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Though it might not be among the first things that come to mind when someone thinks about the differences between the 18th century and today, the kitchen has gone through a radical transformation in the past few centuries. Many home cooks take the modern kitchen for granted because they fail to recognize the massive improvements that have been made to kitchens overall in the recent past.

The tools and utensils that were used in the 18th century are both antiquated and familiar to those that are used today, but the path that the kitchen and dinner table has taken between now and then is interesting and deserves study.

Cooking Methods

One of the major differences between kitchens in the 18th century and those of today are the actual methods of cooking used within them. While much of the work in modern kitchens fall to the microwave oven, cooks in the 18th century didn’t have the luxury of this incredible technology. Whether it was a poor family cooking in their fireplace or dozens of servants cooking for a multi-hour dinner party, they often cooked in much the same way.

 

Cooking was often conducted over an open flame or in mud ovens with larger kitchens housing cast-iron stoves towards the end of the 18th century. The cast-iron stove was a popular invention as it was able to regulate the heat for several different pots while only using a single flame and produced enough heat to warm a home. Baking or spit-roasting were some of the most common cooking methods at the time, and due to the foods being cooked using lard they tended to be richer and fattier than their modern equivalents.

 

Today cooks rely on innumerable kitchen gadgets to cook their food, with many serving only one specific purpose, such as a toaster or panini press. Though baking and roasting are still popular cooking methods in the modern era, the chefs of today rely on the convenience of gas and electric ovens and ranges. In the future, even the cooks themselves may be outright replaced by robotic chefs capable of preparing and cooking hundreds of different meals within the home kitchen. Instead of stressing over ingredient lists, measurements, and cook times, people may be able to sit back and relax as their robotic chef cooks a selected meal quickly and efficiently.

Cooking Tools

While the humble spatula and wooden spoon can still be found in kitchens around the world, modern inventions like stand mixers and silicone baking trays have made cooking much easier. Despite the many advanced materials and automation implemented in modern cooking tools, the form and function of many have not changed since the 18th century.

 

18th-century homes almost all utilized the same basic tools, like cast iron pots, roasting spits, and baking kettles. All of these have some sort of modern equivalent. More well-to-do households had slightly better and more varied tools at their disposal, such as spit-jacks and gelatin molds which were used to make cooking easier and the finished product more attractive.

 

Though modern chefs appreciate the advanced automated tools that save them from working too hard, 18th-century cooks appreciated automation as well. The previously mentioned spit-jacks were simple machines that took much of the work out of turning a spit, but the height of effortlessness came in the form of the turnspit dog. These stout, short-legged dogs were bred and trained specifically to run inside of a small drum which in turn rotated a spit, taking away any required physical activity for the human chef.

Eating Utensils

It can be easy to assume that the spork is the only real innovation that cutlery has seen in centuries. Actually, even the modern fork was relatively uncommon in the 18th century; it was generally considered an eating tool for the upper class. This seemingly humble tool gained popularity among the French social elite, eventually spreading across Europe and becoming a fine-dining staple by the beginning of the 19th century.

 

Cups and plates were often either earthenware, wooden, pewter due to their durability and ease of production. For those living in high society, everything from cutlery to plates and cups were made from silver (hence the term “silverware”). Though the materials used for eating utensils between the upper and lower class were quite different, the overall function was the same, even if those in the upper class were more concerned with table manners.

 

In the modern era, eating and cooking utensils benefit from the use of high-quality metals that were unavailable in the 18th century. The majority of eating and cooking utensils in the modern era are made with stainless steel. This has many benefits, including its corrosion resistance, ability to hold an edge on knives, and wide availability. More high-end modern utensils utilize materials like titanium for its lightweight properties and strength.

 

The modern era provides many conveniences when it comes to the kitchen, but overall things haven’t changed too much since the 18th century. Yes, technology has improved drastically, but overall many of the cooking methods, tools, and utensils used in the 18th century can still be found in kitchens worldwide.