Life-changing kitchen gadgets have been around for decades, from the early 20th century inventions of the electric refrigerator and electric stove to the latest and greatest smart kitchen appliances. Each decade has brought its own share of innovative gadgets that have made our lives easier and more enjoyable in the kitchen.
Here is a brief overview of some of the most life-changing kitchen gadgets from every decade, starting with the 1920s:
1. Modern Marvels
Kitchens have undergone significant transformations over the years, adapting to new technologies, shifting culinary habits, and evolving food trends. Along the way, countless gadgets and appliances have made their way onto kitchen shelves, each leaving a mark on the world of cooking. Let’s take a journey through time, starting in the 1920s, to explore the kitchen tools that have played pivotal roles in shaping the culinary landscape throughout the decades.
2. 1920s: Automatic Toasters
Following the conclusion of the First World War, kitchens in America, Britain, and around the world were undergoing significant transformations. The increased participation of women in the workforce highlighted the demand for efficient and time-saving cooking appliances. This era introduced the automatic toaster, a game-changer in the kitchen.
In the early twenties, a patent for the pop-up toaster, capable of browning bread on both sides simultaneously, emerged. By 1926, this innovation hit store shelves under the name ‘Toastmaster,’ revolutionizing breakfast routines.
3. 1920s: KitchenAid
The KitchenAid was a game-changer for busy women looking to save time in the kitchen. Kneading dough and mixing batter by hand could be exhausting and time-consuming. But for those who had the means, the KitchenAid, an automatic stand mixer, offered a welcome relief from this arduous chore. Its invention dates back to 1919, but it was in 1927 that the company unveiled the “model G” mixer, a sleeker and more compact version of its earlier model, and it quickly became a must-have kitchen appliance.
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The KitchenAid mixer revolutionized cooking and baking for many, making tasks that used to require considerable effort a breeze. With its introduction, more people could enjoy the convenience of effortless mixing, and it became a sensation in households across the nation.
4. 1920s: the AGA
The AGA, an iconic invention from the 1920s, aimed to simplify and speed up the cooking process, making it less complicated and time-consuming. Dr. Gustaf Dalén, a Swedish physicist who tragically lost his sight in an accident, played a pivotal role in its creation. Spending more time at home, he noticed how his wife struggled with her cumbersome cooker, which left her exhausted and stressed. In response to this challenge, he devised the AGA, a cast-iron oven designed to remain constantly hot. This innovation quickly gained popularity, finding its way to Britain and beyond during the late 1920s and continuing to grow in fame over the subsequent decades.
The AGA revolutionized cooking by providing a reliable and convenient way to prepare meals, offering homemakers a much-needed respite from the complexities of traditional cooking methods.
5. 1930s: electric blenders
The 1930s followed a similar trend to the 1920s, witnessing the emergence of more time-saving kitchen gadgets. One notable invention often credited to Stephen J. Poplawski is the world’s first electric blender, originally designed for mixing malt drinks and milkshakes in diners across America during the 1920s. However, it wasn’t until 1937 that the stylish Waring Blender made its debut, transforming the electric blender into a true kitchen essential. In this vintage photo, we see the classic model in action during the 1950s, showcasing its enduring popularity and usefulness in households.
6. 1930s: electric ovens
The electric oven proved to be a game-changing addition to the kitchen, offering a faster, more cost-effective, and easier-to-clean alternative. Surprisingly, the concept of the electric oven dates back to the 19th century, but its widespread adoption didn’t occur until the 1930s when it started appearing in an increasing number of American and British households.
In Britain, the 1920s witnessed the establishment of a National Grid, a significant development that led to more homes than ever before gaining access to electric power during the 1930s. This accessibility to electricity played a pivotal role in the rise of electric ovens. In this photo from 1936, we see a group of schoolgirls gathered around an electric oven, highlighting its growing presence and importance in everyday life.
7. 1940s: refrigerators
Jumping ahead to the 1940s, a post-World War II surge in technological advancements was reshaping kitchens faster than ever. The concept of home refrigeration dates all the way back to the 1910s, but initially, it was a luxury reserved for the wealthiest individuals. However, in the subsequent decades, companies like Whirlpool led the way in developing more efficient and cost-effective refrigerator designs. By the 1940s, approximately 45% of Americans had a refrigerator in their homes. These refrigerators were typically boxy and compact, often featuring small built-in freezer compartments.
8. 1940s: Tupperware
It’s challenging to picture life without Tupperware today—those convenient and ever-present storage containers that neatly stack in fridges like Tetris blocks. Invented in 1946, Tupperware provided an elegant solution for storing leftovers and preparing packed lunches. It proved to be a true blessing for working women striving to balance their professional and household responsibilities. Tupperware became such a household staple that it even gave rise to Tupperware parties, as seen in the accompanying image, where hosts would enthusiastically promote these products to their friends and family.
9. 1940s: speed peelers
Ah, the humble potato peeler—think about how much more time-consuming it would be to prepare roast potatoes without this straightforward kitchen tool. The laborious job of peeling potatoes became significantly more manageable thanks to the introduction of the Zena Rex speed peeler, as shown in the center of the picture, back in 1947. Remarkably, this handy tool is still available today and remains a testament to Swiss design, with Alfred Neweczerzal being the visionary behind its creation.
