A cauldron is a large metal kettle with a lid and a handle that is used to cook food over an open fire. The primary purpose of a cauldron is cooking. Stoves with chimneys did not come into existence until the 1700s. Prior to the 1700s, the cauldron was the primary cooking vessel. Though the ancient cauldrons held little monetary value, they were passed down through the generations, giving them sentimental value.
Cauldrons are extremely versatile and can be used to cook many dishes. They are a great addition to a camping trip or a simple backyard barbeque. They also retain heat incredibly well and add great flavor. People envision big cauldrons boiling over and cooking large volumes of soups or broths. Although this is possible, smaller volumes can be cooked as well.
Cauldrons come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Not only can food be boiled in a cauldron but they are also used for braising, roasting, searing, and frying. Like any other cast iron pan, the uses of a cauldron are virtually endless.
What Are Cast Iron Cauldrons Used For Nowadays?
Cast iron cauldrons are still popular today, not only for their aesthetic value but also for their cooking properties. Like any other cast iron pan, a seasoned cauldron produces outstanding results. Basically, anything that you can cook on a stove you can cook in a cauldron. Chili, stews, and soups are popular but this versatile pot is also great for slow-cooking meats as well. Cooking over an open flame also brings a sense of adventure that cannot be found in a standard kitchen.
A cast iron cauldron should be seasoned like any other cast iron pan. Cauldrons can be used for roasting, braising, indirect heat, or used directly over an open flame. Beef and pork recipes are especially good to cook in a cauldron because they can be slow-cooked over a long period of time. Cleaning a cauldron is straightforward. After washing, hang it over the flame again until it dries, season it, and store it.
Cauldrons are also used as decorative pieces because of their rustic look. There are small, shelf-sized cauldrons, and bigger ones that add a primitiveness to the home. Amazon has a large selection of decorative cauldrons for home decor.
There is a small market for collectible cast iron cauldrons. Cast iron cauldrons are identified by their markings on the underside of the pot. Cauldrons that were poured before the mid-1700s have a sprue on the bottom which is where the molten iron was poured. There are gate markings on the pots from the 1700s and 1800s. As refinery techniques developed, the bottoms became smooth because the ore was poured from the sides.
What Were They Used For in the Past?
Cauldrons were originally made from numerous sheets of brass during the late Bronze Age. The purposes were more pragmatic than they are now. The cauldron was the only cooking source for the family. Stoves with chimneys were not invented until the 18th century and families had no other source to cook with.
The first known use of cast iron cookware was during the Han Dynasty in China, around 220 A.D. Cast iron became popular in Europe during the Middle Ages and has been a household staple since then. In 1707, Abraham Darby patented the sand casting method, which has become the standard way to produce cast iron.
Cauldrons were more popular in the past due to how easy they were to manufacture and transport. During the middle ages, the cauldron was the complete cooking system. Different food was placed in layers in the pot thereby cooking a complete meal for the entire family. The cauldrons were also used for bathing water. In this sense, it was a simple, versatile, instrument that could be carried about with ease.
Ancient cauldrons did not hold any monetary value but they did hold sentimental value. These pots were passed down to subsequent generations, making these versatile cooking pots family heirlooms. Cauldrons found in numerous archaeological digs show the many dings and dents these pots endured and the repair jobs performed on the cherished vessels.
Ancient cauldrons were quite simple to manufacture. Brass is a pliable alloy that is easy to shape. Once technology progressed to the point where iron could be melted and formed, cast iron became the predominant material to shape cauldrons.
Myths & Folklore
The Western folklore of a witch’s cauldron is credited to fictional works such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The cauldron in modern fiction is often portrayed as the pot where witches brew their potions. In Irish folklore, the cauldron is claimed to be where the leprechauns kept their gold.
Celtic legend alleges magical properties in the pot due to the magic of boiling water. The Celts would use the pots as carrying vessels for water. Once the pot of water was placed over an open flame, the water would magically boil, bringing visions along with it.
As the water would boil, the Celts would stare into it and derive strength from what they saw during this period of meditation.
My name is Jason Phillips and I cooked for many years, primarily aboard Merchant Marine vessels and in fast-paced commercial kitchens. My passion for culinary arts led me to attend a culinary arts academy in 2019 where the instructor piqued my interest in food and beverage writing.