The progression of cooking utensils throughout the 1900s was spurred by the desire for convenience and decreased time spent on domestic activities. In addition to many other household inventions, the advancement from fireplace to stoves and eventually microwaves was accompanied by the invention of cooking materials such as non-stick cookware and silicone. As computer technology was introduced and improved, the sophistication of electrical cooking tools expanded as well.
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Fireplace Cooking in Early 1900s
At the turn of the 20th century, the majority of Americans were still cooking in open fireplaces, although some homeowners used coal stoves. Although the kitchen hearth was considered to be the centre of the home, fireplaces posed many difficulties and hazards. Not only was the fire difficult and time-consuming to maintain, but it provided only limited heat to the entire living area. Because the flames were open to the home, embers and sparks were free to escape the fireplace, a fire safety hazard. Soot from the fireplace blackened walls in the home as well. Cast iron skillets and pots were used for cooking, often with an iron arm that suspended the utensil over the fire; these arms allowed the cook to easily pull the utensil from the fire for stirring or basting purposes and then replace it. Common kitchen utensils, such as spoons or two-pronged forks, were made of wood or enamel-covered metal.
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Gas Stove Cooking in the 1930s
Because electricity was available in about only 10 per cent of homes in the 1930s and the earliest electric stoves were extremely inefficient and costly to run, gas stoves became the standard for cooking in the 1930s. Although coal stoves continued to be used, especially in rural areas, gas stoves provided less soot than a fireplace and more control over the heat supplied to the pots and pans. Americans continued to use cast iron cookware with their gas stoves and the same enamel-covered utensils from the turn of the century.
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Convience of Electric Appliance Cooking in the 1950s
Affordable electric stoves became available in the 1950s and more than 60 per cent of households had electricity supply. Furthermore, with the increased infrastructure for electricity, the cost of using an electric stove dropped dramatically. Home chefs also enjoyed the ease of using a counter top stand mixer, initially available in the 1930s, but now lighter and smaller, along with the addition of the hand-held mixer in the mid-1950s. Already standard in Paris, by the mid-1950s, non-stick coating became the standard for American household pans as well. New technology led to lighter pots and pans made of alternative materials, such as aluminium and stainless steel.
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New Style of Cooking with Microwaves
In 1947, the "Radarange," or the first commericially available microwave, hit the American market. With improvements including a significant decrease in size, allowing for counter top placement, the microwave quickly became the standard for cooking, with microwaves outselling gas ranges by 1975. With the inclusion of microwave ovens, new cooking tools became available for exclusive microwave use including microwave egg cooker, hard boiler and omelette maker as well as bacon holders and vegetable steaming bags. In the late 1900s, silicone utensils were introduced. Previously, plastic utensils could be used only at very low temperatures in pans, due to plastic's low melting point, and wooden utensils discoloured easily and were not dishwasher-safe. Silicon, however, can be used on non-stick pans and is heat-resistant up to 260 degrees Celsius. As it is also dishwasher-safe, silicon quickly became a useful utensil for the home cook.