Kitchen stove

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A wood burning iron stove
A stove at Holzwarth Ranch National Historic Site in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

A kitchen stove, usually called a stove (especially but not only in US English[1]), range, cooker, or oven[2] is a kitchen appliance designed for the purpose of cooking food. Kitchen stoves rely on the application of direct heat for the cooking process and may also contain an oven, used for baking.

In the industrialized world, as stoves replaced open fires and braziers as a source of more efficient and reliable heating, models were developed that could also be used for cooking, and these came to be known as kitchen stoves.[3] When homes began to be heated with central heating systems, there was less need for an appliance that served as both heat source and cooker and stand-alone cookers replaced them. Cooker and stove are often used interchangeably.

The fuel-burning stove is the most basic design of kitchen stove. In the developing world, such stoves are still the most common cooking appliances and new, more fuel efficient and environmentally sound biomass cook stoves are being developed for use there. Modern kitchen stoves may use alternative methods for heating food. Natural gas and electric stoves are the most common today in western countries. Both are equally effective and safe, and the choice between the two is largely a matter of personal preference and pre-existing utility outlets: if a house has no gas supply, adding one just to be able to run a gas stove is an expensive endeavor. In particular, professional chefs often prefer gas cooktops, for they allow them to control the heat more finely and more quickly. On the other hand, some chefs often prefer electric ovens because they tend to heat food more evenly. According to EnergyGuide labels on appliances sold in the U.S. and EnerGuide labels in Canada, natural-gas-fueled appliances are more cost-efficient for the duration of their life. Today's major brands offer both gas and electric stoves, and many also offer dual-fuel stoves combining gas cooktops and electric ovens.

Modern kitchen stoves have both burners on the top (also known as the cooktop or stovetop in American English and as the hob in British English) as well as an oven. A cooktop can refer to the top of a stove or burners built into a countertop. Many newer cooktops are made of glass-ceramic. A drop-in range has both burners on the top and an oven and hangs from a cutout in the countertop (that is, it cannot be installed free-standing on its own). Most modern stoves come in a unit with built-in extractor hoods.

Early and non-industrial kitchen stoves[edit]

The 18th-century Japanese merchant's kitchen, Kamado (Hezzui) made of copper (Fukagawa Edo Museum)

As of the early twenty-first century, nearly half of the people in the world burn biomass (wood, charcoal, crop residues, and dung) and coal in rudimentary cookstoves or open fires to cook their food. [1]

Chinese, Korean, and Japanese civilizations had discovered the principle of the closed stove much earlier than the West.[citation needed] Already from the Chinese Qin Dynasty (221 BC–206/207 BC), clay stoves that enclosed the fire completely are known, and a similar design known as kamado (かまど) appeared in the Kofun period (3rd–6th century) in Japan. These stoves were fired by wood or charcoal through a hole in the front. In both designs, pots were placed over or hung into holes at the top of the knee-high construction. Raised kamados were developed in Japan during the Edo period (1603–1867).

In Europe, prior to the 18th century, people cooked over open fires fueled by wood, which were first on the floor or on low masonry constructions. In the Middle Ages, waist-high brick-and-mortar hearths and the first chimneys appeared, so that cooks no longer had to kneel or sit to tend to foods on the fire. The fire was built on top of the construction; the cooking done mainly in cauldrons hung above the fire or placed on trivets. The heat was regulated by placing the cauldron higher or lower above the fire.[3]

Open fire has three major disadvantages that prompted European inventors of the 16th century to devise improvements: it is dangerous, it produces much smoke, and the heat efficiency is poor. Attempts were made to enclose the fire to make better use of the heat that it generated and thus reduce the wood consumption. A first step was the fire chamber: the fire was enclosed on three sides by brick-and-mortar walls and covered by an iron plate. This technique also caused a change in the kitchenware used for cooking, for it required flat-bottomed pots instead of cauldrons. Only in 1735 did the first design that completely enclosed the fire appear: the Castrol stove of the French architect François de Cuvilliés was a masonry construction with several fireholes covered by perforated iron plates. It is also known as a stew stove. Near the end of the 18th century, the design was refined by hanging the pots in holes through the top iron plate, thus improving heat efficiency even more.

