A kitchen utensil is a small hand held
tool A tool is an object that can extend an individual's ability to modify features of the surrounding environment. Although many animals use tool use by animals, simple tools, only human beings, whose use of stone tools dates back Paleolithic, hun ...

used for food preparation. Common kitchen tasks include cutting food items to size, heating food on an open fire or on a stove, baking, grinding, mixing, blending, and measuring; different utensils are made for each task. A general purpose utensil such as a chef's knife may be used for a variety of foods; other kitchen utensils are highly specialized and may be used only in connection with preparation of a particular type of food, such as an egg separator or an
apple corer An apple corer is a device for removing the core and pips from an apple. It may also be used for similar fruits, such as pears or quince. Some apple corers consist of a handle with a circular cutting device at the end. When pushed through the app ...

apple corer
. Some specialized utensils are used when an operation is to be repeated many times, or when the cook has limited dexterity or mobility. The number of utensils in a household kitchen varies with time and the style of cooking. A cooking utensil is a utensil for cooking. Utensils may be categorized by use with terms derived from the word "
ware Ware may refer to: People * Ware (surname) * William of Ware (), English Franciscan theologian Places ;Canada *Fort Ware, British Columbia ;United Kingdom *Ware, Devon *Ware, Hertfordshire *Ware, Kent ;United States *Ware, Illinois *Ware, I ...

": kitchenware, wares for the kitchen; ovenware and bakeware, kitchen utensils that are for use inside ovens and for baking; cookware, merchandise used for cooking; and so forth. A partially overlapping category of tools is that of
eating utensil A variety of eating utensils have been used by people to aid eating when dining. Most societies traditionally use bowls or dishes to contain food to be eaten, but while some use their hands to deliver this food to their mouths, others have develop ...
s, which are tools used for eating (c.f. the more general category of
tableware upright=1.3, Table laid for six at the Royal Castle, Warsaw, (18th–19th century fashion) Tableware is any dish or dishware used for setting a table, serving food, and dining. It includes cutlery, List of glassware, glassware, serving dishes, ...

). Some utensils are both kitchen utensils and eating utensils.
Cutlery Cutlery includes any hand implement used in preparing, serving, and especially eating food Food is any substance consumed to provide Nutrient, nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant, animal or Fungus, fungal origin, a ...

(i.e. knives and other cutting implements) can be used for both food preparation in a kitchen and as eating utensils when dining. Other
cutlery Cutlery includes any hand implement used in preparing, serving, and especially eating food Food is any substance consumed to provide Nutrient, nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant, animal or Fungus, fungal origin, a ...

such as forks and spoons are both kitchen and eating utensils. Other names used for various types of kitchen utensils, although not strictly denoting a utensil that is specific to the kitchen, are according to the materials they are made of, again using the "
" suffix, rather than their functions:
earthenware Earthenware is glazed or unglazed nonvitreous pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard, durable form ...

, utensils made of clay; silverware, utensils (both kitchen and dining) made of silver;
glassware The list of glassware includes drinking vessels (drinkware) and tableware used to set a table for eating a meal, general glass Glass is a non- crystalline, often transparency and translucency, transparent amorphous solid, that has widespread ...
, utensils (both kitchen and dining) made of glass; and so forth. These latter categorizations include utensils — made of glass, silver, clay, and so forth — that are not necessarily kitchen utensils.


Benjamin Thompson Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS (german: Reichsgraf von Rumford; March 26, 1753August 21, 1814) was an American-born British physics, physicist and inventor whose challenges to established physical theory w ...

Benjamin Thompson
noted at the start of the 19th century that kitchen utensils were commonly made of copper, with various efforts made to prevent the copper from reacting with food (particularly its acidic contents) at the temperatures used for cooking, including
tinning Tinning is the process of thinly coating sheets of wrought iron Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon content (less than 0.08%) in contrast to that of cast iron (2.1% to 4%). It is a semi-fused mass of iron with fibrous slag Incl ...
enamelling Vitreous enamel, also called porcelain enamel, is a material made by fusing powdered glass Glass is a non- crystalline, often transparency and translucency, transparent amorphous solid, that has widespread practical, technological, and decor ...
, and
varnishing Varnish is a clear Transparency (optics), transparent hard protective finish or film. It is neither a paint nor wood stain, stain. In its native state it has little or no color, but may be pigmented as desired, and is sold commercially in vario ...
. He observed that iron had been used as a substitute, and that some utensils were made of earthenware. By the turn of the 20th century,
Maria Parloa Maria Parloa (September 25, 1843 – August 21, 1909) was an American author of books on cooking and housekeeping, the founder of two cooking schools, a lecturer on food topics, and an early figure in the "domestic science" (later " home economics" ...
noted that kitchen utensils were made of (tinned or enamelled) iron and steel, copper, nickel, silver, tin, clay, earthenware, and aluminium. The latter, aluminium, became a popular material for kitchen utensils in the 20th century.


