Pretty much all homes now have a microwave in the kitchen.
In today’s wired world, we have more and more appliances for every imaginable need. From coffee machine through to juicers, the microwave has become an essential item rather than a luxury.
Here we will look briefly at some interesting facts about the microwave.
1) The First Microwave Was Huge and Expensive!
Much like the desktop computer, the first commercially available microwave was enormous and eye-wateringly expensive.
Called the RadaRange, it was a monstrous six feet tall and weighed in at 750 pounds! The price tag was $5000. This first model from Raytheon was launched in 1947 so that $5000 translates to a cost of over $50,000 in today’s terms.
Far from convenient, a dedicated water line was needed to cool the tube but with the RadaRange the microwave oven was finally available to the masses (albeit at a staggering cost!)
Because of the costing and size, microwaves at this time were limited to catering premises.
2) The Microwave Was Invented By Accident
Many of us know that Percy Spencer is credited with inventing the microwave but how did this idea come about?
The Raytheon engineer was testing vacuum tubes responsible for kicking out microwave radiation in 1945. These tubes are called magnetrons. As he was going about his work he realized that a candy bar was melting in his pocket…
Suspecting that microwave radiation could potentially be used to cook food, Spencer conducted further tests. His hunch was confirmed, a patent was filed and the microwave as we know it was born.
3) Microwaves In The Home
In the two decades after the launch of the RadaRange, the microwave came down gradually in terms of both price tag and dimensions.
In 1967, Amana Refrigeration was bought out by Raytheon. They decided to launch the first countertop microwave designed for home use for $500.
From this point forth, the microwave grew rapidly in popularity while the cost continued to drop.
4) There Are Thousands of Microwave Cookbooks
If you head on over to Amazon you can choose from an incredible range of thousands of different recipe books dedicated to the microwave.
From the 1981 Sunset classic Microwave Cookbook through low carb options and even books targeted at prisoners, there is no shortage of inspiration for doing more than reheat leftovers or blasting frozen meals.
Check here too for some simple and tasty ideas.
5) Most People Use a Microwave For 3 Minutes or Less
Microwaves are getting more and more features and becoming growingly complex. How do we use them, though?
Well, for most of us it’s just a very quick nuking of ready-made food. We focus mainly on reheating and tend not to make use of many of the different cooking options.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted a study in which 68% of those questioned said they used the microwave for less than 3 minutes. 33% of this segment actually reheated food for just 1 or 2 minutes.
6) There Are No Microwaves on Planes
Many people complain about the quality of meals served up on planes.
One common misconception is that these are blasted in a microwave. Microwaves are simply not allowed on most airlines. Instead, standard convection ovens are used. These blow dry, hot air over food which has already been cooked and just needs warming through.
So, the next time you complain about food served in the sky, don’t blame the microwave!
7) Most People Own a Microwave
Once sales of microwaves really took off in the 1970s, they continued to soar until more microwave ovens were purchased than gas ranges. This peaked with a full 90% of American households having one of these quick and convenient gadgets in the kitchen.
A couple of years ago, an article was published in Quartz suggesting that, since this level of sales in 2004, the rate has been in decline. It could be argued that Americans are increasingly looking towards fresh produce. An alternative viewpoint is that the number of microwaves sold will naturally decrease because they have reached saturation point and almost all homes already have one.
8) Microwaves and Popcorn
Back in 1981, a company based in Minnesota called Golden Valley brought to market the very first microwave popcorn.
The unimaginatively-named Act I contained real dairy meaning that it needed to be kept in the refrigerator. Realizing the limitations of this product, just three years later Act II was launched. Since this could be kept on the shelf, it was far more versatile and really boosted sales.
Today, billions upon billions of quarts of popcorn are consumed in the US every year and its popularity at home is largely thanks to the microwave.
9) An Unexpected Cleaning Tool
Cleaning a microwave is one thing but another entirely is using a microwave as a makeshift cleaner!
This 2006 study demonstrates that cleaning a simple kitchen sponge in the microwave is an extremely effective way to breathe new life into an old sponge until you get to the store to buy a new one. Blasting it on full power for as little as 1 minute can eliminate the vast bulk of bacteria.
Whether it’s warming up a neglected cup of coffee, heating frozen food or rustling up something rather more ambitious, the modern kitchen does not seem complete without one of these appliances. Things have come a long way indeed since the colossal RadaRange!