If you're new to AGA cooking, you may find it a departure from using a conventional cooker. Indeed, you might feel a bit daunted by the prospect of this unique way of cooking.
From understanding the basics of how an AGA works to adapting your favourite recipes for the AGA, this guide is designed to help beginners grasp the essentials and get started. We hope you'll soon discover the unique features, benefits and endless possibilities that an AGA brings to your kitchen.
- What is an AGA?
- A brief history of AGA cookers
- The benefits of AGA cooking
- Getting started with your AGA
- Cookware and utensils
- AGA cooking techniques
- Adapting recipes for the AGA
- AGA menu planning
- Tips for batch cooking and meal prepping
- Seasonal menus and diverse cuisines
- Cleaning and maintenance tips for your AGA
- Resources and further reading
An AGA is a type of range cooker or stove that has become iconic in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world and is known for its distinctive design and unique cooking method. AGA cookers are often considered as much a piece of kitchen furniture as a cooking appliance.
The original traditional AGA cooker is a cast-iron, heat-storage range that operates on a principle of radiant heat and was kept on all the time, providing constant warmth to the kitchen, which has made it a favourite in colder climates.
There are also electric AGA cookers available. In response to changing energy preferences and environmental concerns, we introduced electric-powered AGA models, which operate similarly to our traditional counterparts but use electricity as the primary energy source instead of gas, oil, or solid fuels.
Electric AGA cookers retain the iconic design of the classic AGA, including the cast-iron construction, multiple ovens with different temperature settings, and the radiant heat method. However, the electric models are designed with enhanced functionality to be more energy efficient and flexible compared to some of the older on all the time AGA cookers.
The introduction of electric AGA cookers allows homeowners to enjoy the benefits of AGA cooking without the need for fossil fuels or solid fuels, making them more environmentally friendly and convenient for those without access to gas or oil supplies. Electric AGA cookers are also a popular choice for individuals seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and energy consumption.
The story of AGA cookers began in 1922, in the kitchen of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr Gustaf Dalén.
Noticing the challenges his wife faced with their conventional range, Dalén designed the AGA - a safer, cleaner and more efficient cooker. It quickly revolutionised the cooking world with its novel features like heat storage and multiple ovens.
By 1929, the AGA had journeyed from Sweden to Britain, earning a coveted spot in many British kitchens due to its efficiency, versatility and distinct style. Over the years, AGA has continued to innovate, enhancing designs and introducing technological advancements while preserving the original concepts of Dalén.
Today, over a century later, the AGA cooker remains an icon in kitchens worldwide, known for its blend of timeless design and modern functionality.
You’ll find that there are many benefits to cooking with an AGA. Let’s take a look at just a few of them.
Unlike conventional ovens, AGA cookers use radiant heat technology that ensures gentle and even cooking, preserving natural juices and nutrients, and guaranteeing that dishes are not only cooked to perfection but bursting with flavour. Gentle cooking also significantly reduces the chances of burning or overcooking your meals.
The solid cast-iron structure of an AGA stores heat and releases it gradually. This consistent temperature ensures your AGA is always primed for cooking, without the need for preheating, whereas the new models need preheating.
Equipped with different temperature zones across multiple ovens and hotplates, the AGA allows you to boil, roast, bake, simmer or grill, all at the same time.
The fact that you can cook multiple dishes at once with an AGA can offer considerable time savings, making it the ideal cooker for those who love to multi-task or need to prepare meals for large families or occasions.
The AGA cookers heat storage capacity provides a dual purpose of providing a secondary heat source for your home, which is especially useful during the cold winter months.
The AGA's insulation also plays a key role in its energy efficiency, helping to retain heat and reduce energy consumption. The majority of AGA cookers are now electric and can be on when you want them and off when you don’t, meaning you save both energy and money.
Made from high-quality, long-lasting materials, AGA cookers are built to deliver consistent, reliable performance over many years, while their unique design means fewer moving parts, reducing the risk of breakdowns. Known for their longevity, many AGA cookers are still operating after several decades.
With its iconic design and selection of colours, an AGA can become a beautiful focal point in any kitchen, adding a classic charm or contemporary flair, depending on your chosen model.
Owning an AGA comes with a sense of tradition. AGA owners share a common bond of appreciation for this unique piece of kitchen equipment and often exchange tips, tricks and recipes.
Before you start cooking on an AGA, it's essential to understand the different models and their features, from the traditional heat-storage AGAs to the newer, more flexible models with added functions. Selecting the right AGA model for your needs is an important first step.
Once you've chosen your model, you need to set up your AGA. While the installation process is generally handled by professionals, getting familiar with basic maintenance and safety guidelines will ensure smooth, trouble-free operation.
Getting to know the controls and temperature settings of your AGA is key. Each oven and hotplate operates at a different temperature, so learning how to navigate these graduated temperature zones properly will open up a world of cooking possibilities.
