In our world of pressure cookers, smart coffee mugs, and air fryers, it’s clear that cooking technology has come a long way over the years. But then, you take a look back at how ancient civilizations cooked and you realize that, despite our modern technology, we’re still using many of the same strategies and tools that were used back in the day. In particular, these four ancient cooking devices have stood the test of time in our modern era.
Clay Cooking Pots
This one’s more of a modern take on an old idea.
In ancient Greece, a common cooking method was to place prepared meats and vegetables in tightly-sealed ceramic pots, which were often buried in the ground underneath hot coals. The concoction would be left to cook for several hours before being served—a “low and slow” method that bears a striking similarity to one of the modern era’s favorite cooking methods: slow cooking.
It’s not hard to see the resemblance. Many slow cookers have inserts made from ceramic, porcelain, or stone, and they’re fitted with snug lids that keep the heat locked in. And rather than heating over the fire, the use of coals allowed the ingredients to cook slowly and simmer over time until they reached tender, tangy perfection—just as modern slow cookers do. And while we’ve adapted the ancient device to fit our modern sensibilities, the fundamental concept is the same.
Mortar and Pestle
The mortar and pestle has to be one of the oldest cooking tools in recorded history, with ancient specimens found as far back as 35,000 B.C. It’s a simple device usually made from stone, bronze, ceramic, or wood, with only two components: a small bowl and a club-like tool with a rounded edge.
Most of us are familiar with how it works. The mortar and pestle was (and still is) used for grinding up spices, herbs, and seasonings, though it also saw plenty of use in medical settings. In fact, the mortar and pestle may be one of the few ancient cooking tools that modern-day chefs use exactly as it was intended. The grinding action is perfect for preparing raw herbs and hard spices in ways that knives and other cooking tools can’t manage, and given that we’re still using it thousands of years after its invention, it’s clear that it still has value in the modern era.
Best known as our go-to tool for straining cooked noodles, sauces, and vegetables, the humble colander has a long history on the world stage. Colanders from ancient Rome and ancient Egypt sit in museums as historical artifacts, and historians believe that the straining device had a rich history of use across these cultures.
Modern colanders tend to be made from wire, plastic, or steel, but in the olden days, colanders were often cast from bronze—meaning they were reserved for the wealthy. More evidence of this comes from reports suggesting that colanders may have been used to strain and prepare wine, a luxury typically afforded to the rich.
Yes, although fried foods have become inexorably tied to American culture, deep frying as a practice has been around for thousands of years. The practice of frying foods in oil dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, though other countries — such as Egypt and Japan — also have a substantial history of frying. Of course, they didn’t have the fryer technology we take for granted today, which is probably a good thing. Fried foods can’t be considered healthy by any stretch of the imagination, and while ancient cultures used to enjoy fried options in (relative) moderation, our modern society goes all out, frying anything and everything we can find.
Time-Tested Cooking Classics
New cooking technology is great, but as this list shows, you just can’t beat the classics. Many of the basic cooking tools we use every day—knives, pots, ovens, skillets—have all been used for years by cultures around the world. And while our air poppers and pressure cookers have their uses, ancient cultures seemed to do just fine without them.