History of the Stove

History of the Stove

Following our History of the Kitchen, we thought we’d take a look at the history/evolution of the various aspects and appliances of what now constitute the modern kitchen. This week we are following the evolution of the modern stove.

…or a $100,000 range, which might be out of your range…it’s made of gold and it cooks gold

 Earliest Stoves

Asian civilizations created ovens that totally enclosed the cooking fire much earlier than Western civilizations; China, Korea, and Japan had clay stoves by 200 BC:

Europeans, on the other hand, were using open fires to cook, from the dawn of man up until the Middle Ages, which was less advantageous than using an enclosed stove (open fire cooking is dangerous – you can easily burn yourself, a lot of the heat escapes so you need more fuel to cook, and the food does not cook as evenly as in an enclosed oven).

Then in the Middle Ages, the hearth started becoming the center of peoples’ home and family life. The hearth was usually waist high and made of stone, with a chimney, or simply a hole in the ceiling, above it to funnel out the smoke from the fire. As Europeans attempted to improve their hearth stoves, they built brick and mortar walls on three sides of the fire, and covered the front with an iron plate.

Enclosing the Fire

Enclosing the fire had the additional benefit of containing the smoke (at least to some extent). Inventors continued to improve wood burning stove, and by the mid-1700s, cast-iron stoves started to become popular, the first of which may have looked something like this:

These stoves all still burned wood; coal didn’t become a viable fuel source until 1833, when Jordan Mott invented the first practical coal-burning stove.

Gas, and Electricity

Gas stoves were invented in 1826, but it wasn’t until the 1920s when enough houses had gas lines that gas stoves could really catch on. Similarly, electric stoves had been available since 1890, but did not catch on until the 1920s and 1930s.

The stove, now

Every modern dog breed, from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane, was bred from domesticated wolves (or, speaking contentiously, dogs came from a ‘wolf-like common ancestor’):

Similarly, today there is a myriad of stoves derived from our early ancestors cooking over a campfire. There are giant ranges for industrial kitchens, and there are tiny propane camping stoves that fit in a backpack.

I’ve cooked deer sausage in a duck blind in the winter, and we have all grilled outside on a BBQ grill, powered by coal, propane, or even wood. In Mexico, they cook tortillas outside on a Patsari stove:

There are solar ovens that you set up outside, and they focus light form the sun. They get hot enough to cook a pizza:

A hamburger place in Boston, Louis’ Lunch, has been open since 1895, and has been credited by some as possibly having invented the hamburger. They are open to this day and still use 3 upright stoves from the 1890’s to cook their burgers:

Nowadays, most peoples’ (well, people in America) stoves look like this:

But, like all the diverse breeds of dogs, there are countless unique stove designs and models. We have come a long way from cooking food on sticks over a camp fire, but our stoves and ovens still are essentially designed to meet our basic needs: to cleanly and efficiently cook our food in as safe a manner as possible.

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