Medieval style cooking



Collection of clay pots. Reconstructions of finds from 6th and 7th century AD

Diesen Text gibt es heute nur auf englisch, weil die deutsche Variante bereits hier existiert.

This is in in English only. You can find the German text here.

On many medieval style events you can see those goulash kettles or Dutch ovens on the fires. And I admit it: I sometimes use them myself because they are so practical.

Some people made the effort to research and use riveted iron kettles for which historical evidence have been found.

But there is another form of cook ware that many do not know about and even less really dare to use: Cooking in earthenware.

But it is not that difficult if you follow some rules. These rules are important however! Otherwise there is a risk that the clay pot bursts and your nice soup or stew pours into the fire – not to mention your pot and the risk of injuries from shards.

Lets start with the shopping. You would not want to use a pot with glazing. Really the best advise is to talk to the potter whether you can put the pot into the fire for cooking. Usually a not glazed well-baked pot will be fine. The form and the look depend on your historical background and your personal preferences. Best is to look around in museums or in museum catalogues if you want to be historically accurate.

Knickwandtopf Detail.JPG

A typical pot of the Alamanni tribe. Baked at low temperatures and therefore black.

When you start your cooking, be careful not to place your pot into the fire directly.

Anyway, your fire: you do not need high flames, you are rather looking for calmly glowing coal. Take care that your fireplace is big enough that you have glow to put your pot in on one side and can add wood from the other side

Take the pot with your food – never put an empty pot into the fire! – and put it into your fireplace about 20 – 30 cm away from the heat so it can take the heat slowly. Turn it every now and again to warm all sides. Then put it 10 cm nearer towards the fire every 10 – 15 minutes. Don’t forget to turn the pot!

Be careful! The pot will get hot from the outside before your food warms up. You don’t want to touch the pot with your bare hands and burn yourself.


Drehen des Topfes im Feuer

Slowly warm the pot with your food and keep turning the pot without burning your fingers.

When the pot then arrived at the glowing coal you can either keep turning it every 15 minutes or you just put the coal around the pot. All you have to do now is wait until your food is cooked.

Two important things before you can enjoy your meal:

  1. Never ever tap your wooden spoon an hot earthenwear pot!
    We are used to do this from cooking with metal pots so remind yourself to watch this. An earthenware pot can explode from the tension the heat brings.
  2. No temperature shocks!
    Shouldn’t you have enough water in your pot, please add warm water or add cold water very carefully spoon by spoon.
    A temperature shock also can make your pot explode.



Earthenware pots in action. On the very left the pot that you can see in the fireplace further up.

After eating, let the pot cool down completely. I only use hot water and a brush for washing my pots, because I do not like soap to go into the pores of the pot.

This sounds terribly complicated, doesn’t it. But actually it is simple:

  • Don’t put empty pots into the fire
  • Warm them up slowly, turning them
  • Don’t tap the wooden spoon on the hot pot
  • Don’t give the pot a temperature shock

You can’t make roasts in a clay pot. But stews and soups are delicious and other than in an iron pot your food doesn’t turn grey if prepared in an earthenware dish.

Dreh Eintopf

Delicious stew prepared in a clay pot

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