Copper Copper is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elem ...

has good
thermal conductivity The thermal conductivity of a material is a measure of its ability to conduct heat. It is commonly denoted by k, \lambda, or \kappa. Heat transfer occurs at a lower rate in materials of low thermal conductivity than in materials of high thermal ...

thermal conductivity
and copper utensils are both durable and attractive in appearance. However, they are also comparatively heavier than utensils made of other materials, require scrupulous cleaning to remove poisonous
tarnish Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion Corrosion is a natural process that converts a refined metal into a more chemically stable form such as oxide of rutile. Ti(IV) centers are grey; oxygen centers are red. Notice that oxygen forms three bonds ...
compounds, and are not suitable for acidic foods. Copper pots are lined with tin to prevent discoloration or altering the taste of food. The tin lining must be periodically restored, and protected from overheating.


Iron Iron () is a chemical element In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behav ...

is more prone to rusting than (tinned) copper.
Cast iron Cast iron is a group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content more than 2%. Its usefulness derives from its relatively low melting temperature. The alloy constituents affect its colour when fractured: white cast iron has carbide impuritie ...
kitchen utensils are less prone to rust by avoiding abrasive scouring and extended soaking in water in order to build up its layer of
seasoning Seasoning is the process of adding herbs In general use, herbs are a widely distributed and widespread group of plants, excluding vegetables Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by humans or other animals as food. The origina ...
. For some iron kitchen utensils, water is a particular problem, since it is very difficult to dry them fully. In particular, iron egg-beaters or ice cream freezers are tricky to dry, and the consequent rust if left wet will roughen them and possibly clog them completely. When storing iron utensils for long periods, van Rensselaer recommended coating them in non-salted (since salt is also an ionic compound) fat or paraffin. Iron utensils have little problem with high cooking temperatures, are simple to clean as they become smooth with long use, are durable and comparatively strong (i.e. not as prone to breaking as, say, earthenware), and hold heat well. However, as noted, they rust comparatively easily.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel Stainless steel is a group of ferrous alloys that contain a minimum of approximately 11% chromium Chromium is a chemical element upright=1.0, 500px, The chemical elements ordered by link=Periodic table In chemistry Chemistr ...
finds many applications in the manufacture of kitchen utensils. Stainless steel is considerably less likely to rust in contact with water or food products, and so reduces the effort required to maintain utensils in clean useful condition. Cutting tools made with stainless steel maintain a usable edge while not presenting the risk of rust found with iron or other types of steel.

Earthenware and enamelware

Earthenware Earthenware is glazed or unglazed nonvitreous pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard, durable form ...

utensils suffer from brittleness when subjected to rapid large changes in temperature, as commonly occur in cooking, and the glazing of earthenware often contains
lead Lead is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Pb (from the Latin ) and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metals, heavy metal that is density, denser than most common materials. Lead is Mohs scale of mineral hardness#Intermediate h ...

, which is poisonous. Thompson noted that as a consequence of this the use of such glazed earthenware was prohibited by law in some countries from use in cooking, or even from use for storing acidic foods. Van Rensselaer proposed in 1919 that one test for lead content in earthenware was to let a beaten egg stand in the utensil for a few minutes and watch to see whether it became discoloured, which is a sign that lead might be present. In addition to their problems with
thermal shock Thermal shock is a type of rapidly transient mechanical load. By definition, it is a mechanical load caused by a rapid change of temperature of a certain point. It can be also extended to the case of a thermal gradient A temperature gradient is a ...
, enamelware utensils require careful handling, as careful as for glassware, because they are prone to chipping. But enamel utensils are not affected by acidic foods, are durable, and are easily cleaned. However, they cannot be used with strong alkalis. Earthenware, porcelain, and pottery utensils can be used for both cooking and serving food, and so thereby save on washing-up of two separate sets of utensils. They are durable, and (van Rensselaer notes) "excellent for slow, even cooking in even heat, such as slow baking". However, they are comparatively ''un''suitable for cooking using a direct heat, such as a cooking over a flame.


