25th Stoves
Photo: Schenectady Museum
A lot has changed in the American kitchen in the last quarter century. (And not just because men wear the aprons more often than they used to.) When This Old House first hit the airwaves in 1979, the standard American kitchen featured a four-burner electric range—preferred because no one had yet figured out a way to make gas ovens self-cleaning—and, for a lucky few, an over-the-stove microwave. Avocado green and harvest gold still ruled the day, and only the most serious foodie had the latest technology: a convection oven, which could cook a 12-pound turkey in under three hours.

What a difference 25 years makes. The high-end kitchen of 2004 is outfitted with a six-burner restaurant-style range sheathed in stainless steel, and hardcore cooks wouldn't consider anything but "dual fuel" capability—gas burners above for high heat, electric ovens below for pinpoint control. Today's stoves pump out more Btus to cook everything faster, clean up easier thanks to sealed burner boxes and smooth cooktops, and are safer to use because better insulation and the replacement of pilot lights with electronic ignition have cut the risk of fire. If the 1979 range was the equivalent of a hatchback, today's is an SUV.

As with any evolution, change is ongoing. So even as we sort through the latest developments, among them a range that doubles as a refrigerator and a microwave oven that uses halogen light to brown food, research-and-development folks are busy—dare we say it?—cooking up a whole new round of improvements. Read on for a look at how stove manufacturers have adapted to Americans' changing needs and tastes, and what new developments are on the front burner.

Dan DiClerico

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