Found: Ancient Non-Stick Pans - Gastro Obscura
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Found: Ancient Non-Stick Pans

A pottery dump at Cumae reveals that red-slip pottery is the best to cook chicken in.

A shard of non-stick pottery (Photo: Marco Giglio)

Back in the heyday of Rome, a cookbook gave a point of cookware advice. Of all the pans available to Roman cooks, a certain type, made in the city of Cumae, were the best for making chicken stew.

Historians of Rome have long wondered: what pans might these have been exactly? But now a team from a university in Naples has found those perfect chicken stewing pans. In Cumae, Discovery News reports, the archaeologists have found “a dump site filled with internal red-slip cookware fragments.”

These 50,000 fragments were the discards of a pottery factory, and they feature a “thick internal red-slip coating” that would have made it harder for whatever was in the pot to adhere to its surface. In other words, these are age-old nonstick pans.

This discovery backs up a decades-old theory that the Cumae pans were the same as “Pompeian Red Ware,” a type of pottery with a similar red-slip coating. The pots found at Cumae and the pots found at Pompeii aren’t exactly the same, Discovery notes: they have a different clay mixture and the anti-adhesive coating of the Pompeii pottery is “of much lower quality.”

If Cumae pans were the Le Creuset of their day, perhaps the Pompeii pans were just cheap knock-offs? Either way, the theory holds up: red-slip pans were the ones that millennia-old cookbook was recommending. Now we finally know what pots savvy Roman cooks put their chicken in.

Bonus finds: Hundreds of AK-47s

Every day, we highlight one newly found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.

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