BestReviewCenter is readers supported. When you buy via links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

A Brief History of Microwave Oven

Updated on

Modern microwaves are able to heat food and cook it for your convenience. Sometimes it seems so strange to see a microwave oven in someone’s kitchen or dorm room. But it’s true, and they have been around for many years. The first modern one was invented in 1959 and was called a "thermostatic" or "heat-regulating" oven. Before the microwave, an oven could only be used in climates where the temperature was above 250 degrees F. Anything that was not properly sterilized would likely cause disease. The microwave was an innovation in quick cooking that can cook in low temperature environments. There are many variants of this technology that can control the temperature to regulate how well the food cooks, like a convection oven.

In 1974, the South Bend Tribune reported the invention of the first microwave oven that could do two things: heat and defrost. In 1981, RCA introduced the first internal microwave, called the "Vector" (later dubbed the "Vortex"). Over the next 10 years, other companies started offering microwaves that could both cook and defrost foods, but most of these were never as popular or common as RCA’s unit. In 1983, RCA began manufacturing the first iteration of the current generation of microwave ovens, called the "Classic" (later known as the "Vortex V6"). RCA is credited with designing the first home microwave ovens that could cook and defrost foods, although other companies also manufactured units with this capability. In 1991, the first "new wave" of microwave ovens was released, now known as the "lifestyle" or "convection" style microwave ovens. This new style allows food to cook in both the microwave and in a convection oven. In the early 1990s, Cuisinart, Tefal, BSH (Continental European Home Appliances), Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE, and Bosch were some of the companies that produced a microwave oven.

In 1998, GE acquired RCA’s home appliance business and later added the microwave oven brand and name. This is when GE began to acquire other companies and take over their appliance brands, so the modern GE brand became synonymous with the Classic, convection, and V6 microwaves. In 2002, GE released the first microwave oven with a "smart" control, which allowed you to program how long the food would be cooked for, as well as the level of the oven. In the following year, the first "crispy" microwave ovens with "real" (butter) topping were released. These units were made by Breville and Philips, but GE owns them now. However, many other companies still produce "smart" microwaves, including Panasonic, Samsung, Cuisinart, and Cuisinart.

In 2006, Panasonic released the "Panasonic Model 2+", and this model was very popular for over a year. In 2008, GE released the "Optimum" convection microwave oven, the first to include a handle in the top of the oven for easy operation. The convection-style "Convection Comfort" microwave ovens come with built-in convection or a built-in convection timer. Other companies, like Hamilton Beach, Avanti, Samsung, Electrolux, Breville, and Humidifry, have been making convection-style microwaves for many years. The "smart" or "convection-style" convection microwave ovens come in different sizes and have various accessories for cooking, such as programmable presets, timers, and more.