In biblical times cooking or baking was generally done in the courtyard or kitchen, either in a hearth or an oven. In seasons of intensive labor in the field people encamped in the fields (Gen. 37:17), while in other seasons they returned to their homes. Accordingly, these conditions led to the development of cooking utensils for both the permanent kitchen and for the open field. -Cooking As a rule, cooking utensils were made of earthenware (Lev. 6:21). Special attention was given to the preparation of these utensils, which had to be able to withstand heat. The clay was mixed with coarse solid matter, such as pebbles, shells, or sherds, in order to reduce the porosity of the utensil and to prevent its cracking under heat. Metal cookingware was rare in the biblical period. However, sir (סִיר) means specifically a copper pot (cf. Ezek. 24:11). Cooking vessels were of simple practical forms, usually without decoration. The bases of the vessels were rounded and wide to bring as much surface as possible into contact with the fire and to allow the heat to be distributed equally over the entire surface. As vessels were not placed on the ground or on a flat surface, the bases did not have to be flat. Instead, they were placed on stones, on a stand, or on any noncombustible object which held the utensils over the flame. Excavations in Palestine have revealed various methods of supporting cooking vessels. The simplest was a small pit in the ground with an opening at the side, which permitted feeding and fanning of the fire. A more sophisticated method was a low mound of rocks arranged in the shape of a horseshoe.   The fire was fed through the opening and the utensil was placed on the rim. On the floors of rooms and kitchens at many sites small pits have been found which were coated with clay seared by the fire which continuously burned inside them. Each of these pits also contains an opening through which the flame could be reached. Beginning with the Early Bronze Age well-made portable stands of baked clay appear in the shape of a thick, high horseshoe with a flat base enabling it to stand on a flat surface. On the rim were at least three protrusions for supporting the cooking-pot. In later periods, beginning with the Middle Bronze Age, stands of cylindrical shape with openings for feeding and fanning the fire were widespread. These stands were designed to protect the fire from wind and to concentrate the heat under the base of the vessel. From the Early Bronze Age onward, handleless vessels with the width of the base greater than the height appear. These pots stood on stands while cooking, as well as during the meal, when the cooked food was scooped out with another vessel and served. In the Israelite period (Iron Age) various types of cooking vessels were common, some without handles, some with two handles, and some with more than two handles. In addition, smaller cooking vessels with only one handle were widely used. Apparently, vessels without handles were placed in the permanent pits or on fixed stands, where they could remain standing while the food was ladled into bowls for eating. Vessels with two or more handles were used in a slightly different manner: by means of a rope tied to the handles, they were hung from a tripod, with the fire beneath them. These vessels were perhaps used during the seasons of outdoor labor. The smaller one-handled vessels served for both cooking and pouring, the cooked food being poured into the eating vessels after its removal from the fire. Possibly, these vessels were used for thinner foodstuffs in contrast to the larger cooking vessels. While fruits and certain vegetables were eaten fresh, lentils and legumes, such as kidney beans, broad beans, and chick-peas, were made fit for eating by cooking them in water (as were eggs) and mixing them with other vegetables and seasonings, such as onions and garlic. This preparation was known by the general name nezid ("stew"; II Kings 4:38). Meat was a scarce commodity. Most frequently used was mutton, goat meat, or fowl, but sometimes veal or other types of meat were prepared. Meat prepared in various ways was served principally at special festive meals in which the entire family or tribe took part. One way to prepare meat was to boil it in water with seasonings. Softened by boiling, meat could easily be separated from the bones. Other methods of preparation were roasting on the open flame, baking in the oven, or frying in oil. It is not known whether meat was salted or smoked, but it is possible that these procedures were practiced. -Baking While cooking hearths were open, baking ovens (Heb. tannur) were usually closed. The Hebrew word אפה, "to bake," and its derivatives specifically refer to the baking of bread (Gen. 19:3; Lev. 26:26; Isa. 44:15) and cakes (Ex. 12:39, I Kings 17:12–13), including the baking of the bread of display (Lev. 24:5) and baked offerings (2:4ff.). Baking, like cooking, was from the earliest periods an integral part of the everyday household chores. Only in later periods was baking somewhat industrialized and done by experts, or in national bakeries. The simplest method of baking involved placing the dough on glowing coals which baked it from below, while coals were spread also on top of the dough to bake it from above (Isa. 44:19). In a second method a bowl was placed upside down over the fire and when it was sufficiently heated, the prepared dough was placed on it for baking. Excavations of Middle Bronze Age settlements have revealed specially designed baking trays which are perforated in order to preserve the utensil for a long time and prevent the bread from sticking to it. The baking oven was a more sophisticated piece of equipment. Ovens made of clay or built of brick or stone have been found in various shapes – cylindrical, hive-shaped, semicircular and square. Dough was stuck to the inner wall of the oven, while a fire heated the oven from the outside, thus baking the bottom of the bread; a fire inside the oven baked the top of the bread. A more perfected oven had two levels; the fire was kindled in the lower level, while the dough was placed on the floor of the upper level. Ovens operated in this manner served the needs of industrialized baking. As portrayed in ancient Egyptian paintings, an oven of this type was operated by two people; one fanned the flame and the other inserted and removed the bread. The oven had three openings: one for feeding the fire, the second for inserting and removing the bread, and the third for fanning the flame and letting out the smoke in the oven. The oven was heated with dried dung, with wood that had been gathered or chopped from trees and then dried, or with charcoal. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Dalman, Arbeit, 4 (1935), 1ff.; pls. 17–19, 26, 27; C. Singer, et al. (eds.), A History of Technology, 1 (1954), 270–3; O. Tufnell et al., Lachish, 2 (1940), 39, pl. 54A; 338; G. Loud, Megiddo, 2 (1948), 60, fig. 132:3; R. Amiran, Ha-Keramikah ha-Kedumah shel Ereẓ-Yisrael (1963), 91, pl. 84. (Ze'ev Yeivin)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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