Castle Learning Center Castle Kitchens
Castles of Britain


© 1999-2015 by Lise Hull
ruins of an oven In early castle development, the kitchens were placed in a corner of the bailey. They were made of wood and had a reed-thatched roof. A covered walkway (called a pentice) led to the dining area. This is how prepared food was taken to the lord and his guests.

As you might imagine, the food probably became cold before it got to the lord. Also, having the kitchen so far from the hall must have been inconvenient for the workers. In later castles, kitchen blocks were moved to the castle hall block and were built of stone. The pantry, where the food was prepared, and the buttery, also called the bottlery, were added during this phase of development.

Kitchens had huge cooking ovens, some large enough to roast two or three oxen at the same time. The oven at Bolton Castle was 14 feet in diameter, and at Ludlow Castle 12 feet in diameter. Some kitchen ovens would even be used for military purposes, as sand and missiles would be heated for use with the siege engines. Also, kitchens contained a scullery where the scullions would wash dishes over sinks. Sinks made of stone were built into the walls and drained into a ditch.

Sometimes whole towers would be devoted to the kitchen. Some were very elaborate, consisting of more than one floor, vaulted ceilings, and a latrine. The kitchens would be equipped with multiple fireplaces for smoking and roasting. They sometimes had their own water supply. This water supply would be drawn from a well or piped from a cistern on a higher floor of the castle. Some larger castles had separate kitchens for the lord and lady, and an additional one for the garrison.

Cooking Utensils
Forks were not used and spoons prior to the 13th century are rare. Spoons had pear-shaped bowls, slender stems and knops of various designs. A knop is the design at the top of the spoon. Spoons could be made of bone, pewter, horn, silver, or bronze.

cooking utensils

Flesh hooks were used for handling meat and were made of iron with two or three prongs. Wooden handles were attached to either a socket or tang. Knives, generally of two types, the tang knife and a knife-dagger, were used for cutting meats and vegetables. While people used the tang knife throughout the medieval period, the knife-dagger did not appear until the 14th century.

Some spices used in Medieval times are very common today. These include buckwheat, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, aniseed, licorice, and pepper. Cooks did not use salt to season food, as it was a measure of status. Food was salted at the table using boat-shaped saltcellar placed in front of the lord.