FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Designed for the Microwave

Food molecules such as water, fat, salt, and protein interacted differently with microwaves than with conventional cooking methods, affecting the consistency and flavor of food. Food companies reformulated and repackaged foods to make them suitable for microwave heating. Other manufacturers created microwave-safe cookware.

Patent drawing, about 1991

Patent drawing, about 1991

Disposable “crisping sleeves,” packaged with a variety of frozen foods, were designed for use in the microwave to mimic the results of conventional cooking.

Ad, 1984

Ad, 1984

In 1976, Pillsbury introduced a line of microwaveable foods.  Others followed suit, and in 1987 alone, food companies released more than 760 new microwaveable products.

NMAH Archives Center AC0690-0000004

Microwave Oven Cookbook, 1976

Microwave Oven Cookbook, 1976

The image on the cover of the cookbook accompanying the JCPenney microwave oven suggests the appliance would cook sumptuous, traditional meals.

Cookbook, 1989

Cookbook, 1989

Food writer Barbara Kafka was skeptical of microwave cooking, but became a convert in the late 1980s. Her cookbooks encouraged people to use their microwaves for cooking, not just reheating. Gift of Rayna Green.

Microwave egg cooker

Gift of Julia Child

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Microwave bacon/meat rack

In 1978 Nordic Ware developed a new thermoset plastic molding technology to create cookware that worked in both conventional and microwave ovens. Gift of Nordic Ware.

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Micro-Go-Round

The Micro-Go-Round automatic food rotator promised consumers “no more hot & cold spots.” In response to its popularity, manufacturers began adding automatic turning tables to later models of home microwaves. Gift of Nordic Ware.

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