Pat of butter stamped with a design

Left, wooden stamp for stamping out designs onto butter pats (when entertaining) and right, the resulting pat of butter.



Old one cup tea maker

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.



old knitted tea cosy to keep the tea in a teapot hot

Tea cosy to keep the tea in a teapot hot. Note that it is made of knitted wool, layered to trap air for lagging.

Old wooden plunger to drain cabbage in a colander

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.



Old tin opener and corkscrew

Tin opener and corkscrew.



Okd manual mint and herb chopper

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.



Old toasting with an extending handle to keep hands reasonably cool while holding slices of bread close to a fire to toast

Toasting with an extending handle to keep hands reasonably cool while holding slices of bread close to a fire to toast.

toasting fork with rotatable prongs

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.

Desmond Dyer



Old corkscrew with a wooden handle

Corkscrew with a wooden handle, once painted red but with the paint worn off



Old glass orange or lemon juicer

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.



Old potato peeler with the blade held in place with string on a wooden handle

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.



Old enamel steamer for cooking food

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.



old glass butter dish

Glass butter dish, used widely when butter was weighed out and patted into shape at the time of purchase.



small image of an old earthenware butter cooler   old system for keeping butter cool by covering it with a damp cloth dipping into water

Butter coolers. See the page on food storage for an explanation.



Butter knife

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 - making cream from butter and milk, mid 20th century

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.