In 1850 Mary Evard invented the Reliance Cook Stove, which was divided in half with one half for dry baking and the other half for moist.[4] Patents issued to Mary Evard are US76315 and US76314 on April 7, 1868.[5][6] She demonstrated this stove with her husband at the St. Louis World's Fair.[7] In 1867 Elizabeth Hawks of New York invented and received a patent for a baking attachment for stoves, intended to spread heat thoroughly throughout loaves while keeping the top crust tender, which she called an "Auxiliary Air-chamber for Stoves." [7] This was so successful that she sold two thousand within months of its release.[8][9] Patent Search shows inventor of "Auxiliary Air-chamber for Stoves" to be John H. Goodfellow (US121506, issued 1871).[10]

Charcoal stoves[edit]

Charcoal stoves are still commonly used in rural Thailand

Stoves continued to evolve and charcoal began to replace wood as the burning material in stoves. Up until the 1970s, the top French restaurant Le Pyramid continued to use charcoal stoves. These stoves had flat tops and the heat was concentrated on one side of the stove top so that cooks could cook things at different temperatures based on where the pot or pan was located. This was called the "piano" system. After coal was replaced with gas, French chefs continued to prefer the smooth cooking surface and so the majority of French gas ovens had flat metal surfaces over the gas burners, which continues to be known as the "French style" today.[11]

Gas stoves[edit]

1934 gas cooker in England

The first gas stoves were developed as early as the 1820s, but these remained isolated experiments. James Sharp patented a gas stove in Northampton, England in 1826 and opened a gas stove factory in 1836. At the World Fair in London in 1851, a gas stove was shown, but only in the 1880s did this technology start to become a commercial success. The main factor for this delay was the slow growth of the gas pipe network. In 1908, Albert Dupuy, a gastronome and artisan with a passion for new technology, was to take advantage of the distribution of illuminating gas throughout Paris to perfect the La Cornue gas circulation Roast & Pastry cook. This brand new stove made use of laws governing the natural circulation of hot air within a revolutionary underground vaulted oven.

Electric stove[edit]

Once electric power was widely and economically available, electric stoves became a popular alternative to fuel-burning appliances. The first electric stoves used heating elements made of high-resistance metal to produce heat. The cooktop (range) surface had one or more circular heating elements, insulated with compressed magnesia and sheathed in a spiral metal tube. Heating elements for the oven are of similar construction but an elongated loop to distribute heat. Elements were made as plug-in consumer-replaceable parts and could also be easily removed for cleaning. Temperature of cooking elements was regulated by adjusting a bimetal thermostat control switch, which switched power on and off to control the average heating effect of the elements.

Design evolution[edit]

There are still many traditional stoves made, which burn wood or solid fuel. The look and feel may be very similar to many traditional stoves, but the way fuel is burnt has evolved. Many also have back boilers for domestic heating.[12]

Induction cooker[edit]

Rather than applying direct heat to a cooking vessel, an induction cooker causes metal vessels to heat by electromagnetic induction. This leaves the cooking top cold (or rather, only heated by proximity to the cooking vessel) and increases efficiency. Induction cooking offers less waste heat, faster boiling times and the ability to set cookware anywhere on the surface of the cooktop. Although it does require cookware that’s made with some iron or is magnetic, to allow the induction to take place.[13]

Additional stoves[edit]

"Bachelor grillers" incorporate an oven and a cooktop range (heating elements on the top)

Microwave ovens use microwave radiation to directly heat the water held inside food.

Flattop grills are also being installed into kitchen counters and islands, which do double-duty as a direct cooking surface as well as a platform for heating pots and pans.

A hot plate is a similar device, which is mobile and can be used as an appropriate technology.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of stove - appliance, cookery and building". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Other terms include cooking stove and cookstove
  3. ^ a b Montagne, Prosper New Larousse Gastronomique Hamlin Publishing Group 1977 268,901 Quoting Eugène Viollet-le-Duc on cooking in the Middle Ages: "The division of stoves into several compartments as in our day was seldom seen. The dishes were cooked on the fire itself, and these fierce fires did not allow for dishes which required constant stirring, or to be made in frying pans".
  4. ^ Google Drive Viewer
  5. ^ Patent US76315 - evard - Google Patents
  6. ^ Patent US76314 - Improvement in broiling-apparatus - Google Patents
  7. ^ a b Ency Kitchen History - Google Books
  8. ^ Feminine Ingenuity: How Women Inventors Changed America - Anne Macdonald - Google Books
  9. ^ Professional Pursuits: Women and the American Arts and Crafts Movement - Catherine W. Zipf - Google Books
  10. ^ Patent US121506 - Improvement in auxiliary air-chambers for stoves - Google Patents
  11. ^ The History of Kitchen Appliances
  12. ^ PIPING HOT: Boilers, Stoves & Cookers
  13. ^ "Induction Cooktops". Appliance Help. Retrieved 2013-05-30.