The right cookware can enhance your AGA cooking experience. We’d recommend using heavy-bottomed pans and cast-iron cookware that evenly distribute heat. For baking, ceramic or heavy-gauge metal baking dishes work best.
The AGA Cookshop is full of quality products to perfectly complement your cooking style - from cast-iron, stainless steel and cast aluminium cookware to roasting tins, bakeware, accessories and ceramics.
To use your AGA to its full potential, you’ll need to get the hang of certain cooking techniques unique to this iconic appliance.
Mastering the AGA hotplates
AGA hotplates allow for various cooking methods. The boiling plate provides intense heat for quick boiling, while the simmering plate ensures a gentler heat perfect for simmering stews or healthily frying food on Bake-o-Glide without the need for oil.
Perfecting roasting and baking in the oven
The roasting oven in an AGA is great for high-temperature cooking like roasting and baking. Understanding the heat zones within the oven will help you achieve the best results.
Remember, the oven's top is hottest, while the bottom is cooler, which allows for different types of cooking simultaneously.
Slow cooking and simmering
The simmering oven is ideal for slow cooking, from tender stews and casseroles to baking meringues. The key is to allow ample time for the food to cook gently, letting the flavours come together beautifully.
Adapting conventional recipes for AGA cooking involves understanding cooking times and temperature adjustments. AGA cooking often requires less stirring and lower temperatures and, thanks to the AGA's radiant heat, your food will rarely dry out, even with extended cooking times.
Maximising the use of all oven and hotplate zones is also vital for efficient cooking. For instance, you can start a dish on the boiling plate before transferring it to the simmering oven to complete cooking. Or roast in the roasting oven before resting in the simmering oven for perfectly tender results.
Designing well-balanced meals
AGA cookers offer multiple cooking zones, allowing you to prepare various elements of your meal simultaneously, making it easy to create balanced, nutritious meals.
Ideal for cooking meats, fish, or high-temperature roasting of vegetables, providing a good source of protein and vitamins.
You can also bake whole grains or legumes here, along with baking your homemade bread, providing your meal with healthy carbohydrates and fibre.
Perfect for slow-cooking, stewing, or braising vegetables, meats and legumes for a tasty, nutrient-rich component.
Boiling and simmering plates
These are great for cooking sides, such as boiling or steaming vegetables or preparing a soup, contributing additional vitamins and minerals to your meal.
Remember to incorporate a variety of food groups, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fruits or vegetables in your meals for nutritional balance.
Use all zones
AGA cookers are designed for multitasking. While roasting a large cut of meat or baking bread and pastries in the roasting oven, you can simmer a batch of soup or stew in the simmering oven.
List out your meals for the week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Ensure you have all the ingredients on hand.
Make double portions of your meals and store half in the fridge or freezer. It doesn’t take much more effort to make a larger quantity, and you’ll save time later in the week.
Invest in good-quality, airtight containers for storing your batch-cooked meals. Label with the date of cooking to keep track of freshness.
AGA cookers are perfect for cooking seasonal dishes, as they offer different heat levels suitable for cooking various types of food. Here's how to make the most of it.
Use fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. They're typically at their peak in terms of flavour and nutritional value.
For example, you could slow-roast a hearty winter root vegetable stew in the simmering oven, or steam delicate spring asparagus on the boiling plate.
AGA's versatility allows you to explore diverse cuisines. For instance, you can bake Italian-style pizzas in the roasting oven, simmer a French coq au vin in the simmering oven, stir-fry Asian dishes on the boiling plate or slow-cook Indian curries.
By using your AGA cooker creatively, you can keep your meals interesting, flavourful and healthy all year round. Take time to experiment with different foods and flavours to make the most of your AGA experience.
How is cooking on an AGA different from conventional cooking?
Cooking on an AGA differs from conventional cooking primarily because of the way heat is distributed. In a conventional oven, the heat comes from one source, usually the bottom, and circulates around the oven. With an AGA, radiant heat is distributed evenly from all surfaces, resulting in a unique cooking environment that keeps food moist and full of flavour.
Are AGAs expensive to run?
AGAs can potentially incur higher running costs compared to conventional cookers due to their unique design and functions, which may involve prolonged operation periods.
However, it's essential to consider that not all AGAs are designed to be left on continuously, and the running costs can significantly vary based on factors like fuel type, model and usage patterns.
Modern AGA models are typically designed with energy efficiency in mind. Furthermore, the operational expenses might be counterbalanced by the AGA's additional features, such as providing supplementary home heating and the convenience of cooking multiple dishes at the same time.
How can I optimise energy efficiency when using an AGA cooker?
Optimising energy efficiency with an AGA cooker involves leveraging its multifunctional design and capabilities to the fullest. Remember, not all AGA models are designed to stay on all the time.
If your model does have this feature, make the most of the consistent heat by using it for diverse cooking tasks, such as simultaneously baking cakes and roasting dinner or utilising the slow-cook function.
