Our kitchens are important parts of our homes. Over our lifetimes, we will spend three years (or 27,156 hours!) cooking, and our kitchens will provide us with 60% of our meals.
And though they’re important, they have not remained consistent through the years. As habits, culture and style preferences change, so, too, do the kitchen appliances and designs. Take a walk through history with this timeline of kitchen gadget trends.
Early and Enduring
Cast Iron: In the beginning, there was cast iron cookware. Some say it dates back 2,000 years, which is certainly well before gadgets like blenders came onto the scene. Although cast iron cookware is old-fashioned, it’s making a comeback. Sales of cast iron cookware have increased 225% in the last decade.
Toaster: The pop-up toaster was invented in 1919. Amazingly, this was before commercially sliced bread was available. Although the pop-up toaster was seen as a luxury item in the 1930s, it became affordable and popular in the 1960s. The toaster continues to be a kitchen mainstay. In the 1990s, the first toaster that was controlled from the Internet led the way in early smart-home device exploration.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer: In 1914, this stand mixer was launched as a tool for commercial bakers. Then in 1930, the company redesigned the mixer, and it has stayed pretty much the same since then. Today, the stand mixer remains as a kitchen workhorse for mixing or whipping. As kitchen designs of luxury apartments have favored the commercial look of stainless steel, many KitchenAids now have their place as prominent display items on the countertop.
1950s – 1960s
Pressure Cooker: In the middle of the 20th century, 37% of households owned a pressure cooker. As Americans’ habits changed to frozen dinners and microwave cooking, the appliance fell out of fashion. But lately they’ve been making a comeback, in part because of their appearance on TV shows like “Iron Chef.”
Tupperware: Earl Tupper got the idea for an airtight seal from a paint can lid, and the Tupperware company was subsequently founded in 1946. By 1951, Tupperware parties started to take off; there was a 25% sales increase in three years thanks to the 9,000 independent consultants doing direct sales. For the next two decades, sales doubled every five years. In 1976, sales topped $500 million.
Immersion Blender: This kitchen gadget has been popular in European kitchens since the 1960s. Celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse and Alton Brown more recently brought it mainstream.
Sous Vide: The cooking method was first discovered in 1799. In the mid-1960s, it was rediscovered by French and American engineers for industrial food preparation. Now you can sous vide at home with automated vacuum sealers like the FoodSaver.
Crock-Pot: In the 1970s, the Crock-Pot exploded in popularity as women entered the workforce. It’s now making a comeback as people look for easy ways to make healthy meals. In 2009, 83% of American households owned one. And it’s now being marketed to men with a product line that has NFL logos. Chili for game night, anyone?
Juicer: Jack LaLanne made it popular in the 1970s, but like many health-conscious trends, it’s in the comeback phase. In 2014, annual sales of home juicers were $300 million in the U.S.
Salad Spinner: This kitchen gadget hit the American market in 1974. By 1978, half a million units sold annually. The current popularity of pre-washed bags of lettuce has reduced the need for this gadget.
Mr. Coffee: This automatic drip coffee machine was launched in 1972. It was a “great dividing year in the history of coffee in America,” said The New York Times. “Before it, the percolator. After, automatic drip.” As of 1996, 73% of American households used an automatic drip coffee maker.
Ginsu Knives: The infomercial for this product used the energetic style of carnival hawkers . It’s been called a “Hall of Fame” commercial, alongside the Chia Pet and the Clapper. Between 1978 and 1984, 2 million to 3 million were sold.
Microwave: In 1986, 25% of U.S. households had a microwave. This grew to more than 90% in 1997. Depending on your age, the microwave may have been the only way you cooked your food when you were young and living in a studio apartment. In an instance of the cooking device informing food choices, the microwave brought popcorn back as a popular snack.
Showtime Rotisserie: “Set it, and forget it!” was the infamous slogan for this infomercial product. The company, Ronco, still holds the trademark on the slogan.
Salad Shooter: This product launched in 1988. The electric slicer/shredder was a response to consumer demand for more fresh vegetables.
1990s – 2000s
George Foreman Grill: Launched in 1994, there were more than 100 million George Foreman Grills sold. It’s estimated that George Foreman himself made $200 million from the endorsement.
Side-by-Side Refrigerator: Trending towards sleek and modern design, the side-by-side refrigerator became popular in the 1990s. These French door-style refrigerators are still available, but they cost more than a standard fridge.
Slap Chop: The guy from the infomercial, Vince Offer, also owns and produced infomercials for the ShamWow! and the Schticky, a lint roller. Billy Mays called the Slap Chop a rip-off of his product during an infomercial for the Quick Chop.
Magic Bullet: The product launched in 2003, and by 2005, a total of 3 million units sold. In total, the Magic Bullet had $500 million in sales.
Keurig Coffee Machine: The first K-Cup coffee pods were introduced in 1998, and they were targeted to the office market. As of 2002, 10,000 commercial machines sold. But in 2006, the brand was acquired by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and K-Cup pods became available in supermarkets in 2008. As of 2012, Keurig and K-Cup sales were $1.2 billion.
Vegetable Spiralizer: It can turn a zucchini into a bowl of spaghetti (sort of). This product began trending in 2014, and it was popular with people who were going gluten-free, trying to sneak in more vegetables or following the Paleo diet.
Soda Stream: Founded in 1903, Soda Streams were popular in the U.K. during the ‘70s and ‘80s. In a recent spike of popularity, U.S. sales were $4.4 million in 2007 and grew to $40 million in 2011.
Smart-Home Kitchen: It is projected that the global market value for smart kitchens will be $7 billion by 2020. These connected cooking devices let you monitor or control your kitchen appliances from your phone. Smart fridges have cameras inside that let you check your fridge while you’re at the supermarket. Smart Crock-Pots let you check the temperature even while you’re out. Smart stoves let you preheat or adjust the temperature with your device. Based on the predictions, it looks like the future of kitchen gadgets will be digital.