Who invented Tongs? (Invention Timeline Explained)

The kitchen is where the heart of the house is. Many good memories happened in the kitchen. It is a place where families gather around, share the random events of the day, and celebrate achievements while eating delicious food. It is often filled with laughter, excitement, and the scent of something yummy cooking in the oven. However, those who love to cook also know how tedious and tiring it is to work in the kitchen. Luckily, there are a lot of kitchen utensils and equipment that make their lives easier.

One kitchen tool that’s been around for centuries is the tongs. It’s been a part of meal preparation, cooking, and serving on any occasion. We often take things like tongs for granted, but if we look at them closely, we’ll realize there is a story behind them. This article summarizes the rich story behind the invention of tongs.

Who invented the first tongs?

The creation of the first tong-like equipment is accredited to the Egyptians. The Egyptians used them to bring objects over the fire.

The tongs’ key contributors (and evolution)

  • Egyptians
    The Earliest Known Tongs

    Archeologists found evidence of tong-like instruments dating back to 1450 BC. They explained that the Egyptians used these metal tongs to place objects over the fire. They also claim that Egyptians used gold tongs to handle or move the statues of their gods and goddesses.

  • Li Shao-Chun
    The Popularization of Tongs

    Li Shao-Chun, a Chinese blacksmith, created tungsten steel tongs while working in his shop. He used it to grab hot metal without burning himself. His invention became famous and ordinary people used it for harvesting crops and cooking.

  • John Mudge
    The Crucible Tongs

    John Mudge, another blacksmith, invented a type of tongs called crucible tongs. Like Li Shao-Chun, he used crucible tongs to hold hot metals in place while forging them.

  • Leslie Baumer
    The Grilling Tongs

    Leslie Baumer, an engineer, developed the grilling tongs after observing a bunch of people having difficulty grilling meat using regular tongs. 

  • Walter Hunt
    The Kitchen Tongs

    Tongs made cooking and meal preparation easier. There are recorded uses of kitchen tongs from the first century up to the 17th century. However, the person credited for its invention and patented its design is Walter Hunt.

When were the first tongs invented?

Archaeologists and historians traced back the origin of tongs to the Egyptians. They discovered a painting from 1450 BCE that features an object supported by a metal tong. 

A brief history of tongs

The history of tongs goes back to the time of the Egyptians. Archaeologists found an Egyptian painting from 1450 BCE featuring an object supported by a tong-like instrument. Scholars explained that Egyptians made tongs from metals and gold. They used them to expose things above an open fire. They are also used for religious practices like moving the statues of their idols. 

After Egypt, it is hard to trace which countries used tongs. However, there are pieces of evidence found in China dating back to 475 BC. Mozi, a Chinese philosopher, claimed to have invented tongs. Li Shao-Chun, a Chinese blacksmith, created a type of tongs to hold hot metals. He is responsible for making tongs very popular.

In the 19th century, John Mudge invented a type of tongs which is made of pure steel. He used it while working at his shop to forge burning hot metals. Through the years, tongs have proven its importance. Different versions were created by inventors and engineers worldwide.

In 1963, an Engineer from California invented a type of tongs to make grilling meat easier. He observed that it was tough for the people at the beach to flip the meat over the grill using regular tongs. So when he went home that day, he created the first grilling tongs in his garage. 

Another useful type of tongs is the kitchen tongs. Kitchen tongs have been used in houses and food businesses since the 1st century AD. However,  In 1829, Walter Hunt patented the design for kitchen tongs. Since then, it has become a standard tool in the kitchen, used for picking up food or placing ingredients in a pot. 

Other examples of tongs are salad tongs invented in 1835, curling tongs from the early 1700s, and electric curling tongs from the late 1950s.

The tongs’  timeline

  1. 1450 BC
    Tongs for Idols

    Historians found out that Egyptians used two metal or gold rods to create a tong-like instrument. They used these to hold objects above a fire or to move their idols/statues of their gods and goddesses.

  2. 19th Century
    Tongs for Blacksmiths

    John Mudge invented a type of tongs which was made of steel. He created it to position hot metals without burning himself. Many blacksmiths benefited from his invention.

