Why we cook

Theories and Reasons for Humans’ Initial Cooking of Food

It starts with a fire

Although modern scholars, archaeologists and food historians are still unable to determine a definite year for the early beginnings of human food cooking, they do have viable theories and evidence concerning this subject. Most experts now agree that food cooking was initiated on a date falling between the first purposeful use of fire and the first known existence of the Neanderthals during prehistoric times. The first purposeful use of fire by humans was either in 1,400,000 BC in Africa or 500,000 BC in Asia, depending on which expert you consult.


Many chefs and culinary scholars have stated that cooking was the leading step ushering humankind from an animalistic existence into the first human lifestyle. At least, the early heating of foods enhanced human health because heat facilitates the release of food protein and carbohydrates. It also enables fiber break down and improves absorbable nutrition rates of numerous food substances. The first instance of roasting animal meat, fish, plants or nuts over a fire probably occurred by accident when an animal was struck by lightning or when raw meat or plant life either fell or was placed into flames or embers. However, the general use of fire for cooking started only 50,000 or 40,000 years ago, and boiling soon became a popular method of early food preparation. The fact that humans heated and combined different food substances in their early cuisine distinguishes them from animals at this point in history.

Following the early use of animal stomachs or skins and heated stones for cooking vessels came the development of more refined bronze and iron pots. The majority of cooking containers were iron pots from that time until the early days of the 20th century. Whether the first cooking of food by humans was by accident or experimentation, it brought humankind to a new level of development while greatly improving nutrition, general health and the enjoyment of eating.