Stoves through the ages

StovesFrom cooking and heating over an open fire to modern day induction cooking, we take a look at just how far we’ve come with our cooking appliances!

A kitchen stove was designed for cooking and baking, but in the earlier ages, it was also used for heating purposes and even lighting, therefore having multiple functions. In the past, the stoves were fuelled by wood, and industrialisation has changed the landscape dramatically. Here is our timeline of stoves through the ages:

Wood burning stoves

Food was cooked in metal cauldrons that hung over a fire. However, the smoke and smell was overwhelming which led to the creation of chambers for the fire. Holes were built on top of these chambers for flat metal pots to be placed directly on top and this replaced the use of cauldrons. The first written historical record of an oven being built, was in 1490, in Alsace, France. This oven was made entirely of brick and tile, including the flue.

Iron wood burning stove wood burning stove

Iron stoves

Around 1728, cast iron ovens began to be made in bigger quantities. Around 1800, Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson) invented a working iron kitchen stove called the Rumford stove that was designed for very large working kitchens. The Rumford had one fire source that could heat several cooking pots, the heating level for each pot could also be regulated individually. However, the Rumford stove was too large for the average household kitchen which led to further inventions.

Cast iron stoves continued to evolve, with iron gratings added to the cooking holes. Chimneys and connecting flue pipes were also added.

Coal stoves

Jordan Mott invented the first practical coal oven in 1833. This oven had ventilation to burn the coal efficiently, was cylindrical and made of heavy cast iron with a hole on the top, which was then enclosed by an iron ring.


Gas stoves

British inventor, James Sharp patented a gas oven in 1826, the first semi-successful gas oven to appear on the market. Gas ovens were found in most households by the 1920s with top burners and interior ovens. The evolution of gas stoves, however, was delayed until gas lines were more common in households.

During the 1910s, gas stoves appeared with enamel coatings which made them easier to clean.

Gas stovegasgas cooking

Electric stoves

It was not until the late 1920s and early 1930s that electric ovens began to compete with gas ovens, although electric ovens were already available as early as the 1890s. At that time though, the technology and distribution of the electricity needed to power them, wasn’t readily available.

One major improvement in electric ovens was the invention of resistor heating coils, a familiar design in ovens and also seen in hotplates.

electric stoveelectric

Induction cooking

The latest cooking technology is induction cooking. Induction is different from other cooking technologies because it does not involve generating heat to be transferred to the cooking vessel, it makes the cooking vessel such as the pot or pan, the original generator of the cooking heat.

Induction generates heat directly in the base of pots and pans. This is achieved by using electric coils, which produce an alternating electromagnetic field. When a pan is placed on a ring, the electromagnetic field is distorted, releasing heat. This heat is transferred directly to the food being cooked. Likewise, removing a pan from the ceramic hob instantaneously terminates the transfer of energy.

Induction cookinginduction technologyinduction appliance

An induction cooker is faster and more energy-efficient than a traditional electric cooking surface. It allows instant control of cooking power similar to gas burners. Other cooking methods use flames or red-hot heating elements; induction heating heats only the pot. Because the surface of the cook top is heated only by contact with the vessel, the possibility of burn injury is a lot less than with other methods too. The induction effect does not directly heat the air around the vessel, resulting in further energy efficiencies.

Induction Hob MieleInduction Hob Miele Induction Hob Miele 4

Smeg and Miele offer induction hobs for purchase.

Gas and electric stoves and hobs can be purchased from all big and well-known retailers. There are also multifunctional options available such as a hob that has 2 electric plates and 3 gas plates, for example. 

Read more about induction cooking

Written by Kayla Myburgh for Home Inspirations. Sources: Miele,, The Induction Site and Wikipedia.

Photograph credits: Smeg, Miele, Defy and Wikipedia.

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