Wayback Machine Microwave oven AGA cooker
Oven depicted in Jean-François Millet's painting, Woman Baking Bread (1854)

An oven is a thermally insulated chamber used for the heating, baking, or drying of a substance,[1] and most commonly used for cooking. Kilns and furnaces are special-purpose ovens used in pottery and metalworking, respectively.


Ancient Greek portable oven, 17th century BC

The earliest ovens were found in Central Europe, and date back to 29,000 BC. They were roasting and boiling pits inside yurts used to cook mammoth.[2] In Ukraine from 20,000 BC they used pits with hot coals covered in ashes. The food was wrapped in leaves and set on top, then covered with earth.[3] In camps found in Mezhirich, each mammoth bone house had a hearth used for heating and cooking.[4] Ovens were used by cultures who lived in the Indus Valley and in pre-dynastic Egypt.[5][6] By 3200 BC, each mud-brick house had an oven in settlements across the Indus Valley.[5][5][7] Ovens were used to cook food and to make bricks.[5] Pre-dynastic civilizations in Egypt used kilns around 5000–4000 BC to make pottery.[6]

During the Middle Ages, instead of earth and ceramic ovens, Europeans used fireplaces in conjunction with large cauldrons. These were similar to the Dutch oven. Following the Middle-Ages, ovens underwent many changes over time from wood, iron, coal, gas, and even electric. Each design had its own motivation and purpose. The wood-burning stoves saw improvement through the addition of fire chambers that allowed better containment and release of smoke. Another recognizable oven would be the cast-iron stove. These were first used around the early 1700s when they themselves underwent several variations including the Stewart Oberlin iron stove that was smaller and had its own chimney.[8]

In the early part of the 19th century, the coal oven was developed. It was cylindrical in shape and made of heavy cast iron. The gas oven saw its first use as early as the beginning of the 19th century as well. Gas stoves became very common household ovens once gas lines were available to most houses and neighborhoods. James Sharp patented one of the first gas stoves in 1826. Other various improvements to the gas stove included the AGA cooker invented in 1922 by Gustaf Dalén. The first electric ovens were invented in the very late 19th century, however, like many electrical inventions destined for commercial use, mass ownership of electrical ovens could not be a reality until better and more efficient use of electricity was available.[8]

More recently, ovens have become slightly more high-tech in terms of cooking strategy. The microwave as a cooking tool was discovered by Percy Spencer in 1946, and with the help from engineers, the microwave oven was patented.[8] The microwave oven uses microwave radiation to excite the molecules in food causing friction, thus producing heat.[9]

Types of ovens

A double oven


Interior of a modern home oven

In cooking, the conventional oven is a kitchen appliance used for roasting and heating. Foods normally cooked in this manner include meat, casseroles and baked goods such as bread, cake and other desserts. In modern times, the oven is used to cook and heat food in many households across the globe.

Modern ovens are typically fueled by either natural gas or electricity, with bottle gas models available but not common. When an oven is contained in a complete stove, the fuel used for the oven may be the same as or different from the fuel used for the burners on top of the stove.

Ovens usually can use a variety of methods to cook. The most common may be to heat the oven from below. This is commonly used for baking and roasting. The oven may also be able to heat from the top to provide broiling (US) or grilling (UK/Commonwealth). A fan-assisted oven that uses a small fan to circulate the air in the cooking chamber, can be used.[17][18] Both are also known as convection ovens. An oven may also provide an integrated rotisserie.

Ovens also vary in the way that they are controlled. The simplest ovens (for example, the AGA cooker) may not have any controls at all; the ovens simply run continuously at various temperatures. More conventional ovens have a simple thermostat which turns the oven on and off and selects the temperature at which it will operate. Set to the highest setting, this may also enable the broiler element. A timer may allow the oven to be turned on and off automatically at pre-set times. More sophisticated ovens may have complex, computer-based controls allowing a wide variety of operating modes and special features including the use of a temperature probe to automatically shut the oven off when the food is completely cooked to the desired degree.


Some ovens provide various aids to cleaning. Continuous cleaning ovens have the oven chamber coated with a catalytic surface that helps break down (oxidize) food splatters and spills over time. Self-cleaning ovens use pyrolytic decomposition (extreme heat) to oxidize dirt. Steam ovens may provide a wet-soak cycle to loosen dirt, allowing easier manual removal. In the absence of any special methods, chemical oven cleaners[19] are sometimes used or just scrubbing.

Industrial, scientific, and artisanal use

Industrial "Zanolli" double hearth deck oven (left) and "Sveba-Dahlen" rotary rack oven (right) at the Faculty of Food Technology, Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies bakery

Outside the culinary world, ovens are used for a number of purposes.

See also

Classical Pompeii oven


  1. ^ "Oven". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
  2. ^ Viegas, Jennifer (6 March 2009). "Mammoths roasted in prehistoric barbecue pit". NBC News.
  3. ^ Peter James; Nick Thorpe; I. J. Thorpe (31 October 1995). Ancient inventions. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 302–. ISBN 978-0-345-40102-1. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  4. ^ Mezhirich Archived 2011-05-14 at the Wayback Machine. Donsmaps.com. Retrieved on 2011-11-23.
  5. ^ a b c d History Of The Indus Civilization Archived 2006-03-09 at the Wayback Machine. Historyworld.net. Retrieved on 2011-11-23.
  6. ^ a b c Hierkonpolis Online. "Pottery Kilns." Archived 2017-02-26 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Dales, George (1974). "Excavations at Balakot, Pakistan, 1973". Journal of Field Archaeology. Boston University. 1 (1–2): 3–22 [10]. doi:10.2307/529703. JSTOR 529703.
  8. ^ a b c Bellis, Mary (6 April 2018). "History of the Oven from Cast Iron to Electric". ThoughtCo.
  9. ^ Gallawa, Carlton J. "How do Microwaves Cook." Archived 2010-11-18 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ The American Gas Light Journal'. Volume 99. 1913. p. 42.
  11. ^ Phillips, E. (2011). Kitchen Remodeling: What I Should Have Known. Dog Ear Publishing, LLC. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-4575-0777-9. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  12. ^ Dering, Phil (1999). "Earth-Oven Plant Processing in Archaic Period Economies: An Example from a Semi-Arid Savannah in South Central North America". American Antiquity. 64 (4): 659–674. doi:10.2307/2694211. JSTOR 2694211.
  13. ^ Forno Bravo. "The History of Brick Ovens." Archived 2011-07-11 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ The Gas Museum Leicester. "Gas Cooking." Archived 2011-03-15 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Microtech. “Who Invented Microwaves.” Archived 2006-01-27 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "How to buy a wall oven". Appliances Connection Blog. 9 February 2012. Archived from the original on 2014-01-04.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2013-07-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) What's the difference between fan and fan-assisted ovens? Retrieved on 20 July 2013
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2013-07-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Ovens Advice Centre Retrieved on 20 July 2013
  19. ^ Mr, Bui (12 April 2017). "How To Clean an Oven". GoogleDocs.