10. 1950s: automatic kettles
In the bustling 1950s, the average housewife was juggling numerous tasks and didn’t have the luxury of waiting around for pots to boil. This is where Russell Hobbs stepped in to save the day. While electric kettles had been around since the late 19th century, this brand introduced a model in the mid-1950s that had a novel feature: it could automatically switch itself off once the water was boiled, a functionality we now take for granted in modern kettles.
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This innovative appliance was marketed as “the kettle that watches itself” and came with promises of enhanced safety, as well as the ability to save both time and electricity. It quickly became a welcome addition to kitchens, making life a little bit more efficient for busy households.
11. 1950s: dishwashers
The history of the dishwasher stretches further back than you might imagine. The very first automatic dishwasher was conceived back in the 1890s by Josephine Garis Cochran, a well-off American woman who wasn’t satisfied with the pace at which her servants were cleaning her dinnerware. In those early days, dishwashers typically had a top-loading design.
However, the dishwasher as we recognize it today began to take shape during the 1920s, with companies like the German heavyweight Miele leading the charge in refining its design. The post-World War II economic boom ensured that, by the 1950s, dishwashers were becoming increasingly common fixtures in kitchens both in the United States and across the Atlantic.
12. 1950s: deep-fat fryers
It’s no wonder that the deep-fat fryer became such a hit in the 1950s. This kitchen appliance offered a quick and delicious way to prepare mouthwatering, satisfying dishes – envision fluffy triple-cooked chips and crispy golden fried shrimp, reminiscent of the beloved diners of that era. Deep-fat fryers designed for home use began to appear in the late 1940s and quickly became a common sight in households during the 1950s and 1960s.
However, their popularity dwindled in the 1980s as people started paying more attention to healthier eating habits.
13. 1950s: non-stick pans
A Fifties innovation that took up decidedly less space was the non-stick pan. It was the brainchild of French engineer Marc Grégoire, whose wife challenged him to create a non-stick pan using the Teflon polymer she’d seen him use to coat his beloved fishing gear. He concurred and he succeeded, creating the Tefal brand in 1956. Other brands followed suit and soon non-stick pans were a household staple.
14. 1960s: pressure cookers
Promoted as a remarkably quick and health-conscious method of cooking, pressure cookers operate by trapping heat and utilizing the generated steam to prepare ingredients. Therefore, it’s no wonder that their appeal surged during the Swinging Sixties. This period witnessed the rise of second-wave feminism, leading to women spending less time in the kitchen and seeking more efficient ways to prepare meals.
This vintage advertisement celebrates the MIRRO-MATIC pressure cooker as the “ideal solution for speed and significant savings,” reflecting the growing interest in kitchen appliances that could streamline cooking and make it more convenient.
15. 1960s: the microwave
The microwave, often hailed as the ultimate time-saving kitchen gadget, had a serendipitous beginning. In the 1940s, Percy LeBaron Spencer, an engineer working with magnetrons, stumbled upon this invention by chance. During an experiment, he noticed that radiation had caused the chocolate bar in his pocket to melt. Recognizing the potential, he embarked on developing an early version of the modern microwave, which found its way into commercial kitchens by the end of that decade.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that microwaves were designed to fit neatly on domestic kitchen countertops. However, once they made their way into homes, their popularity skyrocketed, and they quickly became an indispensable part of kitchen appliances, changing the way we cook and heat food forever.
16. 1960s: Teasmade
The quest for convenience and efficiency persisted throughout the 1960s, and Teasmade was among the companies that flourished during this era. Their automatic tea-making machine, complete with a programmable clock for on-demand hot beverages, became a cult favorite in the 1960s and continued to enjoy popularity well into the 1970s. In response to the demand, other companies also joined the trend, introducing their own versions of these automatic tea-making devices.
17. 1970s: fondue set
Few kitchen gadgets evoke the spirit of the 1970s quite like the fondue set. While fondue had been enjoyed in earlier decades (and the irresistible idea of chocolate fondue emerged in the 1960s), it was during the 1970s that its popularity truly soared. Fondue parties became a common social gathering, where friends would come together to savor the decadent Swiss tradition of dipping bread into molten cheese.
As a result, fondue sets featuring communal hot pots and long forks flew off the store shelves during this era, becoming a quintessential element of the 1970s kitchen and social scene.
18. 1970s: slow cookers
In the 1970s, a significant wave of women entered the workforce, and the Crock-Pot, adopting its modern design and enduring name in 1971, was strategically marketed towards these working women and their families. This versatile slow cooker quickly gained popularity, and by 1975, its sales had surged to a staggering $93 million. An advertisement from 1974, featured in Reader’s Digest, proudly extolled the virtues of the Crock-Pot, cementing its status as a beloved kitchen appliance of the era.
19. 1970s: food processors
Another time-saving champion, this versatile household device as we recognize it today came into being in the 1970s and swiftly gained popularity. It marked a significant breakthrough because, for the first time, a single compact machine could handle laborious and time-consuming tasks like chopping, grating, and slicing – and do it quickly and efficiently.
