The modern kitchen appliance arsenal would be incomplete without a toaster oven.
These gadgets have become so entrenched in our homes such that the average American household today spends about 35 hours toasting every year. But has it always been like that? Your guess is as good as mine!
Toaster ovens have come a long way. Initially, they were pretty much single purpose gadgets that were prone to malfunction and imperfections that easily kept potential owners at bay.
These days, they have become multipurpose appliances offering a wide range of functions. The modern toaster oven goes beyond toasting; it can bake, cook, defrost, and even dehydrate.
So, how did the breakthrough come about? We will find that out in this brief timeline of a toaster oven.
Also Read: How hot does a toaster oven get?
Brief Timeline of a Toaster Oven:
Let us start from the very beginning.
When was an Oven Inveted?
Believe it or not, the ancient toaster oven was nothing more than a curved stone that relied on fire to work.
It was discovered by the Romans as a way to preserve bread. In fact, it is difficult to outline the history of the toaster oven without talking about the history of bread.
The latter, as we know it, has its origins in ancient Egypt about 8,000 BC. The Romans learned bread making and baking from the Egyptians.
Also Read: Best Toaster Ovens for Broiling
Who Invented the Early Ovens
How did the Romans discover the early earthen ovens?
Basically, they realized that dough left sitting close to the fireplace would rise.
Moreover, they observed that bread would maintain its risen shape when exposed to air and heat. With time, they invented simple devices that enabled them to toast bread over fire.
These were in form of hand-held wireframes and sticks similar to those used to toast marshmallows today.
Spread of toasting technology took root when the Romans embarked on territorial expansion by invading other countries around the globe.
Discovery of Electricity
Prior to the discovery of electricity, there were many deviations of the toaster oven, but all of them had serious flaws mainly because they toasted bread on open fire.
You can imagine having to stand infront of an open fire to make sure that bread turns red and cooks evenly on both sides.
All that changed when Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity in 1752. In the years following, a flurry of electrical appliances were developed, culminating in the development of the first electric toaster in 1893 by Scotsman Allan McMasters.
But make no mistake, MacMaster’s electric toaster was far from perfect. In particular, it could not withstand high temperatures. The wires would met and the toaster would burn up. But as with all gadgets, improvements were made over time.
The First Electric Toaster
1905 was a year of immense significance in the history of electric appliances.
In that year, Albert Marsh mastered the science of electrical resistance coil using an alloy of nickle and chromium. This practically revolutionized not just toaster, but the heating industry.
In 1906, the first patent application for the electric toaster was filed by George Schneider of the American Electrical Heater Company.
Schneider’s toaster did not do well on the market in part because of persistent wariness among households over the safety and efficiency of the toaster.
It wasn’t until 1900 when Frank Shailor of The General Electrical created the first commercially successful toaster, the D 12.
It is important to learn the history of slide in toasters since it revolutionized the baking industry by introducing heating element or resistance coils. These components were to be employed to create the first electric toaster ovens.
How it Came to Be
Frank’s toaster oven still required manual turning. After toasting bread on one side, the slice had to be flipped by hand for toasting of the other side.
In 1914, the first automatic toaster was developed by one Hazel B. Copeman. This toaster could turn bread around without having to touch it.
In 1921, the first patent for the automatic pop-up toaster was filed by Charles Strite. The pop-up feature proved to be a good sell among households, and the toaster enjoyed some commercial success.
In 1921, the Waters Genter Company came up with a significantly improved version of Mr. Strite’s automatic toaster. Besides the pop-up feature and automatic turning, the toaster could perform functions such as browning bread and timing the toasting cycle.
Toaster Ovens Introduced in 1910
Toaster Ovens were introduced by William Hadaway in collaboration with Westinghouse Corporation.
The principle used in toaster ovens was the same as a slice toaster. However instead of vertical heating element position, toaster ovens utilized horizontal placement on the top and bottom of the chamber.
This allowed toasting of not just bread, but also allowed other food items such as bagels and pizzas to be toasted.
Toasting Technology After 1940
For all their improvements, pre-1940 pop-up toaster ovens lacked automatic lowering and raising.
One had to pull a lever to drop the slice into the toasting area. But in the mid-40s and 50s, models that automated toast lowering hit the market.
The automation harnessed mechanical energy from the expansion of the resistance wire located at the centre of the heating area.
On reaching the surface of the heating area, the slice of bread would trip a lever and activate the heating elements.
Remarkably, the modern toaster oven still uses this technology.
Convergence of Bread and Toaster Technology
At the time the first prototypes of the toaster were being developed, standard sliced bread had not been discovered. These early models were designed to work on unusually large slices cut by hand.
A major breakthrough in toasting technology came in 1928 when the first automatic bread slice machine was invented by one Otto Fredrick Rohwedder.
Less than two years later, Continental Baking Firm started commercial production of machine-sliced Wonder Bread.
Over the next 10 years, bakeries around the world perfected bread slicing technology.
By the time the fully automatic toaster was being developed in mid-40s, households had fallen in love with sliced bread. This gave a huge boost to the sale of the automatic toaster and in return also paved the way for toaster ovens.
Perhaps the only downside was the fact that most of the early versions of the automatic toaster were in the upper end of the price spectrum, and only middle class families could afford one.
By the 1960s, however, the market had grown significantly and prices reduced considerably.
In 1980s, toasting slots of toaster ovens were enlarged to accommodate bagels, waffles, and thicker slices of bread.
Accelerated Changes in Design
The first double-slice toaster was introduced in 1978. The next 10 years would see unprecedented changes in toaster design.
In addition, engineers now had time to work on aesthetics, having cracked most of the more technical details about the toaster oven. Indeed, the first toaster cool to touch was produced shortly after 1990.
Current Toaster Oven
The current toasters and toaster ovens present one of the finest pieces of technology the world has to offer.
It offers a lot of improvements in terms of performance, safety, and energy efficiency.
In addition, there are more than a dozen companies offering differentiated models that offer different functions. The modern toaster can be used to toast just about anything, and it gives you full control over the toasting process.
You are able to control the toasting speed and define the temperature. Most models also come with a self-clean feature that simplifies the cleaning process.
You can even find smart toaster ovens now which employ various sensors and electronics that handle your food for you.
Also Read: What is a convection toaster oven?
Here we looked at the brief timeline of a toaster oven. It should be noted that the history of a toaster oven cannot be stated without first mentioning the history of a toaster.
One thing we can be sure about is that we have not seen the last of toaster oven technology and should brace ourselves for even more stunning innovations over the coming years.
If you would like to get your hands on this awesome piece of invention, you have a healthy range to choose from.