iPhoneOgraphy – 02 Oct 2016 (Day 276/366)
An oven is a thermally insulated chamber used for the heating, baking or drying of a substance, and most commonly used for cooking. Kilns and furnaces are special-purpose ovens, used in pottery and metalworking, respectively.
The earliest ovens were found in Central Europe, and dated to 29,000 BC. They were roasting and boiling pits inside yurts used to cook mammoth. In Ukraine from 20,000 BC they used pits with hot coals covered in ashes. The food was wrapped in leaves and set on top, then covered with earth. In camps found in Mezhirich, each mammoth bone house had a hearth used for heating and cooking. Ovens were used by cultures who lived in the Indus Valley and in pre-dynastic Egypt. By 3200 BC, each mud-brick house had an oven in settlements across the Indus Valley. Ovens were used to cook food and to make bricks. Pre-dynastic civilizations in Egypt used kilns around 5000-4000 BC to make pottery.
Culinary historians credit the Greeks for developing bread baking significantly. Front-loaded bread ovens were developed in Ancient Greece. The Greeks created a wide variety of doughs, loaf shapes, and styles of serving bread with other foods. Baking developed as a trade and profession as bread increasingly was prepared outside of the family home by specially trained workers to be sold to the public.
During the Middle Ages, instead of earth and ceramic ovens, Europeans used fireplaces in conjunction with large cauldrons. These were similar to the Dutch oven. Following the Middle-Ages, ovens underwent many changes over time from wood, iron, coal, gas, and even electric. Each design had its own motivation and purpose. The wood burning stoves saw improvement through the addition of fire chambers that allowed better containment and release of smoke. Another recognizable oven would be the cast-iron stove. These were first used around the early 1700s when they themselves underwent several variations including the Stewart Oberlin iron stove that was smaller and had its own chimney.
In the early part of the 19th century, coal ovens were developed. Its shape was cylindrical and was made of heavy cast-iron. The gas oven saw its first use as early as the beginning of the 19th century as well. Gas stoves became very common household ovens once gas lines were available to most houses and neighborhoods. James Sharp patented one of the first gas stoves in 1826. Other various improvements to the gas stove included the AGA cooker invented in 1922 by Gustaf Dalén. The first electric ovens were invented in the very late 19th century, however, like many electrical inventions destined for commercial use, mass ownership of electrical ovens could not be a reality until better and more efficient use of electricity was available.
More recently, ovens have become slightly more high-tech in terms of cooking strategy. The microwave as a cooking tool was discovered by Percy Spencer in 1946, and with the help from engineers, the microwave oven was patented. The microwave oven uses microwave radiation to excite the molecules in food causing friction, thus producing heat.