James Frank Breazeale in 1918 opined that
aluminium Aluminium (aluminum in and ) is a with the  Al and  13. Aluminium has a density lower than those of other common , at approximately one third that of . It has a great affinity towards , and of on the surface when exposed to air ...

"is without doubt the best material for kitchen utensils", noting that it is "as far superior to enamelled ware as enamelled ware is to the old-time iron or tin". He qualified his recommendation for replacing worn-out tin or enamelled utensils with aluminium ones by noting that "old-fashioned black iron frying pans and muffin rings, polished on the inside or worn smooth by long usage, are, however, superior to aluminium ones". Aluminium's advantages over other materials for kitchen utensils is its good thermal conductivity (which is approximately an order of magnitude greater than that of
steel Steel is an alloy An alloy is an admixture of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appe ...

), the fact that it is largely non-reactive with foodstuffs at low and high temperatures, its low
toxicity Toxicity is the degree to which a chemical substance or a particular mixture of substances can damage an organism. Toxicity can refer to the effect on a whole organism, such as an animal, bacteria, bacterium, or plant, as well as the effect on ...

, and the fact that its corrosion products are white and so (unlike the dark corrosion products of, say, iron) do not discolour food that they happen to be mixed into during cooking. However, its disadvantages are that it is easily discoloured, can be dissolved by acidic foods (to a comparatively small extent), and reacts to alkaline soaps if they are used for cleaning a utensil. In the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
, the construction of kitchen utensils made of aluminium is determined by two European standards: EN 601 (''Aluminium and aluminium alloys — Castings — Chemical composition of castings for use in contact with foodstuffs'') and EN 602 (''Aluminium and aluminium alloys — Wrought products — Chemical composition of semi-finished products used for the fabrication of articles for use in contact with foodstuffs'').


A great feature of non-enameled ceramics is that clay does not react with food, does not contain toxic substances, and is safe for food use because it does not give off toxic substances when heated. Clay is also an organic compound produced naturally. There are several types of ceramic utensils. Terracotta utensils, which are made of red clay and black ceramics. The clay utensils for preparing food can also be used in electric ovens, microwaves and stoves, we can also place them in fireplaces. It is not advised to put the clay utensil in the 220-250 temperature oven directly, because it will break. It also is not recommended to place the clay pot over an open fire. Clay utensils do not like sharp change in temperature. The dishes prepared in clay pots come to be particularly juicy and soft – this is due to the clay’s porous surface. Due to this porous nature of the surface the clay utensils inhale aroma and grease. The coffee made in clay coffee boilers is very aromatic, but such pots need special care. It is not advised to scrub the pots with metal scrubs, it is better to pour soda water in the pot and let it stay there and afterwards to wash the pot with warm water. The clay utensils must be kept in a dry place, so that they will not get damp.


Plastics can be readily formed by molding into a variety of shapes useful for kitchen utensils. Transparent plastic
measuring cup A measuring cup is a List of food preparation utensils, kitchen utensil used primarily to measure the volume of liquid or bulk solid cooking ingredients such as flour and sugar, especially for volumes from about 50 millilitre, mL (2 flui ...

measuring cup
s allow ingredient levels to be easily visible, and are lighter and less fragile than glass measuring cups. Plastic handles added to utensils improve comfort and grip. While many plastics deform or decompose if heated, a few silicone products can be used in boiling water or in an oven for food preparation. Non-stick plastic coatings can be applied to frying pans; newer coatings avoid the issues with decomposition of plastics under strong heating.


Heat-resistant glass utensils can be used for baking or other cooking. Glass does not conduct heat as well as metal, and has the drawback of breaking easily if dropped. Transparent glass measuring cups allow ready measurement of liquid and dry ingredients.

