A porringer is a small dish from which European
European ethnic groups
The ethnic groups in Europe are the various ethnic groups that reside in the nations of Europe. European ethnology is the field of anthropology focusing on Europe....

s and colonial Americans
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 ate their gruel or porridge
Porridge is a dish made by boiling oats or other cereal meals in water, milk, or both. It is usually served hot in a bowl or dish...

, or other soft foods.

Porringers were shallow bowls, between 4" to 6" in diameter, and 1½" to 3" deep; the form originates in the medieval period in Europe and they were made in wood, ceramic, pewter
Pewter is a malleable metal alloy, traditionally 85–99% tin, with the remainder consisting of copper, antimony, bismuth and lead. Copper and antimony act as hardeners while lead is common in the lower grades of pewter, which have a bluish tint. It has a low melting point, around 170–230 °C ,...

 and silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

. They had flat, horizontal handles. Colonial porringers tended to have one handle whereas European ones tend to have two handles on opposite sides, on which the owner's initials were sometimes engraved, and they occasionally came with a lid. Porringers resembled the smaller quaich
A quaich , archaically quaigh, is a special kind of shallow two-handled drinking cup or bowl in Scotland. It derives from the Scottish Gaelic cuach meaning a cup....

, a Scottish drinking vessel.

One can discern authentic pewter porringers in much the same way that silver can be authenticated from the touch marks that were stamped either into the bowl of the porringer or on its base. Wooden porringers are occasionally found from excavations e.g. 16th C example from Southwark and 11th C from Winchester.

The most famous colonial porringers are probably those made by Paul Revere
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...


It should be said that in more modern times, some manufacturers of porringers have produced them without handles. These types of porringers appear to be a deep bowl, with the sides being nearly totally flat. Porringers are also used less and less, as a bowl will suffice for most people; Porringers, however, are still circulated, mainly as a Christening-gift.

A second, modern usage, for the term porringer is a double saucepan similar to a bain-marie
A bain-marie is a French term for a piece of equipment used in science, industry, and cooking to heat materials gently and gradually to fixed temperatures, or to keep materials warm over a period of time.- Description :...

used for cooking porridge. The porridge is cooked gently in the inner saucepan, heated by steam from boiling water in the outer saucepan. This ensures the porridge does not burn and allows a longer cooking time so that the oats can absorb the water or milk in which they are cooked more completely. Also the porridge does not need stirring during the cooking process which means the oats maintain their structural integrity and the porridge has a better mouthfeel and texture. The lower heat may also degrade less of the beta-glucan in the oats, which gives oats their cholesterol-lowering properties.

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