Person opening KitchenAid brand microwave

The Microwave Oven’s History

Modern microwaves are crafted with style that seamlessly blends into your kitchen’s design and features that help you explore endless culinary possibilities. Explore the history of the microwave, how it was developed and some of the newest features found in modern day microwaves.

Flush to cabinet KitchenAid brand microwave Flush to cabinet KitchenAid brand microwave

What Year Was the Microwave Invented?

In 1945, Percy Spencer stumbled upon the invention widely known today as the microwave. While working with an active radar set emitting microwave signals, Spencer realized the radar’s compact cavity magnetron tube was melting the chocolate bar in his pocket.

Spencer then began to wonder if microwaves could be used to cook food, eventually testing his hypothesis by placing eggs and corn near the magnetron. When the corn began to pop and the eggs began to cook, Spencer went on to develop a rough model of the first microwave.

What Was the Original Purpose of the Microwave?

The compact cavity magnetron tube—the device that emits microwaves—was first invented at Birmingham University in England in 1940. This device was originally intended to emit signals that could detect enemy aircraft and ships during World War II. Percy Spencer eventually discovered its ability to quickly heat food and the microwave was born.

When Were Microwaves Common Household Appliances?

Although microwaves were invented in the 1940s, they didn’t become popular until decades later. In 1967, the first residential countertop microwaves—the precursor to these modern models from KitchenAid brand—were sold by Amana brand for around $500.

By the late ’90s, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nine out of every 10 American households owned a microwave.

How Have Microwaves Evolved Over Time?

Since the invention of the first microwave in 1945, microwaves have evolved to include a number of different configurations, sizes, power levels and much more.

Modern microwaves offer the flexibility, convenience and technology to help your culinary creations come together in a fraction of the time. The latest microwave models from KitchenAid brand include some of the following features:

  • Convection Cooking: Select KitchenAid® microwaves can circulate heat to help you roast and bake your favorite foods.
  • Steam Cooking: Precisely steam foods by adding water to a provided steamer container in select models, like this KitchenAid® microwave.

  • Air Fry Mode: Select microwaves with air fry capabilities, like this microwave from KitchenAid brand, let you crisp and brown food with less oil.1

  • Turntable-Free Design: This KitchenAid® microwave features a Turntable-Free Design, which offers an easy-to-clean interior with plenty of space to cook multiple dishes at once.
  • Sensor Functions: Select models like this microwave from KitchenAid brand take care of the guesswork for you with Sensor Functions that automatically adjust the cook time.
  • Smart Features: Select appliances with Smart Features let you manage your microwave even when you’re away from the kitchen.
  • 1. When compared to deep frying.

A Brief History of the Microwave

  • 1940: The compact cavity magnetron tube—the main component of microwaves—was invented at Birmingham University in England. Originally intended to be used to detect enemy ships and aircraft during WWII, the cavity magnetron tube would soon power the first microwave.

  • 1945: American engineer Percy Spencer filed a patent for the first microwave after noticing a chocolate bar melting in his pocket whenever he was close to a cavity magnetron tube.

  • 1946: The RadaRange, the first commercial microwave, was sold to restaurants, ship galleys and canteens. This six feet tall, 750 pound microwave sold for around $5,000.

  • 1955: Tappan made the first residential microwave, which was rarely seen in homes due to its staggering size and $1,300 price tag.

  • 1967: The first residential countertop microwave was sold by Amana. Using 115 watts of power and priced at around $500, this model was smaller, safer and more reliable than previous microwaves.

  • 1970s: Cheaper parts and technological advancements helped dramatically decrease the cost of microwaves, leading to a surge in microwave purchases.

  • 1997: Around 90% of American households owned a microwave.

Explore KitchenAid® Microwaves

KitchenAid® microwaves come in a variety of styles and offer a number of convenient features, so finding the ideal model for you is simple. From countertop microwaves to over-the-range microwaves, and microwaves that feature both convection and air fry capabilities, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Learn More About Microwaves with KitchenAid brand