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Why is it Called an Oven?

Photo collage of different types of ovens.

You may be the type that likes to guess the origins of words. When presented with ‘oven’, you may think of words like overt. Perhaps you’ve been learning French and now know that ‘oeuvre la porte’ means open the door.

The idea behind it all is openness, but what does that have to do with an oven? An oven is a hollowed-out or ‘open’ chamber used to hear things. It used to refer specifically to a clay chamber, but the definition has broadened due to the different uses.

The word itself comes from proto-Germanic and Latin languages. Still, one may be tempted to ask why it’s called an oven. We get the word from the 1100s, that’s right, not the 60s or anything.

It was originally used when referring to an all-clay heating chamber, with or without tiles. The oven in question here was powered by hot coals from wood. It used to be a luxury only the rich could afford, before becoming the standard in a majority of European homes.

Types of Oven

1. Built for a Specific Purpose

Home made pizza is inserted in a portable aluminum home oven for pizzas.

You could be talking about an oven designed for making pizza and you’d still be referring to an oven. You could be making mention of a Dutch oven, and that would still be considered an oven. That’s regardless of the fact that they’re actually ceramic or cast-iron pots.

Pizza ovens, on the other hand, can either be crafted from clay or brick and the idea is to heat a stone where the pizza will be placed.

2. Toaster Ovens

Convection toaster oven on the kitchen table.

When it comes to toaster ovens, that’s when you’re talking about the more portable kind. These are small appliances that can be placed on tabletops. The microwave oven, which uses microwave radiation instead of convection, is larger than the toaster oven.

You’re in control with this type of oven, with the ability to decide on heat intensity and preparation time.

3. Industrial Ovens

LCD screen of oven with bread in the bakery.

It doesn’t just end with domestic use. Different implements, unprocessed materials, and objects can be produced therein. From the food industry to the electronics sector, ovens play a pivotal role.

It’s all about heat treatment at high temperatures in an enclosed space.

4. Gas Ovens

Cropped image of woman cleaning the modern gas oven.

A gas flame is how you get this one running. All the action happens beneath the food, from where the flame comes. The popularity of these appliances can be owed to the fact that it heats food quickly.

You’re also able to instantly change the heat level, making it a hit for those that cook professionally.

5. Electric Ovens

Electric mini oven for homemade cooking

As you might have guessed, electric Ovens run on electricity. The heat source is a burner element that typically maintains a stable temperature. You’re dealing with a dry cooking process here, with minimal condensation involved.

While they’re known to come in great variety and are usually affordable, the fact that you can’t cook when the power is off may be disappointing.

6. Microwave Oven

Woman's hands closing microwave oven door and preparing food at home.

Everybody and their grandmother call them microwaves. High-frequency electromagnetic radiation is used to heat up food in a quick and efficient manner. Compact enough to place on the counter, microwave ovens are often used for warming food or preparing snacks or basic meals.

This isn’t something you use for slow-cooked meals that are complicated and require effort; it’s quick and easy.

7. Earth Oven

Pizza on earth oven.

This is the oldest of the lot. Early humans would dig a pit into the ground. A fire was made inside the pit, with rocks heated to a point where food could be cooked on them.

It was an advanced cooking method during its inception and has remained a symbol of civilization.

8. Masonry Oven

Fire roaring and burning wood in traditional masonry oven, also known as brick oven or stone oven.

Another one that is classified by the material it’s made from, the masonry oven will mostly be made of stone. Clay, concrete, and brick will normally fall under this category. These days, it’s not unusual to find masonry ovens powered by gas or electricity, but in the past, it was wood that got it going.

They would later be run on coal fires and eventually gas and electricity.

9. Ceramic Oven

Ceramic oven at the A'ali traditional pottery in Bahrain, Middle East.

Made from ceramic materials like clay, the ceramic oven appears in different forms all around the world. From ancient India to ancient Rome,  the ceramic oven has been used and produced. It efficiently transfers heat and doesn’t react to your food.

