History of the halogen oven
October 12, 2012 3:13 PM   Subscribe

History of the halogen oven

Could anybody help shed some history about halogen ovens? Who invented it? Who was the first one to make it? I can't even find anything about it on Wikipedia.

The earliest reference I could find is here.
posted by Sharcho to Food & Drink (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In 1995 I was a second year undergraduate majoring in Computer Science at the University of Iowa, not far from Amana Refrigeration in Amana, Iowa. One of the CS professors, Bruell, contacted me because Amana was looking for an undergrad to do some interning there. I took the job and was introduced to a new concept that two engineers at Amana were developing, the "light oven."

They took me to the factory and brought me to a test kitchen. They had a prototype that looked like a microwave, yet had nothing but a very bright halogen light inside. We buttered a slice of bread and the oven turned it into a delicious piece of toast very very quickly. Though they were very careful to stop the oven at exactly the right time to produce delicious buttered toast.

They set me to work developing a light transport simulation that would hopefully allow them to optimize the internal geometry of the oven. The light of the halogen bulb reflected off of the stainless steel faceted surfaces of the inside of the oven and they were having problems with uneven energy distribution. They wanted a cheap-ass 18-year-old to write the software necessary to solve the problem.

They lent me a 386. Holy shit. A 386. I wrote a reverse ray tracer that would follow rays of light from a cylindrical source, reflecting off of internal surfaces, ultimately being absorbed by a rectangle of simulated food, rendered in beautiful 3D from blue (cold) to red (hot).

This was my very first experience with 3D graphics. GPUs barely existed at the time, and were only available from SGI, so I wrote the renderer in Pascal. This could be interpreted as an extremely formative experience, as today I am a professor of computer science teaching 3D computer graphics.

I gave Amana the code I had developed over the course of the summer and the two engineers began working with it. I don't know what they ended up doing with it, except I do know that they found one bug in my circularly-linked list deallocation function.

Eventually, I learned that Amana deemed the concept unfit for consumer use because it always over-cooked the food. Think about it: the surface of many foods begins with a very light color but, as energy is added, the surface begins to darken. The darker surface absorbs energy faster, which causes it to darken more, and absorb energy even faster. The food browns exponentially. It rapidly approaches black. To cook properly, one must stop the oven during the brief moment between brown and black. For this reason, most halogen ovens see use in restaurant settings where one item is cooked repeatedly (like the pepperoni pizza bagel at Einstein Bros.)

Anyway, that's my history of the halogen oven.
posted by rlk at 3:56 PM on October 12, 2012 [129 favorites]

You may have trouble attributing such an invention to any one person. I would bet that pretty much as soon as someone noticed that light-bulbs generated heat someone started using them for that heat with food.

I know the inventor of the Easy-Bake Oven (1963) got the idea from street vendors who used bulbs to roast chestnuts.

Also, I've heard that the first slow-cookers had a light-bulb in the base instead of a heating element, I'm not sure what years this would be though.
posted by Cosine at 4:04 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The oldest patent I can find for a purely halogen-heated oven is from a Japanese patent on May 19, 1989. The US patent for the same device was filed a year later and is patent #5,045,671 [link]

There are a number earlier of patents using halogens to supplement microwave or convection ovens, but this one appears to the the first all-light oven. It's a pretty short and generally comprehensible patent and is worth the read.
posted by Ookseer at 9:43 PM on October 12, 2012

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