The oven, often called a stove, is a staple appliance found in almost all kitchens around the world. There is even a theory surrounding its creation, as it is said that the invention of the oven coincides with the conceptualization of the kitchen. Whether that theory is true or not, one thing is for sure: a kitchen wouldn’t be called as such if it doesn’t have an oven.
The type of oven that we often see today is the modern oven or electric stove, which is usually made of metal parts that are sturdy and durable. The modern oven has a relatively short history, but its predecessor, the traditional brick oven, has a pretty long one. To understand the impact that the oven brought in kitchens today, we should first take a look at how it developed from the traditional type to the most used modern variant. Here is the history of the modern oven.
According to historical records, the earliest oven was first created in 29,000 BC, when people in Central Europe used it to cook mammoth meat. The oven utilized in that period is often found inside a yurt, which was a settlement for humans made of animal skins. These yurts would have pits in the middle where they would place the meat for cooking.
In 20,000 BC, the people inhabiting Ukraine has used a similar method of cooking meat, although the hot coals found underneath the pit was covered in ashes, and the food that is cooked is wrapped in leaves to prevent it from being burnt.
The First Official Oven
Although the cooking method utilized in ovens was developed as early as 30,000 BC, it was not until 1490 when the first official oven was invented. This first oven was built in Alsace, France, and was constructed using tiles and bricks. The design for the oven had already existed years before it was created in France, but this was the first oven that was recorded. When the first oven was introduced, it became an instant hit, especially to those who belong in the upper class, as they were the only few that can afford its construction.
When the first oven became popular, many people tried to find ways to improve its features and functions. It was stated that the problem with the oven made of bricks and tiles was that the smoke could not be contained inside. In order to solve the problem, oven makers started building chambers where wood can be placed at the bottom of the oven, and the wood will then be burned. Once the pieces of wood are burning, the fire and the smoke would remain in its place thanks to the chamber. Holes at the top would soon be incorporated along with the chambers so that cooking pots can be utilized for cooking instead of cauldrons, which are proven to be more unwieldy.
All of those additions to the stove were perfected in 1735 when an architect named Francois de Cuvillies built the Castrol stove, otherwise known as the stew stove. The Castrol stove is designed to contain the fire more efficiently than the early wood chambers, and its bottom has several holes to let the fire and smoke from the wood cook the food evenly.
The Invention of Cast-Iron Ovens
Before the creation of the Castrol stove, cast-iron variants have become quite popular in Germany, as these are deemed to be more durable and long-lasting than those made of bricks. The iron-based version of the stove was further improved upon in the 1700s by Benjamin Thompson, who added an adjustment mechanism in the oven so that the owner could have better control in temperature. The mechanism would later be a common feature found in modern ovens.
The First Gas Oven
James Sharp, a businessman and inventor, patented an oven that uses gas for power in 1826. The gas-powered oven was then marketed in 1828 by Smith & Philips, a firm based in London. Ten years after the application for the patent, Sharp founded a gas stove factory in Northampton, England. The initial reception for the gas oven was negative, and they weren’t able to sell more than two or three ovens until 1841 when the renowned chef Alexis Soyer incorporated the Sharp oven to his piped gas-powered kitchen. Soyer then convinced his fellow members at the Reform Club in London to convert their kitchen to use piped gas, as he considered it to be a cheaper option.
Unfortunately, Soyer’s use of the gas oven did not gain traction worldwide, and the oven was even exhibited at the 1851 World Fair in London to showcase its features, but the marketing stunt was also unsuccessful. It was only in the early 1880s when almost all areas of England have gas pipelines that the gas oven boomed in popularity.
Introduction of the Microwave Oven
The 1900s was an interesting period for the oven, as it was the era when one of the most well-known variants was invented. This variant is calledas the microwave oven.
The microwave oven was invented by Percy LeBaron Spencer, an engineer based in Maine, USA, who discovered that microwaves could heat up food much faster than a regular stove or oven. Spencer first noticed the heating power of the microwave when he noticed that the candy bar in his pocket started to melt while he was researching the microwaves produced by a homemade active radar set. With the help of the company called Raytheon, Spencer experimented on other types of food to see if they could be cooked by microwaves. The first food item that he tried to heat up was popcorn, and after the kernels of corn successfully popped, he then cooked an egg. The cooked egg exploded in the face of one of the unlucky people who were with Spencer during the tests.
To prevent further food explosions from happening, Spencer built a metal box that could contain microwaves that are produced by a high-density electromagnetic field. After it is filled with microwaves, the metal box would then begin heating up, thus cooking the food also contained with the microwaves.
After finalizing that the invention can be applied for use in restaurants, Spencer and Raytheon applied for a patent on October 8, 1945.
Development of Electric Ovens
While the microwave oven was invented in the 1940s, it was actually not the first type that is powered by electricity. The electric oven has already been invented in 1896 when a man named William Hadaway applied a patent for an oven that uses electricity for power. However, electric ovens weren’t as popular as the gas version during the period of its invention, as electricity was not as prominent in towns and cities as it is today.
It was in the 1950s, which was shortly after the invention of the microwave, that electric ovens became a popular appliance among the elite since it was more expensive than gas variants. Today, electric ovens have almost the same price as gas ovens, although the latter is still the most used version. Both the electric and gas ovens are now made with sturdier materials like stainless so that it can last longer in the kitchen.