By M. Liao and A. van Slyck
The kitchen has evolved over centuries to become the model of convenience that it is today. The changing needs of society has shaped this room and the tools that we use in it. The kitchen began as a space for cooking food over a wood fire, a method that lasted the whole of human history until the invention of the gas stove. With the introduction of industrialization, a larger variety for kitchenware became available. But it wasn’t until the invention of electricity in the end of the 19th Century that the kitchen became automated. Following the Word Wars, the kitchen underwent a massive makeover. New technologies offered unprecedented ways to meet the needs of the user. In the 21st Century, appliances have continued to transform and upgrade in an effort to find the optimum user experience, while reducing energy consumption. Among popular inventions and marketed products, the following aims to describe just a few of the major appliances that led the way for the transformation of the modern kitchen.
Introduced into homes in the 1930s, the Refrigerator quickly replaced the icebox in homes throughout the United States and Britain.
More than 90% of urban homes owned one by 1950. Kelvinator dominated the market, and home refrigeration quickly focused its appeal on the growing desire for a modern and more efficient household. At the height of the consumer boom, household across the United States were awed by the machine’s catchy streamline designs.
The original electric refrigerator used a formula of toxic gases such as ammonia, methyl chloride, and sulfur dioxide to keep items cool, a mixture that was soon discarded after the occurrence of several fatal accidents. Following these deaths, companies quickly explored new cooling agents. Freon became the standard for household refrigerators for decades before its environmental effects were measured. Over the past few decades the refrigerator has taken its own place in the sustainable movement.
The microwave was originally built in the mid-1940s as a commercial machine. At nearly six feet tall and 750 lbs, with a price-tag at the time of $5,000, the device consumed more than three-times the energy of a modern-day microwave found in the average home. In the 1950s a smaller model was marketed for household consumption for the discounted rate of $1,295, but this price did not go over well. A decade later home models were being marketed at almost a third of the previous price, and households were slowly beginning to purchase the appliance.
But it wasn’t until the 1970s, when Litton began to market its 1960s microwave model of a short and wide shape (the same model that is most common today), coupled with advances in technology that led to a rapid drop in the cost of the small machine, that the household microwave really took off.
Perhaps one of the most widely desired kitchen appliances, the dishwasher quickly became a staple of most American kitchens. It was invented in the late 19th Century and upgraded to include plumbing in the early 20th Century. But households were slow to embrace the dishwasher.
The first dishwasher was patented in 1850 by Joel Houghton. It was hand-powered and made of wood. But the machine did not clean dishes very well, and in 1886 Josephine Cochran, a socialite who had herself never washed dishes, developed her own working model. The machine was not widely purchased for homes, but hotels and restaurants did invest in the technology.
Electric drying components were added to dishwashers in the 1940s and these original electric powered machines opened into the kitchen as a drawer, forcing the user to reach into the basket-like design to load and unload their dishes.
Over the years the door, spray, and heating/drying elements of the machines have transformed the dishwasher to become what we are accustomed to today.
Following these models of invention, other appliances, such as the toaster-oven, stove, hood, oven, and electric coffee maker, are just a few more of the inventions that have shaped the way we prepare our household food and drinks. These are appliances that have begun as one desired need and have evolved in design, function, form, and efficiency throughout the decades. All developed and marketed through a need for greater efficiency, these appliances have grown to become technologies that are commonplace in the average household.
Today, everything around us moves forward faster than ever before, many people spend less and less time in the kitchen. That’s why kitchen appliances of today are designed for the best efficiency. They are not just about speed, they are also expected to be more energy-efficient and have maximum functionality in a minimum space.
In order to suit the fast-paced life style today, appliances in today’s kitchen are tend to give us the best result in the shortest time. They are trying to help us save more time in preparation, cooking and afterward cleaning.
One of the best examples might be the latest espresso machine using coffee capsules and pods. By using the latest technology, they promised to bring the flavor of fresh ground coffee by just insert one capsules into the machine. The users don’t need to grind and brew anymore. And there are no messy filters and coffee grounds need to be cleaned.
Other appliance like food processor saves us from those troublesome prep works. These versatile machines can chop, slice, shred, blend, and purée. They can handle the most of common foods like vegetables, fruits and herbs. The containers and blades are also designed for easy cleaning.
It’s a crowded world, especially in modern cities. Many kitchen appliances today are designed to help conserve our precious space. Designers have started combining different appliances into single units. For example, microwaves can be combined with range hoods and installed above the hood. There are also conventional ovens with steamer and microwave functions.
Additionally, some big appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers have found a new home hidden in drawers. These smaller units can be fully integrated with the kitchen cabinetries, and their capacities can suit the need of one person or smaller families.
Energy efficiency has been a big trend in almost every industry, kitchen appliances are no exception. These environment-friendly appliances can also help the homeowners lower their costly energy bills.
For example, the new high-efficiency dishwashers are designed to use less water and electricity with the same or better cleaning abilities. These dishwashers use the latest technologies like soil sensors, improved water filtration and more efficient jets to reduce energy and water consumption and improve performance.
If you look at kitchens and their appliances throughout the decades, and time, you will notice that their efficiency evolves; the dishwasher was created to make dishes last longer and stay cleaner, the microwave was created to make heating meals faster, and the refrigerator was created to make foods last longer. The kitchen has evolved over time to be a place of quick convenience. And it’s because of its history that we should be able to grasp a better idea of what its future will entail.
The future of kitchen appliances will undoubtedly be a further expansion of technology aimed at making food preparation a faster and more efficient experience. Imagine baking a cake in five minutes, or cooking an entire chicken in three, the future will have it. It will be as if The Jetsons became the model for the goal of future food preparation; no more waiting and no more troubles.
Unlike the the kitchens of the past, the future will have accommodate more than merely speed and efficiencies. It will also have to incorporate the growing need for sustainability and better health.
With a constant increase in the need for more energy efficient and renewable products, kitchen appliances are going to have to adapt quickly and effectively. Perhaps appliances will need to have a better shelf-life, with planned obsolescence taking a back-seat, and repairing model instead of replacing it will become a more important priority. Perhaps the constant need for upgrading one’s kitchen will evolve into surfaces that can become quickly altered, maybe with computer generated images that can change the entire color of one’s kitchen at the press of a button.
The future of kitchen appliances may likely also involve technological advances that will allow residents to start their meals long before they arrive home or wake up in the morning. At the push of a phone button or computer key people will be able to set not only their microwaves and ovens, but also technologies to completely prepare, from start to finish, a complete home-cooked meal. This advance will develop to help people with their growing need for time-savings, as well as the need for more fresh and home-made cooking, rather than a life of foods lasting because of preservatives and added chemicals – a win-win.