Revolutionary home kitchen conveniences that changed everything

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The home kitchen has changed extensively over the last 100 years, as have the conveniences available to the home cook. Time-saving appliances, new tools and modern services have changed home cooking and are making it easier than ever before to eat healthy, delicious food at home.

A woman in a dress and apron stands in a kitchen, organizing food in an open refrigerator. The kitchen has retro-style cabinets and checkered tile flooring.
Home cooking is a lot of work. Here’s how a century of innovations has helped home cooks save time and feed their families. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

A home kitchen in 1924 looked very different from a kitchen in 2024. A few homes had refrigerators, but most kept food cold in an icebox for which ice would be delivered daily. A wife would make almost every meal in the home, perhaps with the help of a maid if she were middle class. Canned and packaged food was starting to become available. Everything else still had to be made by hand.

Throughout the 20th century, the look of the kitchen began to change. New inventions made cooking, baking and cleaning faster and less labor-intensive. New products and the means to store them cut down on time in the kitchen and made cooking more accessible. Today, a focus on vibrant dishes and healthy ingredients that fit in with busy lifestyles means more conveniences are available than ever before.

Early innovations in kitchen technology

The 1920s was an exciting decade of change. Home kitchens saw their own advancements during this time. Notably, electricity was starting to power homes. In addition to lighting, electricity made it possible to power new appliances and gadgets. 

The toaster for perfect toast every time

The toaster was arguably the first electric-powered kitchen appliance. While people had been toasting bread for centuries, the architects at John Desmond Limited note that the new wood and coal stoves made it difficult to make toast as they lacked an open flame. 

The Waters-Genter Company debuted the pop-up toaster for home kitchens in 1926. When sliced bread debuted in 1928, making toast became a simple part of the morning routine.

Long-term food storage with the refrigerator

Electricity also made in-home refrigeration possible. To keep food cold prior to the 1920s, families might use an icebox, which worked like a modern cooler, or a root cellar. Refrigerators throughout the 1920s were luxury items. According to Whirlpool, they cost $500 to $1,000 back in the 1920s. This is the equivalent of $6,500 to $13,000 today. 

Scientists developed Freon in 1928, and refrigerators soon became safer, sleeker and more affordable. Sales took off during the 1930s. By the 1940s, refrigerators were commonplace in homes, making it possible to preserve fresh food. Appliances also began to include separate freezer compartments to handle the growing popularity of frozen foods and let people freeze their own food.

Easy cleaning with automatic dishwashers

People have been looking to avoid the after-dinner cleanup for centuries. Inventors designed early dishwashers in the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t until 1924 that William Howard Livens created the first electric-powered dishwasher. Candy Home describes its front-load style and spinner, much like today’s dishwashers. Dishwashers caught on more slowly than other appliances, becoming extremely common in the 1970s and 80s.

Baking for the contemporary homemaker with KitchenAid

KitchenAid debuted the first standing mixer in 1919, but it was the Model K in 1937 that pioneered the design for today’s mixers. In 1955, KitchenAid introduced a range of bright colors for mixers to match contemporary kitchens. Petal pink, island green and sunny yellow gave home bakers a beautiful appliance and a faster way to whip up baked goods for their families.

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Cooking convenience: Frozen and packaged foods

In the 1940s and 1950s, a growing middle class altered American homes. Families flocked to suburbs and small towns, leaving their extended family and friends behind. Without the support of their family and with maids no longer common, it fell to the housewife to manage childcare, cleaning, shopping and cooking.

To accommodate this new lifestyle, companies created convenient foods to simplify cooking. Betty Crocker introduced the first boxed cake mix — ginger cake — in 1947. Swanson & Sons offered frozen TV dinners in 1953 that a housewife could simply heat up in the oven. In 1986, Campell’s Soup Company created a microwave-safe plastic tray for TV dinners for even faster prep.

Canned foods, boxed foods, instant foods packaged snacks and others offered other kitchen shortcuts in the kitchen. Companies and housewives released dozens of cookbooks that helped home cooks put together quick and affordable meals for their families, like Jell-O cup desserts and cake mix hacks.

This period caused a shift in home cooking. Cooking from scratch became less popular. Quick recipes, prepared ingredients and ready-made meals exploded in popularity. Tools like microwaves, blenders, rice cookers and mixers became standards in the kitchen.

Kitchen conveniences in 2024

New technology, more women in the workforce and changing tastes have continued the evolution of kitchen conveniences. Today, more homeowners are purchasing smart appliances. Smart refrigerators can track groceries and help make shopping lists. Smart ovens, toasters and other appliances let you control cooking times and functionality remotely. These smart appliances help home cooks continue to cook despite their busy schedules keeping them out of the kitchen.

Many earlier convenience foods were highly processed and unhealthy in large amounts. Improved medical knowledge and awareness have prompted many home cooks to seek fast and delicious solutions that are also healthy.

Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh enable people to prepare home-cooked meals quickly, removing the need for menu planning, grocery shopping and prep work. Grocery pickup and delivery services took off in the later 2010s, letting people still access fresh foods without a long trip to the store.

Much like kitchen innovations in the 20th century, these time-saving tools and services have changed home cooking. They allow cooks to keep preparing tasty dishes at home while also letting people experiment with new cuisines, techniques and kitchen tips.

From icebox to smart fridge: Conveniences in the modern kitchen

One hundred years of innovations have revolutionized kitchens. They’ve gone from mere workspaces to gathering places for family and friends. Instead of a stove and a sink, many kitchens now come standard with microwaves, dishwashers and a range of countertop appliances, many of them smart. Yet, through all the new kitchen conveniences, the goal remains to make flavorful and nourishing food for the family.

Jere Cassidy is the writer and recipe developer behind the blog One Hot Oven. A passion for all things food-related led her to culinary school to expand her baking skills and now to share easy recipes for all home cooks and bakers of all skill levels. When not in the kitchen, Jere’ likes to travel far and wide to find delicious food.

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