Medieval castles were manned by a large body of servants. Many of the servants in a typical medieval castle were engaged directly in the procurement, storage, preparation and serving of food. The kitchen served as a vital and lively unit of domestic service in such castles.
Most castles held a sizeable domestic body of people who ate in the castle’s Great Hall. These included the lord and his family, the body of knights, the ecclesiastical personnel serving within the castle’s boundaries and any guests that may have arrived.
Most of the times, the kitchen staff had to prepare a large and hearty meal. On rarer occasions when notable guests arrived, additional cooking had to be done to commemorate banquets and other feasts.
Consequently, the upkeep and maintenance of a medieval castle’s kitchen was fairly elaborate and required a sizeable staff.
In the kitchen of a medieval castle, the cook was the most important person. The cook had to prepare large meals for the household every day. He typically had access to a number of ovens and fireplaces located in the kitchen.
In preparing the food, he was helped by a number of servants who would turn the roasted meat on the pit while the cook would taste the soup, ensure that the bread is baked well and look after boiling the meat and other food provisions.
The utensils typically used by the cook included skillets, cauldrons, pots and pans. Since cooking required a vast number of ingredients and foodstuffs, the medieval kitchen was often accompanied by a large number of storage rooms.
These included the pantry, the butlery, the cellar and other storerooms dedicated to the storage of non-perishable food stuffs.
Once the food was prepared, it had to be carried to the Great Hall to be served. Ahead of carrying food to the ‘Great Hall‘, the servants would set up the tables in the Hall and lay down forks, knives, tablecloths, silver cups and other items for the diners.
Once the tables were set, the diners began to arrive and the servants then helped them wash their hands in basins. Then the food began to arrive with the pantler coming first, offering food and butter to the guests. Next came the butler accompanied by other servants and served wine and beer to the guests.
Throughout the meal, the servants kept arriving at the Hall and leaving it, carrying away dishes and serving subsequent courses.
Apart from the service staff that served in the Great Hall and the kitchen, a medieval castle also employed a number of other service staff members. These included the head maid who typically overlooked the servants and maids associated with the female members of the lord’s family.
The Steward of a castle was also a part of the service staff and acted as the head of the service staff at large, ensuring that each member performed his or her duties well. The constable who was in charge of the horses and pages was also an important member of the castle’s service staff.