The “Digesteur” of Denis Papin, ancestor of the pressure cooker

Denis Papin is a long-winded French scientist, mathematician and inventor from the XVIIth century who died in anonymity and relative misery. During his experimentation on the propriety of vacuum steam, Denis Papin conceives a cooking pot in very thick iron with a safety valve and a pressure cap blocked by a screw crosspiece. He calls it Digesteur. It is also known as “Papin’s cooker”, expression nowadays used by extension to all types of pressure cookers. Denis Papin synthesised his work on pressure and steam in a memoir in 1682 “la manière d’amollir les os et de faire cuire toutes sortes de viandes peu de temps, et à peu de frais”.
Bad marchand, Denis Papin receives no commercial gain for his invention.

Among the first commercialised pressure cookers, the Dampfopf (vapour pot) was sold in Alsace by the De Dietrich society. Realised in cast iron, it entailed a safety valve and a decompression cap. However, it didn’t gain commercial success since it didn’t correspond to the needs of housewives, for whom rapidity of cooking wasn’t a preoccupation.

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