Ever wondered about the history of some of the everyday kitchen tools you use? We’re going to shed some light and give the respect these kitchen helpers deserve!
1. Can Opener – Invented in 1855 by Ezra Warner
Even with the onset of the “pop-top” can, metal can openers are still very much alive and well. The earliest versions of the can opener were said to be invented in 1855, (was patented until 1858) which were basically handheld cutting devices likened to a knife. The design with the rim-cutting wheel was invented in 1870, however, the simple and most successful can opener we are most familiar with today wasn’t introduced until 1925. This version being double-wheeled; one serrated, one razor, with a spin-handle.
Fun Fact: Did you know the electric can opener didn’t come along until the late 1950s?
2. Lazy Susan – Invented Around the 18th Century
For those of you not in the know, a Lazy Susan is basically shelving that spins 360 degrees in either direction, giving you 100% visibility. It has gone by many names, such as a “dumbwaiter, turntable and a self-waiting table,” and has many uses. It is the perfect device for family board games, cake decorating, and sculpting. However, this table is most used in restaurants by the Chinese, for dim sum.
Fun Fact: The lazy Susan is said to have been invented by Thomas Jefferson for his daughter, Susan.
3. Blender – Invented in 1922 by Stephen Poplawski
The popularity of blended vegetables and fruits brought about an entirely new industry of blender products. Single-serving? Certainly. Battery-operated, puree, pulverize, chop, you name it, there’s a blender that does it.
Fun Fact: The first designs of drink mixers began in 1919, but weren’t patented until 1922 by Stephen Poplawski who was contracted to build the machines to make milkshakes.
4. Toaster – Invented in 1893 by Alan MacMasters
There is nothing quite like a regular old sliced-bread toaster. Sure, ovens are versatile and purposeful, but there’s something to reaching for something that popped-up, for you to grab. You don’t have to risk burning yourself by reaching into any oven, you don’t have to see the crumby mess you’ve made, and you don’t have to worry about how to keep your toaster window clean.
Fun Fact: Did you know that in the early 19th century, the very first toaster wired frames held over a fire? Alam MacMasters built the electric toaster in 1893.
5. Rubber Spatula – Invented in 1890 by John Spaduala
Often called, the “scraper,” the name “spatula” has taken on a different meaning over the years. In the fifties, it is was a rubber tip in the shape of a shark’s fin, on a short wooden handle used for decorating or spreading creamy foods. They are also used in the medical industry, and are used for mixing and spreading plaster, and paint.
Fun Fact: Currently, people refer to the cooking tools used for flipping burgers as the spatula, when in fact they are (or once were) either a “flipper,” or a “turner.”
6. Colander – Traced Back to the 3rd Century BC
Sure, they make cool space hats for kids, I’ll give you that. Still, the “go-to” tool in the kitchen for straining jobs will always be the colander. Sizes may vary, but the colander will either be plastic or stainless steel, with two handles for gripping. While used as a filtration device, it may also serve as a solution for kitchen mishaps; like those requiring a good rinse to correct over-seasoning.
Fun Fact: In Italy, a well-known character who goes by the name of “Pastafarian,” wears a colander for a hat during his protests.
7. Slow Cooker – Invented in 1971 by Irving Naxon
Irving Naxon developed the original slow cooker in 1940, as a way to cooking bean meals, after becoming inspired by his grandmother’s story about a meal that took several hours to cook in an oven. In 1971, manufacturer Rival repurposed the device under the “Crock-Pot” moniker, making it possible for homemakers to put on a meal in the morning, and return home to a prepared meal in the evening.
8. Cob Skewers – Traced Back to the 14th Century
These specialized kitchen tools may not have yet come across your dining table, but they are for holding cobs of corn while you eat them. If you’ve never seen them, imagine thumb tacks with longers spikes, and a larger plastic grip. Sold as a pair, they can be entered into the ends, allowing you to devour a buttered cob of corn, one at a time.
Fun Fact: There are ancient artifacts from Kenya in museums, which are believed to be early versions of cob holders.
9. Tin Coffee Mug – Traced Back Between 2500 to 2000 BC
Coffee lovers everywhere still enjoy a rustic cup of joe. What’s the fascination? Maybe because it holds a generous helping; maybe because it keeps coffee hotter than porcelain does. In fact, this cup can sit directly onto an open flame, to boil water, or even prepare cans of soup or beans. Whatever the reason, those tin coffee mugs tend to stick around, surviving the days of the Thermos, paper, plastic, and foam cups. Though we don’t know the originator of the coffee mug, the first coffee shop “Kiva Han” in Constantinople during 1475 featured wooden mugs.
