Although cooking has traditionally been a process carried out informally in a home or around a communal fire, cooking is also often carried out outside of personal quarters, for example at restaurants, or schools. Bakeries were one of the earliest forms of cooking outside the home, and bakeries in the past often offered the cooking of pots of food provided by their customers as an additional service. In the present day, factory food preparation has become common, with many "ready-to-eat" foods being prepared and cooked in factories and home cooks using a mixture of scratch made, and factory made foods together to make a meal. "Home-cooking" may be associated with comfort food, and some commercially produced foods are presented through advertising or packaging as having been "home-cooked", regardless of their actual origin.

The four banal (English: common oven) was a common municipal institution in medieval France. Generally ovens were owned by the feudal lord of the municipality and operated by an ovenmaster or fournier; personal ovens were generally outlawed, requiring users of the communal oven to pay a fee to the fournier to cook their food. Such ovens were masonry ovens built on the Roman plan, and were large enough to hold an entire community's ration of bread. In the hamlet of Nan-sous-Thil (Cote-d'Or, France) [1] the inhabitants were required to bake their bread at the four banal, as at home they were permitted only a petit four that fit under the hood of the chimneypiece, large enough only to bake "gateau et flan". The dangers of a communal fire, where thatched cottages huddled together, the reason for the proscription, were not in vain: in 1848 a full quarter of the hamlet of Nan-sous-Thil was consumed by a fire that began from sparks when a housewife heated her oven. The oven design, but not the feudal monopoly on oven operation, was carried to French colonies, particularly Quebec. The four banal system seems to have died out in France during the 18th century, though it was a time when some dormant seigneurial rights were being insisted upon by an aristocracy hard-pressed for cash, as an official memoire suggests: The seigneur will do well not to raise the question for consideration, for the difference of the times, seeing the scarcity of wood and the poverty of the inhabitants, whom the exercise of this right would greatly distress. If it is by negligeance of the seigneur that this right has fallen into desuetude, let the inhabitants profit from it in peace".[2] Traditions surrounding the four banal may have lasted as late as World War II. In some rural areas of France, the old communal ovens are still extant (illustration) and are sometimes used for community celebrations. A masonry oven, colloquially known as a brick oven or stone oven, is an oven consisting of a baking chamber made of fireproof brick, concrete, stone, clay, or cob. Though traditionally wood-fired, coal-fired ovens were common in the 19th century, and modern masonry ovens are often fired with natural gas or even electricity. Modern masonry ovens are closely associated with artisanal bread and pizza, but in the past they were used for any cooking task involving baking. The traditional direct-fired masonry design is often called a "Roman" or "black" oven and dates in Western culture to at least the Roman Republic. It is known as a black oven because the smoke from the wood used as fuel sometimes collects as soot on the roof of the oven. Such ovens were in wide use throughout medieval Europe and were often built to serve entire communities (cf the banal ovens of France, which were often owned by the local government and whose operators charged a fee to oven users). Such ovens became popular in the Americas during the colonial era and are still in wide use in artisanal bakeries and pizzerias, as well as some restaurants featuring pizzas and baked dishes. Descendants include the beehive ovens of the colonial United States and the Quebec ovens based on the designs of the banal ovens of France. In the precolumbian Americas, similar ovens were often made of clay or adobe and are sometimes referred to by the Spanish term horno (meaning "oven"). Wood-burning masonry ovens are mandated for production of true Neapolitan pizza