Diversity and utility

Before the 19th century

"Of the culinary utensils of the ancients", wrote
Mrs Beeton Isabella Mary Beeton (' Mayson; 14 March 1836 – 6 February 1865), known as Mrs Beeton, was an English journalist, editor and writer. Her name is particularly associated with her first book, the 1861 work ''Mrs Beeton's Book of Household ...
, "our knowledge is very limited; but as the art of living, in every civilized country, is pretty much the same, the instruments for cooking must, in a great degree, bear a striking resemblance to one another". Archaeologists and historians have studied the kitchen utensils used in centuries past. For example: In the Middle Eastern villages and towns of the middle first millennium AD, historical and archaeological sources record that Jewish households generally had stone measuring cups, a ''meyḥam'' (a wide-necked vessel for heating water), a ''kederah'' (an unlidded pot-bellied cooking pot), a ''ilpas'' (a lidded stewpot/casserole pot type of vessel used for stewing and steaming), ''yorah'' and ''kumkum'' (pots for heating water), two types of ''teganon'' (frying pan) for deep and shallow frying, an ''iskutla'' (a glass serving platter), a ''tamḥui'' (ceramic serving bowl), a ''keara'' (a bowl for bread), a ''kiton'' (a canteen of cold water used to dilute wine), and a ''lagin'' (a wine decanter). Ownership and types of kitchen utensils varied from household to household. Records survive of inventories of kitchen utensils from
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

in the 14th century, in particular the records of possessions given in the coroner's rolls. Very few such people owned any kitchen utensils at all. In fact only seven convicted felons are recorded as having any. One such, a murderer from 1339, is recorded as possessing only the one kitchen utensil: a brass pot (one of the commonest such kitchen utensils listed in the records) valued at three shillings. Similarly, in
Minnesota Minnesota () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper ...

in the second half of the 19th century, John North is recorded as having himself made "a real nice rolling pin, and a pudding stick" for his wife; one soldier is recorded as having a Civil War bayonet refashioned, by a blacksmith, into a bread knife; whereas an immigrant Swedish family is recorded as having brought with them "solid silver knives, forks, and spoons [...] Quantities of copper and brass utensils burnished until they were like mirrors hung in rows".

19th century growth

The 19th century, particularly in the United States, saw an explosion in the number of kitchen utensils available on the market, with many labour-saving devices being invented and patented throughout the century. Maria Parloa's ''Cook Book and Marketing Guide'' listed a ''minimum'' of 139 kitchen utensils without which a contemporary kitchen would not be considered properly furnished. Parloa wrote that "the homemaker will find [that] there is continually something new to be bought". A growth in the range of kitchen utensils available can be traced through the growth in the range of utensils recommended to the aspiring householder in cookbooks as the century progressed. Earlier in the century, in 1828, Frances Byerley Parkes had recommended a smaller array of utensils. By 1858, Elizabeth H. Putnam, in ''Mrs Putnam's Receipt Book and Young Housekeeper's Assistant'', wrote with the assumption that her readers would have the "usual quantity of utensils", to which she added a list of necessary items:
Copper saucepans, well lined, with covers, from three to six different sizes; a flat-bottomed soup-pot; an upright gridiron; sheet-iron breadpans instead of tin; a
griddle A griddle, in the UK also called a girdle, is a cooking device consisting mainly of a broad, usually flat cooking surface. Nowadays it can be either a movable metal pan- or plate-like utensil, a flat heated cooking surface built into a stove ...

; a tin kitchen; Hector's
double boiler A bain-marie (; also known as a water bath or double boiler), a type of heated bath Heated bath schema. 1: Heated substance. 2: Heating medium. 3: Laboratory flask. 4: Bowl (vessel), Bowl. 5: Gas burner A heated bath is used in the laborator ...
; a tin coffee-pot for boiling coffee, or a filter — either being equally good; a tin canister to keep roasted and ground coffee in; a canister for tea; a covered tin box for bread; one likewise for cake, or a drawer in your store-closet, lined with zinc or tin; a bread-knife; a board to cut bread upon; a covered jar for pieces of bread, and one for fine crumbs; a knife-tray; a spoon-tray; — the yellow ware is much the stringest, or tin pans of different sizes are economical; — a stout tin pan for mixing bread; a large earthen bowl for beating cake; a stone jug for yeast; a stone jar for soup stock; a meat-saw; a
cleaver (top) and old North American cleaver (bottom) Image:Cleaver (PSF).jpg, A cleaver in use, being used to cut pork chops from a loin of pork A cleaver is a large knife that varies in its shape but usually resembles a rectangular-bladed hatchet. ...
; iron and wooden spoons; a wire sieve for sifting flour and meal; a small hair sieve; a bread-board; a meat-board; a lignum vitae mortar, and rolling-pin, &c. —
Mrs Beeton, in her ''Book of Household Management'', wrote:
The following list, supplied by Messrs Richard & John Slack, 336, Strand, will show the articles required for the kitchen of a family in the middle class of life, although it does not contain all the things that may be deemed necessary for some families, and may contain more than are required for others. As Messrs Slack themselves, however, publish a useful illustrated catalogue, which may be had at their establishment gratis, and which it will be found advantageous to consult by those about to furnish, it supersedes the necessity of our enlarging that which we give: — Isabella Mary Beeton, ''The Book of Household Management''
Parloa, in her 1880 cookbook, took two pages to list all of the essential kitchen utensils for a well-furnished kitchen, a list running to 93 distinct sorts of item. The 1882 edition ran to 20 pages illustrating and describing the various utensils for a well-furnished kitchen.
Sarah Tyson Rorer Sarah Tyson Rorer (18 October 1849 – 27 December 1937) was an American food writer and pioneer in the field of domestic science Home economics, or family and consumer sciences, is today a subject concerning cooking, nutrition, housekeeping, ...

