The History of the Oven

The history of ovens dates back to man's first use of fire. The first primitive cooking devices were holes in the ground heated by rocks, which appeared in ancient civilizations more than 30,000 years ago. Structures built to contain fire, the first primitive ovens, were made of ceramic or masonry and first appeared 3,000 years ago. Modern gas ovens were invented in the early 1800s, followed by coal ovens, electric ovens and microwaves.

Ancient ovens

Man has been using heated cooking devices since primitive times. After the discovery of fire, stone pits were built to surround the fire and hold the food, fuel (wood), cooking utensils (such as knives) and fire starters (most commonly flint). The first of these cooking pits dates back to almost 30,000 ago. Found in Central Europe, these pits-which were located in yurts-had been used to cook wooly mammoths. By 20,000 years ago, in the Ukraine, hot pits were used to cook food that was wrapped in leaves and then buried under ground.


In Europe, large fireplaces were used to cook. Whole animals, such as goats or pigs, could be roasted on a spit, and large pots were hooked over the open fire.

Wood-burning ovens

The first known oven appeared in 1490 in Alsace, France, and was built of tile and brick. French architect Francois Cuvillies invented a stove in 1735 that had iron plates on top. Cast iron also came into use at this time.

Clay ovens

Wood-fired clay ovens were commonly used for baked goods and are still used today as pizza or bread ovens. Used by Colonial settlers, these ovens were made of brick, stone or concrete. The fuel source for clay ovens was later changed from wood to coal. Modern clay ovens are heated by gas.

Gas ovens

Gas ovens appeared in the early 1800s. They were made of steel or iron, and later coated with enamel. James Sharp, a British inventor, began to market a gas oven in 1826. Most homes had a gas oven by 1920.

Electric ovens

The first electric oven was invented in the 1890s and was displayed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. In the 1930s, electric ovens started to become popular.

Microwave ovens

Microwave ovens were invented by an engineer at Raytheon Corp. while he was working with radar.

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