Hundred-year-old Double Boiler Advertisement

Double Boiler Ad (LHJ, 1-1915)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1915)

Double boilers apparently were extremely popular a hundred years ago. I’m intrigued that the Quaker Oats Company apparently considered them so desirable that they were part of the company’s marketing initiative. Customers were given double boilers when they sent in a dollar plus several trademark pictures cut off the oatmeal packages.

When I made the Coffee Pudding recipe earlier this week, the hundred-year-old recipe stated that it should be cooked in a double boiler.

Since many people today don’t own double boiIers, I adjusted the recipe to say that it should be cooked “in a saucepan (use a double boiler if available)”.

Double boilers reduce the likelihood that food in contact with the bottom surface of a pan will be scorched. If a double boiler isn’t used when making puddings, and other easy-to-burn foods, it is important to stir constantly, and ensure the spoon goes to the very bottom of the pan and regularly touches every single millimeter of the bottom surface.

35 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Double Boiler Advertisement

  1. The only time I ever used one was for melting butter or chocolate. Nowadays, I cut back on the mess and time by using the microwave – including my oatmeal! Love your site bringing back all these memories, my mother used this a lot.

    1. In addition to melting butter and chocolate in one, my mother used to use a double boiler to make puddings. It’s nice to hear that you’re continuing to enjoy this site after it transitioned to the new format.

  2. I still have my mother’s double boiler, and use it frequently. It’s one of only two pieces from her fancy pans (copper-bottomed) that I still have, but it fills a need in the kitchen that no other pan does. There’s a reason they were so popular!

    1. I love those old copper-bottomed pans. A few years ago I was thrilled to find an old Revere Ware copper-bottomed small saucepan and a dutch oven at an estate sale at very reasonable prices.

  3. That’s funny I have recently started eating oatmeal every other day for breakfast. But I don’t double boil the “Quick Oats”.

  4. I was wondering about the message at the bottom of the page. What is the postage or price if you live in the South or Far West. Where is the South or Far West? It is the Mason/Dixon line and Rockies? Did everyone know?

    1. It is an unusual message. I have no idea what encompassed the South and Far West. I suppose that the oatmeal packages cost more than 10 and 25 cents in some places–and the company didn’t want people to be upset.

  5. My mom didn’t own a double boiler, but if she needed to, she would place a smaller pan inside a larger one (filled with water) to get the same effect!

  6. I didn’t realize that double boilers were not that common. I have my mother’s though recently my oldest girl has borrowed it to use. Someone will be getting a double boiler for Christmas so I get mine back. Main two things I use it for are cooking tapioca pudding (not instant, but pearls) and cooking wild rice.

    To keep milk from scorching I use a spatula (pancake turner) when stirring as it makes much better contact with the bottom of the kettle than just a spoon.

  7. We cook our oatmeal in the microwave. I wonder how much the double boiler cost one hundred years ago? It seems like a bargain for 50 cents of oats and one dollar cash.

  8. We had a double boiler for cooking oatmeal when I was little – it might have come from that advertisement – it was made of thin aluminum and we used it also for melting chocolate and heating milk without scalding it. My mother got a stainless steel Revere-ware version some decades ago. Nowadays with Teflon linings on saucepans you don’t have to worry about the oatmeal sticking like glue to the pan!

    1. Wow, it’s amazing that your family may have had a double boiler that came from the advertisement–though I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised since the advertisement said that more than 600,000 of them had already been distributed.

    1. Like you, I’m not a fan of aluminum pans; but, based on advertisements that I’ve seen in old magazines, I have a sense that they were reasonably popular a hundred years ago.

      1. Yes they were very popular, and quite efficient heating wise, but now we know that the unlined aluminum pots are not so healthy.
        But who knows, what they will think about our “safe” pots in 100 years… 🙂

    1. Your comment made me smile. I don’t own a double boiler. After reading what you wrote, I remembered how I didn’t like making foods using the double boiler when I was a child because they too so long to cook. I’d totally forgotten that. Thanks for taking me down memory lane.

    1. Until I saw this ad, I also had never heard of making oatmeal with a double boiler. I wonder why the Quaker Oats Company encouraged people to use double boilers back then. When I just use a regular saucepan to make oatmeal (and across the years I’ve made quick oatmeal, old-fashioned oatmeal, and steel-cut oatmeal), I’ve never had any problems with it scorching.

  9. I don’t own a double boiler but like some of your other commenters I will put a small pot or bowl in a bigger pot to achieve the same effect. I was also wondering why a double boiler for oats but I suppose double boilers were useful when stove tops were not as well regulated as they are today. My grandmother always cooked on a coal range and the temperature had to be controlled by manipulation of the coal. In those circumstances a double boiler would have been my saving grace.

    1. I bet that you are right. It makes sense that there was more of a need to use a double boiler when making oatmeal back in the days when it was difficult to regulate temperatures.

  10. It’s been years since I’ve used a double boiler. Sheryl, I like your header picture, and I was drawn to this post because of the old ad. Beautiful. It seems like everyone took more care and time for everything in the old days (recipes and ads included).
    Blessings ~ Wendy

    1. Thank you for the kind words. The photo in the header is a recent picture of the farm house that my grandmother lived in when she was a teen.

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