Fun Fact: Did you know the first coffee mugs were found to be used between 2500 and 2000 BC and were made of bone?
10. Cast-Iron Skillet – Invented in 1701 by Abraham Darby
Research shows cast-iron cooking vessels appeared as early as the 6th century. They can withstand the hottest of heats, with even distribution which makes it perfect for frying, and quick skillet dishes. Whether in the home or in a restaurant, you’ll find this ancient treasure is a must-have in every kitchen.
Fun Fact: Most chefs do not wash or scour these skillets because it removes or damages the flavor baked into it over time. It also prevents rusting, and food sticking during cooking.
11. Rotisserie – Invented Around Medieval Times
Also referred to as spit-roasting, this skewered-style of cooking; rotating over fire, or in an oven allows for self-basting while cooking slowly. Dating back as far as the medieval times, the rotating was originally performed manually, but then evolved to steam power before the electrical versions came along.
Fun Fact: Did you know that a version of the rotisserie called for dogs on a treadmill for their source of power?
12. Wooden Cooking Utensils – Traced Back to Around 250 BC
These kitchen wonders should not be taken for granted, as they are not only safe to use, but they are much less damaging to your pots and pans. Undoubtedly the oldest tool on this list, a small wooden ladle was discovered in Britain during an archaeological dig, with findings that it dates back as early as 250 BC.
Not-So-Fun Fact: though it is frowned upon today, in some cultures, mothers would use wooden spoons to administer punishment to their youth.
13. Pastry Bag – Traced Back to 1820
No decorative cake can live without it. You could say that pastry chefs are artists, and the pastry bag is their paintbrush. It is sphere-shaped and made of either plastic or cloth, with the opening filled into the opened end, and its contents squeezed out of the other which has an interchangeable nozzle tip to give off various effects. Those best and happy wishes atop of birthday cake, the floral toppings on cupcakes are just a couple of examples of what a pastry bag can do.
Fun Fact: Did you know that piping bags can also be made at home using only parchment paper?
14. Gravy Boat – Invented in 1690
What would holiday dinners be without a gravy boat there to smother our food with? Drizzle or drown it, the gravy boat’s purpose isn’t just to sit at the center of the table and look pretty. The French court used “sauce boats” in the late 17th century as fashionable cuisine, so to speak. Hence, the often stylish design and finish.
Not-so-fun Fact: it is said that gravy boats or sauce boats were used in ancient times to carry the blood of virgins during rituals.
15. Butter Dish – Invented in 1880 by Simpson, Hall, Miller, and Company
The butter dish was created to house butter, as refrigerators had not yet existed. Usually made of china, silver, or crystal, it was introduced in 1880 by Simpson, Hall, Miller, and Company.
Fun-Fact: Keeping your butter in a dish at room temperature, as opposed to the refrigerator, makes it easier to spread.
16. Banana Hanger – Invented in 1903 by Albert J. Parkhouse
A lesser-known, but still very helpful kitchen tool that extends the lifespan of your bananas. The come in an endless amount of styles, but generally come as a stand with a hook extension to clip the banana bunch onto.
Fun-Fact: Did you know that refrigerating bananas may age the yellow peels, but it extends the life of the banana contents?
17. Bread Box – Invented in the Late 1800’s
Ever run into the problem of bread going stale or moldy? Then this is your best solution. A bread box can be used to store and maintain the freshness of bread, as well as other baked goods. Older models were made of wood, but these days they are comprised of metal or plastic. Although the Smithsonian Museum has a breadbox from the late 1800s, the bread box was not patented until 1918 by Stanley Walter Krebs.
Fun Fact: Bread Crocks, or breadboxes made of pottery, are collectible antiques and may be worth a small fortune.
18. Rolling Pin – Invented in the 9th Century BC
Growing up, almost every cartoon that had a kitchen scene hilariously used this tool as a weapon. However, anyone who bakes, makes their own crust or pasta, will “knead” this handy tool. A rolling pin, made primarily of wood but comes in a multitude of materials, has two handles on each end of a long, rolling cylinder wheel used to flatten, or roll-out dough. It was J.W. Reed who invented the rolling pin with handles, but it has been said they were used as far back as the ninth century BC.
Fun-Fact: Did you know that people regularly substitute the rolling pin, with a wine bottle?
