The Story Behind the Microwave

The Story Behind the Microwave
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The Story Behind the Microwave

Read on to discover what you should never nuke and more fun facts.

Image Credit: Getty Images

What was the first commercially available microwave oven like?

The large and expensive 800-pound device was mainly used for commercial purposes. Industry news at the time hailed it for “[occupying] less space than a fridge” and for “[grilling a] hamburger under 35 seconds”.

Image Credit: Modern Mechanix

Speedy Weeny vends “your fido in 20 seconds”

The public got their first taste of microwaved goodness when a team of developers including inventor George Devol unveiled a Speedy Weeny hot dog vending machine at Grand Central Terminal. The machine dispensed 300 sizzling hot wieners, and customers got their “fido in 20 seconds”.

Image Credit: Modern Mechanix

Never put these items in the microwave

Here’s a quick rundown of some items that should not go in the microwave:

  • Alumnimum foil
  • Anything metal
  • Non-microwave safe dishware
  • Grapes and other fruits
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Boiling plain water

Why is it important to “let food stand” after you microwave?

During standing time, food continues to cook as its temperature increases by several degrees. Standing time is part of the cooking process and ensures food is cooked properly.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Any tricks to heating food evenly?

In a Wall Street Journal online article, Dr. Jeyam Subbiah of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food Science and Technology Department recommends positioning food at the edge of the turntable instead of the center to heat food more evenly. Another tip is to stir food halfway through the cooking cycle.

Image Credit: Getty Images


Percy Spencer, an engineer working for American defense contractor Raytheon, accidently discovered a new use for radar technology in the mid-1940s. While standing near an active magnetron, which is a vacuum tube that generates microwave radio signals, he noticed that the candy bar in his pocket had melted. After several successful experiments popping popcorn kernels and exploding a whole egg, Spencer built the first microwave oven, which was a rudimentary metal box with a magnetron inside, to heat lunches.

Raytheon patented the dielectric heating device, naming it the Radarange, and in 1947 the first commercially available microwave oven hit the market. What started as an 800-pound device priced between two and three thousand dollars and mainly used for commercial purposes became modified over the years into a more affordable $495 countertop model released by Raytheon-acquired Amana Corporation in 1967. Americans rapidly discovered the convenience of quick cooking, and now more than 90% of households have a microwave.

Check out the slideshow above to discover what you should never nuke and more fun facts.

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