Remember These? 19 Kitchen Items That Defined Cooking in the Past

Our kitchen cupboards are full of utensils, gadgets, and devices that will prepare your food in any way you like, but today’s tools of choice are often quite different from those of the past. These 19 kitchen gadgets used to be commonplace in kitchens across the USA but have slowly been replaced by modern inventions.

Rotary Egg Beater

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Invented in the 19th century, the rotary egg beater was a valuable tool for beating eggs, cream, and batter much more efficiently. According to the Henry Ford Museum, “The Dover Stamping Company produced one of the first well-designed rotary beaters. It was so successful other companies named their similar looking models ‘Dover.’”


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Enamel tableware and cookware became popular in the 19th century as it was easy to clean and had a non-reactive surface, making it perfect for cooking and storing acidic foods. This material is a metal (such as steel or cast iron) coated with porcelain enamel, which makes it highly durable and resistant to corrosion.

Butter Churn

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Used since ancient times, butter churns can convert cream into butter by constantly mixing the liquid. This process allows the fat molecules to separate from the liquid, leaving you with both butter and buttermilk. Nowadays, these gadgets come in various forms, including plunger-style, crank-operated, and barrel-shaped versions.

Pressure Cooker

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Although it was invented in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the pressure cooker gained real popularity. Britannica says, “The cooker heats water to produce very hot steam which forces the temperature inside the pot as high as 266°F (130°C), significantly higher than the maximum heat possible in an ordinary saucepan.”

Meat Grinder

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Allowing consumers to create dishes such as hamburgers or sausages, meat grinders have been a crucial kitchen gadget for many generations. They range from manual models to electric versions depending on the level of convenience needed, and each requires regular cleaning after use to maintain it.


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A coffee percolator brews coffee by cycling boiling water through coffee grounds using gravity until it reaches the desired strength. These were especially popular from the early to mid-20th century before being replaced by drip coffee makers by most consumers as they offered more convenience. 

Gelatin Molds

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Ranging from simple geometric shapes to intricate designs, gelatin molds became popular for making elaborate-shaped desserts and salads. According to How Stuff Works, “By the turn of the 20th century, gelatin, boosted by clever marketing, became pervasive enough in American home-cooked meals that molds were becoming de rigueur in well-stocked kitchens.”

Food Mill

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Food mills are mechanical devices that can be used to mash, grind, and strain soft foods. Ideal for making purees, soups, and sauces, these gadgets provide a finer texture than a food processor can and are especially useful for removing the seeds and skin from produce. 

Pie Bird

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A hollow ceramic device used when baking a pie, a pie bird is placed in the center under the crust to allow steam to escape and reduce sagging. Southern Living says, “This tool grew more popular in the 1940s when manufacturers started producing them in varying colors and whimsical shapes.”

Tea Infuser

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We may generally opt for the convenience of a tea bag now, but tea infusers have been used since the 19th century. They allowed consumers to steep loose tea leaves in hot water before easily removing them without the need for straining. It’s crucial to allow the tea to brew for the correct amount of time so that you get the full flavor without any bitterness.


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Before electric refrigerators were a normal part of every household kitchen, iceboxes were used to keep food cool. Usually made of wood lined with tin or zinc, the simple sawdust or cork insulation meant that the ice needed to be replaced regularly to keep the box cool.

Spice Grinder

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Used to crush spices and herbs, a spice grinder helps to release the fresh flavors and aromas that often can’t be found in pre-ground spices. Historically, these gadgets were made from materials such as stone or wood, but manufacturers have evolved to create more durable versions made from metal and ceramics.


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Nutcrackers are usually made from metal or wood and are useful for cracking the hard shell of nuts such as walnuts or pecans. Not only are they functional, but elaborately designed versions are also used as a symbol for the holidays, and are often found as decorations around Christmas time.

Pie Safe

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Pie safes were freestanding cabinets primarily used in the 18th and 19th centuries to store pies, bread, and other baked goods. According to Apartment Therapy, “tin or copper panels featured holes in intricate designs that permitted more airflow, allowing a freshly baked pie to cool while keeping insects at bay.”

Pump Coffee Maker

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Particularly popular from the 1910s to the 1960s, a pump coffee maker used steam pressure and vacuum to brew coffee. They were also known as vacuum brewers and produced a clean, crisp cup of coffee, but they were generally replaced by more convenient drip coffee makers.

Sugar Nippers

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A specialized tool, sugar nippers were used to break up large cones or loaves of hard sugar into smaller, usable pieces. This was an essential kitchen gadget before granulated sugar became widely available to consumers, and it was typically made out of iron so that it was durable enough.

Toasting Fork

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Before the invention of electric toasters, toasting forks were used to toast bread directly over the flame from the fireplace. These tools had long handles to prevent burns from the heat and were specifically designed to hold a slice of bread or other food items over open fires.

Suet Cutter

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Used to chop animal fat into small pieces, suet cutters were essential for bakers and cooks, especially those making puddings and pastry doughs. The gadget usually consisted of a container with a cutting blade, allowing for uniformly sized pieces of suet for consistent cooking results.

Butter Mold

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These molds often featured intricate designs such as flowers, animals, or geometric patterns and were used to display your wealth and attention to detail at the dining table. They were typically carved from wood or cast in ceramic and were a common sight, especially in homes where homemade butter was a staple.

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