Cooking has come a long way since the early 20th century. How has cooking changed since the advent of the microwave? Have a look at some modern cooking technology.
Do you know why there’s a whole kitchen team in Downtown Abbey? No, not because they’re rich British landowners who feel entitled to such things. It’s because you literally needed that many people to cook food for a family. Ovens needed to be tended to all day, meats and breads took hours to cook, and everything had to be done by hand… well, mostly.
As the 20th century advanced, more and more technologies allowed cooking to be done faster, reducing the need for staff to actually stand at the oven all day long. By the 1950s, refrigerators and ovens were in every home, turning the middle-class stay-at-home mother into a cook, a cleaner and a babysitter. At this point, having a cook and a maid was a sign of wealth.
The next big thing in the process of modern cooking technology happened in the 80s and 90s with the coming of the microwave. This nifty little contraption defrosted, heated and even cooked some foods in a fraction of the time an oven took to do the same thing.
But since then, it seems that cooking technology has more or less stagnated—nothing more amazing than the convection oven made it on the market and made any kind of splash.
But modern cooking technology is more than “ways to heat things better and faster”. It’s also about odor management, smart timers and temperature control, gas and electricity efficiency and induction cooktops. The changes might seem subtle, but they make a big difference in the quality of the food we cook every day.
More effective heating
Ovens are wonderful, but it takes a lot of energy to cook something. (Have you ever wondered why you need a special electric plug for both your oven and your refrigerator?) Today’s ovens and cooktops do their best to maximize energy usage and reduce energy consumption.
Convection cooking, for example, uses air flow to evenly distribute the heat and lets you reduce the temperature, thus saving on gas or electricity. It also allows you to cook several items at the same time, saving you more energy in the long run.
Cooktops and grills
Induction cooktops have the benefit of heating up quickly and turning off right away once they’re no longer needed. The speed at which they can penetrate the pan or pot helps save energy, because your food starts cooking faster.
Gas cooktops and grills have also become much more efficient. Precise temperature control and a better distribution of heat enables you to cook every meal to perfection while using less gas, thus lowering your overall energy bill.
Gas combustion has also become cleaner, lowering the amount of carbon monoxide released into the air.
Fans, electronic control and other modern goodies
The modern cook knows that nothing is worse than lots of smoke while trying to make a delicious meal. That’s why modern fans are more effective and pull more air than ever before. Sure, they might still be quite noisy, but engineers are certainly working on quieter yet still effective fans.
Electronic control of temperature and timing lets you choose the exact temperature (leaving no space for error) and cooking time. No more forgetting your roast in the oven if you miss the timer; the oven actually turns off automatically after the cooking is done. Some ovens even offer a “save” function, which lets you save the cooking parameters of any dish and automatically set them the next time you cook it.
And more and more, manufacturers are including more connected functions to cooking appliances. Smartphone alerts, automatic reminders for cleaning, screens for following recipes: the future of cooking looks more and more like the future of… well, everything else that a smartphone can help with. Want to pre-heat your oven before you get home? Let it know when you’re on your way. Not sure you have all the ingredients for a meal? Ask your refrigerator!
Has modern cooking technology changed the way you prepare your meals? Let us know in the comments!