If your AGA is not designed to be left on, plan your meals to make the most of the heat when it's on, such as preparing multiple dishes at once.
Consider other benefits, like warming your kitchen or drying laundry, if applicable. Newer models also often feature programmable settings, which allow you to manage heat levels efficiently, thus saving energy when the cooker is not in active use.
Why does food taste better when cooked on an AGA?
Food often tastes better when cooked on an AGA due to its gentle, radiant heat cooking method.
This method helps to lock in moisture, preventing food from drying out and ensuring it retains more of its natural flavours. It also allows for better preservation of nutrients, resulting in not just tastier, but healthier dishes.
Can I use my existing cookware on an AGA, or do I need special AGA-specific cookware?
While you can use most types of cookware on an AGA, it's best to use flat-bottomed pans and roasting trays that conduct heat well. Cast-iron or heavy steel pans work well on the hotplates, while ceramic or metal dishes are suitable for the ovens.
AGA also has its own range of cookware specifically designed to work with its ovens and hotplates.
Many AGA cookers now come with state-of-the-art induction hobs, for which ferrous metal pans are required. Without this magnetic material, heat will not be able to transfer from the hob to the pan effectively.
Can I bake and roast simultaneously in an AGA cooker?
Yes, you can bake and roast simultaneously in an AGA. The multiple ovens operate at different temperatures, allowing you to perform various cooking techniques simultaneously. For example, you could roast a chicken in the roasting oven while baking a cake in the baking oven.
Can I use my AGA cooker for grilling or barbecuing?
Yes, you can use the roasting oven in an AGA cooker for grilling. By positioning the food near the top of the oven, you can achieve a similar effect to grilling. However, our newer models like the R3 Series and ERA have a dedicated grill.
As for barbecuing, while you can't directly barbecue on an AGA, you can achieve similar results with high-heat roasting or by using a griddle on the boiling plate.
Are there any specific recipes or cooking techniques that are best suited for AGA cooking?
AGA cookers excel at slow cooking techniques, such as stews, casseroles and slow roasts, thanks to the steady, radiant heat provided by their cast-iron construction. Baking in an AGA also tends to yield excellent results due to the even heat distribution. However, with its range of temperature zones, an AGA is versatile enough to handle a broad array of recipes and cooking techniques.
Maintaining the quality and longevity of your AGA cooker requires regular cleaning and proper care. The durable cast-iron build of an AGA is part of its charm, but it does necessitate specific care to keep it in pristine condition.
- Immediate cleanup
- Cleaning up spills immediately can prevent them from baking onto the surface, which will make them much harder to remove later
- Use a damp cloth to wipe away any spills or splatters promptly
- Use recommended cleaners
- Avoid abrasive cleaners or scouring pads that can scratch the enamel surface
- Instead, use cleaners specifically designed for AGA cookers or mild soap solutions.
- Always dry the surface after cleaning to prevent watermarks.
Make a habit of cleaning your AGA cooker regularly. Depending on your usage, a weekly clean can keep your AGA looking its best and functioning efficiently.
AGA cast-iron ovens are self-cleaning because they burn off any spillages. However, if any large spillages occur, you might need to help the process along by removing any larger pieces once the oven cools.
For traditional oil and gas AGA cookers, regular maintenance is an essential part of keeping your AGA cooker running safely and efficiently. It’s also a condition of the warranty. Take a look at recommended servicing intervals for your model.
Always engage a qualified AGA service engineer for any repairs or servicing to ensure the work is done correctly and safely.
Inspect seals and gaskets
Over time, the door seals or gaskets can wear and lose their effectiveness, causing heat loss. Inspect them periodically and replace them if necessary.
Check flue and vents
Ensure your flue and air vents are clear of any blockages to allow proper ventilation, ensuring the efficient operation of your AGA.
Remember, an AGA is an investment and keeping it in the best possible condition not only enhances its performance but also its lifespan. Proper cleaning and maintenance will ensure you can enjoy your AGA for many years to come.
There are many resources available for those keen to discover more about the world of AGA cooking.
Books such as ‘The Complete AGA Cookbook’ by Mary Berry and Lucy Young, 'Family Sunday Lunches' by Mary Berry or ‘The Complete Book of Aga Know-How’ by Richard Maggs provide valuable insights into AGA cooking.
AGA cooking classes, events and forums
Many cookery schools and independent chefs offer classes and workshops specifically designed for AGA cooking. Also, AGA showrooms often host cooking demonstrations and events.
Online forums and social media groups provide a platform for AGA users to connect, share their experiences and seek advice.
AGA cooking is an experience that goes beyond just food preparation. It’s a culinary adventure that introduces you to a new world of tastes and possibilities.
With patience, practice and the right guidance, you can harness the full potential of your AGA, making it an essential part of your kitchen and lifestyle. So if you’re new to AGA cooking, we hope this guide has proved helpful.