How did ancient peoples boil water or cook rice before somebody figured out how to make metal pots?

Another way to ask this is: how would you cook rice if you found yourself stranded in the wilderness without a pot to cook with?

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    Pottery? You can also cook food in a container made of wood or animal skin, by filling it with water and dropping hot rocks into it.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 3:47
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    The Wikipedia article Cookware and bakeware has a decent overview of this. Perhaps you could edit your question if you still need to know something after reading the history section of the article. Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 4:05
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    Thank you for your question; please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions. Please revise your question to document your preliminary research.
    – MCW
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 9:28
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    Another one: What form of cookware did Inuits use in the old days? Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 10:36
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    My mom has a stone pot. It goes directly to the usual fire, and Mom cooks rice on it. It is made from a relatively soft stone called "soap stone" (pedra-sabão) from Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The stone can be worked on with manual tools. Probably it is not a common solution, but it is on the realm of possible. BTW: it is much heavier and thick than a metal pot, thus it keeps the rice warm for much longer.
    – Luiz
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 18:53

3 Answers 3


You don't need to put a pot on the fire to boil water or make soup. You can put a clean stone in the fire and then put the very hot stone into the water in the pot. This way has been traditionally used in the Basque Country to boil milk to in a wood pot that would be quickly damaged if put in the fire. Basque language has even a word for those stones: esne-harri (literally "milk stone").

Furthermore, some traditional ways of cooking don't rely on putting a pot on fire but on putting it in an oven - a masonry oven that is just a chamber with thick walls that has been heated by burning a fire inside and after extinguishing it and removing charcoal and residues, remains hot enough to cook bread of to cook a dish (like rice) in a ceramic recipient, not necessarily suitable for direct fire.


if you have the option, make one out of clay as it's the most durable alternative.

If you don't, wood will do. Or if you're near a beach there may be large shells. The skull of a decent sized animal may also be available to you. If you're lucky enough to have a good sized piece of leather, some sinew, and an awl, you could make a water pouch with that.

Don't hang those alternatives to metal or pottery in fire of course as they can burn. But keeping them near some smouldering coals and embers can heat water pretty well.

More likely though you're not going to boil rice. You're going to turn it into rice flour, turn rice flour into a dough, and bake rice cakes out of that.


You don't need metal pots and pans for cooking. It's possible to cook, if need be, in wooden vessels. As @jwenting said: clay works excellent. In other words, pottery. The invention of pottery predates metallurgy by millennia.

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