  3. 1963
    Tongs for Grilling

    Leslie Baumer noticed how hard it was for people to grill meat using regular tongs. He worked in his garage and invented the very first grilling tongs in the summer of 1963.

  4. 1829
    The Invention of Kitchen Tongs

    Walter Hunt is the first person to submit a patent for kitchen tongs. Although many people have already used tongs since the 1st century AD, Hunt is credited as the inventor.

  5. 1835
    The Salad Tongs

    In 1835, Erastus Palmer from Vermont invented a type of tong used for getting salad ingredients. They were made of woods, and he called them “Mr. Palmer’s Salad Tongs.”

Where were the first tongs invented?

There is evidence to believe that the first tongs originated from Egypt in 1450 BCE. There were also early uses of tongs in China in 1644. 

The importance of the tongs

  • Protection from heat

    Some food is best served when hot. However, when preparing hot meals, we are at risk of being hurt by the heat. That’s why we use tongs to protect our hands from the heat in the kitchen, such as boiling oil and open fire. They serve as our hand extensions.

  • Grabbing greasy food

    Some tongs can help you prepare food, but some tongs can help you grab greasy food quickly, especially pasta and other fatty food. 

  • For the short people

    Not all of us are tall! For the short people in the kitchen, it’s a struggle to reach cabinets and shelves or grab condiments and other objects. Tongs can be used as an arm extender! 

  • Effective grill cleaners

    Yes, we all know that tongs are used to grill meat. However, they can help clean the grill rods. After cooking the first batch of meat, it’s natural for the grills to become dirty. Instead of using your hands (which can cause injury), you can use the tongs to clean and regrease the grills.

The tongs by the numbers

  • 50 The first salad tongs were sold for 50 cents each by their inventor, Erastus Dow Palmer.
  • 12 Kitchen tongs come in many sizes. There are small tongs around 3 to 9 inches long and long tongs measuring up to 15 inches. But the ideal or standard length is 12 inches.
  • 500 or 260 Tongs with silicon tips can withstand the temperature of 500 °F  or 260 °C. This is why they are ideal for cooking and baking. Some tongs were used in laboratories.
  • 7The word “tongs” was used in the bible seven times. It was written in the books of Exodus, Numbers, Kings, Chronicles, and Isaiah.

Five facts about the tongs

  • They can grab sugar!

    A type of tongs called “sugar tongs” can easily grab a lump of sugar. This type of tong is usually silver in color and has a claw-shaped head.

  • First, they were woods.

    There were tongs used in Ancient times that were originally wood, but as time went by, they used metal sticks to handle hot items that were usually on fire. 

  • Tongs are simple machines.

    A tong is a simple machine called a lever. Specifically, tongs are examples of class 3 levers. This means you must apply force in the middle to produce energy for both poles.

  • They were made by God!

    According to Pirkei Avot, an ancient Jewish text, tongs were the creations of God. It was written that God created tongs during the first Shabbat eve for the blacksmiths. Tongs were originally pure and good until people used them for bad things.

  • They were mentioned in the bible.

    The word “tongs” was mentioned in the holy scriptures several times. Other hand tools like the hammer or mallet, axe, and plow were also noted and had special meanings.

FAQ about the tongs

  • Why are tongs called “tongs”?

    Originally tongs were referred to as “a pair of tongs” this word came from the word “tange” or “tang”  from Old English, which means “that bites”. Later on, the term evolved to “tongs, “which is easier for people to say and remember. 

  • Are there different types of tongs?

    Yes. Generally, there are three types of tongs. Ice tongs for grabbing ice, pom tongs for deserts and apperizers, and utility tongs for meal preparations.

  • What are tongs made of?

    Most tongs are made of stainless steel, while some are made of aluminium, wood, safe plastic, and heat-resistant materials to ensure the product’s safety to the user.

  • Can I make DIY tongs?

    If you need a tong and can’t find one, you can try different ways to make DIY tongs. One common way is by tying two forks (facing each other) using a rubber band.

  • What is another term for tongs?

    Tongs are also known as pincers, forceps, pinchers, and pliers. Some people call them specifically based on their purpose, like, fire-tongs, ice tongs, sugar tongs, or blacksmith’s tongs.

Leave a Comment