Wed | Jan 29, 2020

Celebration of Jamaica's heritage

Published:Sunday | May 27, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Coal pot

As we continue our journey to highlight Jamaica's history through the artefacts, the coal pot takes centre stage today.

A coal pot is a small earthenware or cast-iron stove that was traditionally used for cooking outdoors, especially in rural areas.

According to Lynn Marie Houston, author of Food Culture in the Caribbean, this type of stove was brought to Jamaica and the Caribbean from Africa. The coal pot, or stove, consists of two parts that are joined together.

The first part brings the basin-like top in which the coals were placed. This basin contained holes in the base, which allowed the ash from the coals to fall into the second part, which is a hollow cylindrical foot that is about fifteen centimetres deep.

The bottom compartment, or foot, has a hole on one side, which allows the ash to be removed, as well as allows air flow to the coals in the top compartment, which assists the lit coals to stay as hot as possible.

According to Olive Senior, pots were perched on the stove for cooking, and meat on sticks were laid on stop of the coals and a grilled. Senior also goes on to state that these stoves were also widely used for heating flat and sad irons for pressing clothes.

Although today, most households would have transitioned to using more modern appliances for cooking such as electric and gas stoves, the traditional ceramic coal pot or its cast iron counterpart is still used for roasting breadfruit.

Houston says that many people still use the coal pot to cook because the food tastes distinctly different when compared to food cooked by conventional methods, as the local woods used for cooking on a coal stove impart a flavourful smoke to the dishes.


Houston, L, M. (2005). Food Culture in the Caribbean, United States of America: Greenwood Press, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881.

Senior, O. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Jamaican Heritage. Kingston, Jamaica: Twin Gunip Publishers.

- Information compiled by Sharifa Balfour, assistant curator, National Museum Jamaica