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This article is about the preparation of food. For a general outline, see Outline of food preparation. For varied styles of international food, see cuisine.

Cooking, cookery, or culinary arts is the art, science and craft of using heat to improve the palatability, digestibility, nutrition, or safety of food. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely, from grilling food over an open fire to using electric stoves, to baking in various types of ovens, reflecting local conditions.

Types of cooking also depend on the skill levels and training of the cooks. Cooking is done both by people in their own dwellings and by professional cooks and chefs in restaurants and other food establishments.

Preparing food with heat or fire is an activity unique to humans. Archeological evidence of cooking fires from at least 300,000 years ago exists, but some estimate that humans started cooking up to 2 million years ago.[1][2]

The expansion of agriculture, commerce, trade, and transportation between civilizations in different regions offered cooks many new ingredients. New inventions and technologies, such as the invention of pottery for holding and boiling of water, expanded cooking techniques. Some modern cooks apply advanced scientific techniques to food preparation to further enhance the flavor of the dish served.[3]


Phylogenetic analysis suggests that early hominids may have adopted cooking 1 million to 2 million years ago.[4] Re-analysis of burnt bone fragments and plant ashes from the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa has provided evidence supporting control of fire by early humans by 1 million years ago.[5] In his seminal work Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Richard Wrangham suggested that evolution of bipedalism and a large cranial capacity meant that early Homo habilis regularly cooked food.[6][7] However, unequivocal evidence in the archaeological record for the controlled use of fire begins at 400,000 BCE, long after Homo erectus.[8][9]

Archaeological evidence from 300,000 years ago,[10] in the form of ancient hearths, earth ovens, burnt animal bones, and flint, are found across Europe and the Middle East. The oldest evidence (via heated fish teeth from a deep cave) of controlled use of fire to cook food by archaic humans was dated to ~780,000 years ago.[11][12] Anthropologists think that widespread cooking fires began about 250,000 years ago when hearths first appeared.

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