Fascinating facts about the invention of the microwave oven by Percy Spencer in 1945. MICROWAVE OVEN The microwave oven did not come about as a result of someone trying to find a better, faster way to cook. During World War II, two scientists invented the magnetron, a tube that produces microwaves. Installing magnetrons in Britain’s radar system, the microwaves were able to spot Nazi warplanes on their way to bomb the British Isles. By accident, several years later, it was discovered that microwaves also cook food. Called the Radar Range, the first microwave oven to go on the market was roughly as large and heavy as a refrigerator. The idea of using microwave energy to cook food was accidentally discovered by Percy LeBaron Spencer of the Raytheon Company when he found that radar waves had melted a candy bar in his pocket. Experiments showed that microwave heating could raise the internal temperature of many foods far more rapidly than a conventional oven. The first Raytheon commercial microwave oven was the 1161 Radarange, which was marketed in 1954. Rated at 1600 watts, it was so large and expensive that it was practical only for restaurant and institutional use. In 1967, Amana, a division of Raytheon, introduced its domestic Radarange microwave oven, marking the beginning of the use of microwave ovens in home kitchens. Although sales were slow during the first few years, partially due to the oven’s relatively expensive price tag, the concept of quick microwave cooking had arrived. In succeeding years, Litton and a number of other companies joined the countertop microwave oven market. By the end of 1971, the price of countertop units began to decrease and their capabilities were expanded. All electromagnetic energy can be characterized as waves with a specific wavelength and frequency distributed over a continuous range known as the electromagnetic spectrum. For example, some radio waves have a wavelength of 6 feet (12 meters) and a frequency of 50 million hertz (Hz-cycles per second). Visible light waves have a wavelength of 400 to 700 millimicrons, and typical X-rays have a length of 0.01 millimicrons and a frequency of 30 x 10¹² millions. Microwaves (short waves or high frequency radio waves) are the shortest of radio waves, with a length of 0.1 millimeter and a frequency of 3 x 109 Hz. They are found in the non-ionizing portion of the energy spectrum, between radio waves and visible light. "Non-ionizing" means that microwaves do not detach charged particles and produce atoms with an unbalanced plus or minus charge. Microwaves can therefore safely produce heat and not cause food to become radioactive. Microwaves are reflected from most metals but they produce inductive resonance's in the atoms of many other substances. It was the discovery of their reaction to metals that led to the invention of radar. It was their ability to produce resonant coupling that led to the invention of the microwave oven. Uses Microwave ovens are generally used for time efficiency in both commercial applications, such as restaurants, in the office and at home, rather than for cooking quality, although some modern recipes using microwave ovens rival recipes using traditional ovens and stoves. Professional chefs generally find microwave ovens to be of limited usefulness because browning, caramelization, and other flavour-enhancing reactions cannot occur due to the temperature range. On the other hand, people who want fast cooking times can use microwave ovens to prepare food or to reheat stored food (including commercially available pre-cooked frozen dishes) in only a few minutes. Microwave Ovens can also be used to defrost items that will later be cooked by traditional methods, cutting the time it takes to defrost foods naturally. Microwave ovens are also useful for the ease in which they can perform some traditionally cumbersome kitchen tasks, such as softening butter or melting chocolate.
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