As durable as they are, they do easily get scratched and can be broken by falling objects. The steam oven uses a different mechanism compared to the other ovens. Steam, not hot air, is circulated to heat food.

Most of the time, water is siphoned from a water tank into a small, built-in boiler that produces the steam. The steam is then released into the oven where all the magic happens. They’re considered to be healthier than the average oven.

This is because they’re very effective when it comes to locking in moisture. Steam ovens also help preserve a lot of the nutrients in food. This makes it perfect for getting the most nutritional value out of your food. 

One drawback with the steam oven is the fact that you can’t use it to cook all foods. Meals that require more than 212 degrees cannot be prepared in a steam oven. Since water boils at 212 degrees, that’s as high as a steam oven can go.

Be that as it may, it’s a great way to make flavorful food that’s packed with vitamins and minerals.

10. Wall Oven

The wall oven is exactly what it sounds like, an oven built into the wall. With a width of up to 30 inches, it can accommodate the biggest of roasting pans. Most wall ovens are installed at eye level, but some will go under countertops to save space.

The homeowner typically decides where it goes, but the idea is to have a cooking space that’s separate from the cooktop.

11. Double Oven

Close up view on dark kitchen room interior with panoramic window, cupboard, electric cooker, double oven, coffee machine and oak wooden parquet floor.

If you’re somebody that does some heavy-duty cooking, then this one is for you. The double oven is a two-in-one oven that will sometimes come as a microwave and an oven. It has two different compartments that can be set at different temperatures and times.

Most of the time, it’s built into the kitchen cabinet.

What is it Used for?

We know ovens can be used in cooking or baking. Besides food, wood can be dried and cement can be manufactured. Glass or metal can be melted before going through further processing.

Even aqueous solutions can be heated for sterilization.

What’s the History Behind it?

Central Europe, 29,000 BC, is where it all began. Think mammoths getting cooked by Ukrainian cavemen. As early as 3200 BC, most homes in the Indus Valley had ovens in them.

They used ovens for cooking food, making bricks, and for pottery purposes. In the middle ages, cooking was done in fireplaces in huge cauldrons. Wooden, iron, coal, and gas ovens would later be developed for ease of cooking.

Fire chambers would be added to contain and release smoke. It’s certainly been quite an evolution for the oven throughout history. As early as the Second World War, we can trace the usage of the word.

We learn of a grim history behind it, where the Nazis used them to cremate and gas their captives. Then it was simply used when speaking of a heated and enclosed space. If there was a heated surface or several ones surrounding an enclosed space, it was called an oven.

The 19th century saw the invention of the coal oven. It was shaped like a cylinder and made from heavy cast iron. The first gas stoves were developed in the 1800s and electric stoves came to us in the 1900s.

As for the microwave, it was patented in 1946.

Where does the Word come from?

In terms of where we actually get the word oven, we have Old English to thank. The Old English ‘ofen’ is similar to the Old High German ofan. Funny enough, research indicates the word actually comes from the Sanskrit word ‘ukkah’, used to describe a cooking pot.

Don’t ask us how ukkah is similar to even because we won’t be able to tell you.

How Does it Work?

Temperature-resistant materials line the inside of the oven. This is so that it can withstand immense heat for a long time. Without these materials, ovens would easily get damaged.

Heat is concentrated within the interior of the oven and its structural integrity is maintained by the hard-wearing materials. When it comes to controlling what happens in the oven, different ovens will give you varying amounts of power. Some ovens don’t have any controls.

Other ovens let you turn them on and off and even allow to change the temperature. Some have timers and some switch off when they reach a certain temperature.

What is the Benefit of an Oven?

You can bake and grill food at any temperature you like, for as long as you like. You can host dinner parties and have a lot of people over because you can cook a lot of food. There are no harmful chemicals or waves emitted when cooking.

It’s a totally safe and sensible way to get your cooking done.