The Evolution Of The Domestic Cooker

For the cook of today in a modern kitchen, with a well regulated oven and good ventilation, doors and windows can be opened without fear of draughts interfering with the temperature. But this is, as far as the history of cooking is concerned, a relatively new development. It used to be that the experienced cook would judge the temperature of the oven by how long she could keep her hand in it. The shorter the time the hotter the temperature.

At the beginning of the century the blackened range began to be replaced with better produced ironware and the use of ceramics and enamels could give access to colours other than black. Ironically, the quaint old-fashioned range, epitomised by the modern Aga, is now seen as a luxury item. It’s very size and fuel consumption does not fit well with the ‘smaller’ more economy minded household.

The modern, well regulated split level domestic cooker, is as far removed from the wildest dreams of the Victorian home cook as an F1 racing car is to a bullet-proofed Renault Clio.

Like many other products caught up in the massive upheaval that was the Industrial Revolution, cooker technology came on in leaps and bounds.

Not only did the oven become controllable, the cooking ‘rings’ also improved. The naked flame, the main heat-source also became tameable. A constant, measurable flame was a god-send.

Doors and windows could be opened for ventilation without fear of draughts spoiling the cooking temperatures. Just because the oven needs to be hot it was no longer necessary for the kitchen to be the same temperature!

Added to that, developments in basic equipment such as electric beaters/mixers and whisks, took the brunt of the ‘arm-aching’ workload of many the new and exciting recipes appearing in the magazines and tabloids.

With modern ingredients and more precise weighing apparatus it was no longer ‘hard labour’ to bake your own. It is somewhat ironic that as the cooker became more reliable the art of home baking was becoming more and more redundant with the development of the commercially produced bakery products and the all-in-one convenience store. I don’t believe that the commercially produced article will ever match up to the bread, buns, cakes and biscuits that it is possible to produce at home.

The satisfaction of a ‘baking day’ and the deliciously irresistible aromas is undeniable. An instant audience of would-be tasters, eager for a handful of fresh cake or a warm scone will soon appear, ready to celebrate the labours of the cook!

The refinements in the use of electricity also improved to a point where it could compete with gas on a level playing field.

Electricity also led to smaller, more compact cookers for the single household and of course more reliable fridges.

Safe food preparation and storage became more and more relevant to the general health of the population, and kitchen technology grew to meet it.

To be continued . . .  

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