The sleek Cuisinart model emerged as an early success in this category, setting the stage for other innovative brands like Braun to introduce their own versions. Collectively, these food processors transformed into an essential kitchen tool, streamlining food preparation for households everywhere.
20. 1980s: SodaStream
Although the SodaStream, a device that turns regular water into soda, had been invented a few decades prior, it became a ubiquitous fixture in kitchens by the 1980s. As reported by The Guardian, approximately 40% of Britons owned a SodaStream during this period. The catchy slogan “Get busy with the fizzy” echoed through television advertisements throughout the decade, highlighting its widespread popularity and appeal.
21. 1980s: salad spinner
During the 1980s, both Britons and Americans were embracing a growing awareness of health and nutrition, and soggy lettuce was no longer acceptable. The credit for the creation of the salad spinner is commonly attributed to French inventors Jean Mantelet and Gilberte Fouineteau, who developed early versions of this handy kitchen device in the 1970s. By the time the 1980s rolled around, the salad spinner had firmly established itself as a commonplace item on kitchen countertops, reflecting the increasing importance of fresh and crisp salads in people’s diets.
22. 1990s: bread makers
In 1986, Panasonic, known as Matsushita Electric at the time, introduced the world’s first home bread maker. This innovative device allowed users to easily pour in the dough mixture, and within no time, the delightful aroma of freshly baked bread would waft through their kitchens. The bread maker’s popularity soared during the 1990s, with an estimated 25 million Americans owning one during that decade. It became a kitchen essential, reflecting the growing desire for homemade, freshly baked bread.
23. 1990s: George Foreman’s Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine
In the mid-1990s, the heavyweight boxing superstar George Foreman ventured into the realm of grilling with his creation, the Lean Mean Grilling Machine. This countertop grill boasted a sleek design and user-friendly features, aligning perfectly with the health-conscious mindset of cooks in the 1990s who were seeking ways to reduce fat in their meals.
George Foreman’s catchy slogan, “it’s so good I put my name on it,” became as iconic as the cult-favorite product itself. In this photo from 1998, Foreman is seen promoting the grill at Macy’s, further solidifying its status as a must-have kitchen appliance for health-conscious households.
24. 1990s: coffee pod machines
During the early 1990s, there was a growing desire for coffee that matched the quality of what you’d find in a coffee shop, and one individual made it his mission to make that a reality. John Sylvan, a co-founder of Keurig, introduced the first “K-Cup” coffee pods and brewing systems in the late 1990s, and coffee enthusiasts in the United States quickly embraced the convenience and quality they offered. It was a game-changer for American coffee lovers.
Across the Atlantic, a similar trend was occurring with the increasing popularity of Nespresso coffee-capsule machines. These machines, patented back in the 1970s, were gaining traction as well, reflecting a global shift towards convenient and high-quality coffee at home.
25. 2000s: juicers
Juice cleanses have had their moments of popularity since the 1970s, but they made a strong comeback in the early 2000s and have remained a fixture ever since. Traditional manual squeezers were no longer up to the task, leading to the introduction of a wide range of high-powered juicers and smoothie makers on store shelves. One of the standout contenders in this category was the Magic Bullet, which quickly gained recognition as a leading choice for blending and juicing.
26. 2000s: electric steamers
In the 2000s, the steamer emerged as yet another kitchen gadget that catered to the growing demand for exceptionally healthy meals in both Britain and America. While electric steamers weren’t a novel addition to store shelves, they experienced a surge in popularity during this decade. Celebrities and articles alike sang praises about the advantages of steaming vegetables over boiling them. Steaming is believed to preserve more nutrients compared to other cooking methods, and its appeal endures even today.
27. 2000s: Sous Vide
Sometimes known as “boil-in-the-bag,” sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that involves preparing vacuum-sealed bags of food in precisely controlled water temperatures. This gentle and precise method is renowned for enhancing flavors and ensuring exceptionally tender meat. While it had been a staple in the kitchens of high-end restaurants for many years, the use of sous vide appliances in households gained popularity in the 2000s.
Credit for bringing this technique into the mainstream is often attributed to the renowned chef Thomas Keller. His 2008 book “Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide” served as a guide for cooks in the 2000s, demystifying the process and making it accessible to a wider audience.
28. 2010s: spiralizers
In the early 2010s, spiralizers took the culinary world by storm as health-conscious cooks swapped out traditional pasta for zucchini noodles and vegetable ribbons. While for some, this gadget may now be quietly tucked away in the back of a kitchen cupboard, there remains a thriving online community of food bloggers passionately dedicated to crafting creative spiralized recipes.
29. 2010s: air fryers
The concept of healthy fries might sound like a dream, but since its introduction in 2010, the air fryer has been making that dream a reality. This kitchen appliance, initially developed by Philips, boasts the ability to crisp up food using just a single teaspoon of oil. It achieves this by circulating extremely hot air around the food, mimicking the texture of deep frying while significantly reducing the oil content. The device garnered considerable attention and acclaim at the esteemed 2010 IFA consumer electronics show.