14 August, 2010 at 08:56 #568anne
Boiling was an economical method of cooking, cauldrons of iron or brass were suspended over the fire and contained a whole meal either all together in the water, or meat separate in an extra sealed pot within the cauldron, and vegetables in net bags.
A similar principle (without water) was employed in one of the most ingenious culinary inventions of this period, the pressure-cooker or 'digester'.
Denys Papin, a French physicist and mathematician living in London, discovered that most foodstuffs could be efficiently cooked in a totally sealed vessel, this making considerable savings in time, fuel and flavour. To demonstrate the advantage of this method, he invited a number of fellow-members of the Royal Society to join him for a supper in April 1682 at which 'all was dressed , both fish and flesh, in digesters, by which the hardest bones were made as soft as cheese, without water or other liquor, and with less than 8oz of coals, producing an incredible quantity of gravy, but nothing exceeded the pigeons, which tasted as if baked in a pie, all these being stewed in their own juice, without any addition of water save what swam about the digester'.
As with so many other improvements, centuries were to pass before these advantages were fully appreciated, and pressure cooking finally became an everyday method of preparing meat, fish, and vegetables for the table. It lost its popularity after the 1970's in favour of the microwave which was so different to any previous methods of cooking that series of classes were held to teach how to use it.
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