19. Hand Mixer – Invented in 1856 by Ralph Collier
Ralph Collier patented the first hand-cranked egg beater in 1856, with several variations to follow by numerous companies and inventors, improving its overall functionality. Rufus Eastman invented the first electrical mixer in 1885, however it wasn’t until Hobart Manufacturing began making commercial mixers in 1914, that the game changed. It is Hobart’s KitchenAid and Sunbeam Mixmaster brands of electric mixers that are attributed to the company’s success.
Fun Fact: The Hobart’s Model H5, their first electric mixers weighed a whopping 65 pounds!
20. Bundt Cake Pan – Invented in 150 by H. David Dalquist
Tradition starts in the kitchen of every home. The simplicity of baking a bundt cake; a staple in nearly every household, speaks to that tradition. This cake pan creates a cake in the shape similar to a donut, with a hole in the center. There is no other way to bake a bundt-style cake, without using this pan specific for that purpose, making it an essential kitchen tool. Is it me, or do you smell buttery poundcake?
Fun Fact: Not only does the bundt cake pan make a delicious cake, but its protruding center also turns out to be the perfect stand for an oven-baked chicken recipe.
21. Ice Cream Scoop – Invented in 1896 by Alfred L. Cralle
If you love to eat ice cream, then you must have one of these babies sitting in your drawer of utensils. If not, it’s worth getting because it makes scooping ice cream faster, easier, and less messy. In fact, it can be used for more than just ice cream, try scooping mashed potatoes or portion-controlled servings of coffee grounds. The first models of an ice cream scoop are about 150 years old.
Fun Fact: Did you know Alfred Cralle invented the ice cream scoop after noticing the hotel wait staff having trouble with handling and transferring the soft cream using serving spoons?
22. Egg Timer (Mechanical) – Invented in 1626 by Thomas Norman
They say it takes 10 minutes to boil an egg, but have you ever timed it? Kitchen timers all function the same but come in different forms. Take, for instance, the sands of the hourglass, the digital, or my personal favorite, the spin dial. Either way, in a professional kitchen, timing is everything so there needs to be a timer accessible, in one form or another.
Fun Fact: Did you know there are 7 different ways to cook an egg and all time-sensitive?
23. Dish Rack – Invented in 1944 by Maiju Gebhard
Now that the cooking is done, it’s time for clean-up. A dishwasher is good for big jobs, but what about the small ones? Are you going to use the dishwasher’s rack to dry those few dishes? No. Opening and closing your dishwasher door is burdensome and unnecessary. Aside from that, you’re also creating unnecessary wear and tear on the door. Every kitchen has, or needs, a dish rack or something equivalent.
Fun Fact: Did you know the dish rack was originally developed by Maiju Gebhard as a means for time-saving for housewives?
24. Deep Freezer – Invented in 19th Century by Carl von Linde
Sub-zero degree temperatures in refrigeration is a luxury most of us can’t afford. However, it is the residentail deep freezer delivering those ice cold temps. Unlike a refrigerator, it usually isn’t standing upright like refridgerators, but horizontal.
Fun Fact: A residential deep freezer is a great bomb shelter for a single person.
25. Mason Jar – Invented in 1958 by John Landis Mason
We’ve discovered there are many uses that come with Mason jars. It is amazing how a thick glass jar, with a 2-part metal lid, can fulfill so many needs in everyday living. Great for crafts, canning, food storage, pickling, preserves, among many others. Its namesake, John Landis Mason, invented the jar in 1958 and forever changed the way we view jars. Not just for spare change anymore, that’s for sure!
Fun Fact: John Landis Mason was a tinsmith, who actually built the lid before the jar. Another fun fact, Mason also held the patent for the very first salt shaker.
26. Ice Tray – Invented in 1933 by Lloyd Groff Copeman
Although most fridges produce ice cubes from their doors, most homes still have ice trays laying around somewhere. Why? They still serve a purpose. Like in the summer when you want to make frozen toothpick squares, or to make flavored ice cubes to put in beverages. The first rubber ice tray was invented by Lloyd Groff Copeman in 1933. Little did he know he’d created a classic, die-hard still in use today.
Fun Fact: The very first finished prototype of the ice tray was made of metal.
27. Oven Mitt – Traced Back to the Mid 1800’s
The earliest renditions of the potholder were recorded in the early 1900s and were made of lace, or crochet with embroidery. Likely the first and only form of Personal Protective Equipment, it hadn’t become entirely heat-resistant until the 1970s, when the quilting style (with interior flame retardant wool layers) became the industry standard.
Fun Fact: A mid-1800 oven mitt featuring an embroidered slave abolishment craftwork is held in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.