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Werewolves are predatory wolf-like humanoids. To be more specific, they have an upright, plantigrade frame like an ape, with a doggish snout and paw-like structures instead of hands. They have no language or inventive power, but can collect wood and start fires for cooking. How could they cook their food without needing to hold it over the fire themselves and potentially getting burned?

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    $\begingroup$ If they have no inventive power they can't control fire $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 26, 2021 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ How would they start a fire with paws? $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Aug 26, 2021 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ Stick meat on a stick and hold the stick over a fire? $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Aug 26, 2021 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ The most primitive method is probably skewers. Little wooden spears that are held over the fire as a spit (they need not be turned unless you want to cook things evenly). They could even roast things marshmallow-style. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Aug 26, 2021 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ there are dozens of real primitive cooking techniques, this feels more like a history question than worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 26, 2021 at 13:52

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As the L.Dutch's answer says, the cognitive ability to connect "I do this" with "I get nicer food" is what I would say is inventive. However, as you ask the question I assume you are allowing them sufficient cognition to light a fire to use for cooking which requires similar mental abilities. I will assume you mean they cannot invent a complex mechanism to make up for their lack of opposable digits, but can perform tasks they are physically able to achieve the aim.

The easiest way for about anyone to cook with a fire is a pit roast. Dig a hole (dogs manage this), place meat in hole, cover with something (rocks, wet wood, soil) and light a fire on top. When the fire has burnt out carefully uncover the meat and it should be beautifully cooked. It will involve getting the timing right.

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They don't cook their food.

Even the most elementary recipe is an inventive act, because it requires the capability of abstracting the consequence of different steps on the final result, as well as learning from experimental results. E.g. "a raw potato placed into a fire for some time becomes sweeter".

Since you state

They have no language or inventive power

they lack the very basis for reaching the point of cooking.

They might accidentally eat something cooked if it happens to fall into their fire or hot ashes, but not because they did it on purpose.

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  • $\begingroup$ Would you consider building a dam to be an inventive act? $\endgroup$
    – user37344
    Aug 27, 2021 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ @user37344 No, because beavers don't seem to get better at it as they go on; the same way as crows never learn how to make more secure nests. It is an innate ability, not a learnt ability. It isn't even something they can control - they just build a dam, even across an existing pond where it will do nothing. So you would need werewolves to have cooking being an evolved genetic characteristic that they can't not do, which seems pretty unlikely. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Aug 27, 2021 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham "So you would need werewolves to have cooking being an evolved genetic characteristic that they can't not do, which seems pretty unlikely." Counterexample: there are arguments Humans evolved smaller stomachs and bigger brains because they could cook $\endgroup$ Aug 27, 2021 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham I'm not sure crows never learn how to make more secure nests. As far as my amateur study by observation of those incredible birds go, they are so annoyingly smart they'll even trick you with fake nests full of pebbles if you seem intent on watching them. They can also learn new tricks and teach them to each other. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Aug 27, 2021 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham You should take a look at out (homo sapien sapien) evolutionary tree. Several very near relatives of ours learned how to make weapons and tools and then did not improve on them for millennia. In fact, certain African tribes which continued to exist near where human beings evolved continued to use the same crude spears and bows until just the last century. Are those inherently non-inventive people? And, if either category does have non-inventive people or near relatives of people, how well does building a throwing spear fit into your notion of what can or can't done by evolution? $\endgroup$
    – user37344
    Aug 27, 2021 at 15:05
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They would cook their food using the exact same methods, tools and motivation as normal wolves.

I.E. Not at all, using just their teeth, and why on earth would they cook their food?

Until you allow them better cognitive abilities, they will not use fire at all.

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They bury their food an inch below the surface, then start a fire on it. Once their instincts tell them the food is ready, they throw dirt over the fire with their back paws and dig up the cooked meal.

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Spitroast and cooking pots

How do you hold it over a fire is something quickly solved. Out of practical standpoint you don't want to hold it for a long time. Impale it on a stick and put the stick in the ground so it'll lean over the fire. Or impale it and have it strung over the fire by some other sticks.

Otherwise a cooking pot. They serve the purpose to prevent the oxidation (fire) to directly start in the food, protecting the nutrients. It also allows to more easily be hanged over a fire.

Both allow food to be put on and off the fire without burning paws.

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If having food cooked was a necessity (for instance, the food is poisonous before cooked to a certain extent), and these werewolves have no 'inventive power' as L.Dutch pointed out, then it would make sense that a possible reason werewolves end up cooking their food is because their natural environment has elements that can naturally cook it.

Perhaps they store their food in an underground dugout near an active volcano. Perhaps there are radiation sources that have a larger effect on 'dead' meat which in turn cooks it after a period of time. In both of these proposed situations, the werewolf would be acting instinctually, namely: it can't eat the food immediately, or it must bring its food back to the 'hive' before it can eat it.

A third potential situation, (not quite 'cooking', but I could argue that it's a type of cooking), is some kind of bacteria, algae, or insect contaminates the 'dead' meat and changes the properties of it before it is consumed.

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I would imagine that if the werewolves can do all that you describe they could probably also carry people?

You've probably seen depictions of how heretics were burned at the stake in some times and places (do an image search for "bloody mary burning protestants" for an example). The werewolves could do that, except, impale their prey on the stake instead of tying them down (do an image search for "Dracule waide" if you're not sure what I'm talking about) to lower the dexterity requirement.

It would be super crude, but I think it would basically work and you can really add to the horror factor by having people be impaled and then burned alive as part of the process.

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Cooking their food is really just a side effect of killing their food with fire.

Firehawk raptors have been known to carry flaming branches from bushfires to unburned areas, as a means of flushing out prey. Perhaps your werewolves do something similar, except rather than merely flushing them out and swooping in when they're in the open (a tricky manoeuvre for a presumably flightless mammal), they trap prey in an inescapable fire and feed on the crispy remains when the fire dies down.

It's not going to win any plaudits with food critics, but it is cooking.

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Most obviously either skewers, or clay… skewers as for any food, clay as for hedgehogs.

All canines are known for their love of digging. Is it a giant leap from that, to wrapping the meal in clay and dropping the package straight into the flames?

That both helps to stop the fire from burning before it cooks, and when it's pealed off, leaves all the prickles and much of the skin stuck to the clay.

Further, "ordinary" werewolves don't need to cook their food. That's part of the "wolf" side of their being; wolves eat raw meat.

Being a predatory, wolf-like humanoid of upright, plantigrade frame like an ape, with a doggish snout and paw-like structures instead of hands, should make no difference… except to leave their creator a hard task explaining how they start fires.

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