Sarah Tyson Rorer
's 1886 ''Philadelphia Cook Book'' listed more than 200 kitchen utensils that a well-furnished kitchen should have.

"Labour-saving" utensils generating more labour

However, many of these utensils were expensive and not affordable by the majority of householders. Some people considered them unnecessary, too. James Frank Breazeale decried the explosion in patented "labour-saving" devices for the modern kitchen—promoted in exhibitions and advertised in "Household Guides" at the start of the 20th century—, saying that "the best way for the housewife to peel a potato, for example, is in the old-fashioned way, with a
knife A knife (plural knives; from Old Norse 'knife, dirk') is a tool or weapon with a cutting edge or blade, often attached to a handle or hilt. One of the earliest tools used by humanity, knives appeared at least Stone Age, 2.5 million years ago ...
, and not with a patented potato peeler". Breazeale advocated simplicity over dishwashing machines "that would have done credit to a moderate sized hotel", and noted that the most useful kitchen utensils were "the simple little inexpensive conveniences that work themselves into every day use", giving examples, of utensils that were simple and cheap but indispensable once obtained and used, of a stiff brush for cleaning saucepans, a sink strainer to prevent drains from clogging, and an ordinary wooden spoon. The "labour-saving" devices didn't necessarily save labour, either. While the advent of mass-produced standardized measuring instruments permitted even householders with little to no cooking skills to follow recipes and end up with the desired result and the advent of many utensils enabled "modern" cooking, on a stove or range rather than at floor level with a hearth, they ''also'' operated to raise expectations of what families would eat. So while food was easier to prepare and to cook, ordinary householders at the same time were expected to prepare and to cook more complex and harder-to-prepare meals on a regular basis. The labour-saving effect of the tools was cancelled out by the increased labour required for what came to be expected as the culinary norm in the average household.

See also

Kitchenware:'' For a record label, see Kitchenware Records Kitchenware Records was an independent record label An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label that operates without the funding of major record labels; they are a type of sma ...

, list of such wares *
Cookware and bakeware Cookware and bakeware is food preparation equipment, such as cooking pots, pans, baking sheets etc. used in kitchens. Cookware is used on a Kitchen stove, stove or range cooktop, while bakeware is used in an oven. Some utensils are considered ...
Gastronorm Gastronorm (GN), sometimes spelled ''Gastro-Norm'', is a European Committee for Standardisation, European standard for kitchenware Sheet pan, tray and Packaging and labeling, container sizes that is commonly seen worldwide in the catering and profes ...
, a European size standard for kitchenware *
List of eating utensils A variety of eating utensils have been used by people to aid eating when dining. Most societies traditionally use bowls or dishes to contain food to be eaten, but while some use their hands to deliver this food to their mouths, others have deve ...
List of food preparation utensils A kitchen utensil is a hand-held, typically small tool that is designed for food-related functions. Food preparation utensils are a specific type of kitchen utensil, designed for use in the preparation of food. Some utensils are both food preparat ...
List of Japanese cooking utensils The following items are common Japanese cooking Cooking or cookery is the art, science, and craft of using heat to Outline of food preparation, prepare food for consumption. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the Earth, world, ...


;Citations ;Bibliography * * * * * * * * * * * *

Further reading

* * Matranga, Victoria K. (1996). ''America at Home: A Celebration of Twentieth-Century Housewares'', International Housewares Association, * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

External links

* {{Authority control Kitchenware Food preparation utensils