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Cooks combine ingredients at kitchens to produce finished meals. Dwarves with more skill at cooking work faster, and produce higher quality meals.
Dwarven cooks use two, three, or four ingredients per meal, adding their quantities to produce the quantity of the finished product. This does have the potential to increase the total amount of food a fortress has access to, since some cookable items are not edible raw. Quarry bush leaves, flour, and seeds are examples. Since cooking your last plump helmet spawn could mean disaster, seed cooking is disabled by default. Cooking such ingredients is an excellent way to cater to the tastes of dwarves who prefer foods that are inedible when raw. Alcohol can be used as food in cooking too, and is enabled by default. Examining a finished meal will allow you to view the ingredients it contains.
Preparing easy meals (Biscuits) will combine two ingredients, preparing fine meals (Stews) will combine three, and lavish meals (Roasts) require four ingredients to prepare. If you want your dwarves to gain skill as cooks you should only prepare easy meals, since this gives them the most practice per ingredient used. If you want to maximize your storage space, use lavish meals, since these combine a large number of ingredients into a single stack.
If food supplies are tight, brewing plants into alcohol and subsequently cooking the alcohol will effectively multiply food stocks fivefold. Brewing the plants first will also yield seeds, which cooking plants destroys.
Cooking can also turn raw ingredients, which never have quality, into high-quality meals, which increase dwarven happiness and often have a high monetary value.
Cooked meals are immune to wear while stored in stockpiles, while meat is not.
The cooking skill is also used to turn fat into tallow.
Use the z-Status Kitchen menu to allow or forbid items for cooking (or brewing). Useful for a ton of things, like making sure your meat is cooked first, or preventing milk from being cooked that you want to make cheese out of instead (though note that cheese-making also checks the kitchen settings, so you'll need to re-allow it eventually).
Hauling and Kitchens
When cooks have large stacks of ingredients to work with, kitchens get cluttered quickly - when cooking large stacks of alcohol brewed from starting supplies or from skilled growers' crops, it is not uncommon to end up with quantities such as "Dwarven Wine Stew ." If they stay in the kitchen, finished meals like this will slow down your cook's work and will rot if left too long. It is worthwhile to keep an eye on kitchen clutter levels, and to micromanage food haulers if necessary, to ensure that everything ends up in a food stockpile quickly.
Bowyer · Carpenter · Engineer · Wood cutter
Brewer · Butcher · Cheese maker · Cook · Dyer · Grower · Herbalist · Lye maker · Milker · Miller · Potash maker · Soaper · Tanner · Thresher · Wood burner