My Aga – Not just an oven…

My Aga greets me.
Its warmth melts the weariness
Of a long journey.
………………………………………..
My friends closest to me probably do not want to read this post. They know all about my Aga and likely aren’t interested in hearing more. But for those of you who don’t know what an Aga is, or why I’m so nuts about it, this post is for you.

So, what exactly is an Aga? First, it is pronounced like gaga (as in lady gaga), with the first G missing and the emphasis on the first ‘a’.  Here is a picture of my Aga.

My Aga... (notice the beautiful tile work, all done by Frank-the-wonderful)

A beauty, isn’t she? We first encountered one when we lived in England and our rental home had one. We didn’t know that some people find them intimidating – we just thought it was really cool and it’s why we picked that particular home to live in. And boy am I glad we did. My cooking will never be the same. They are very popular in England and other parts of Europe, and can also be found in the northern parts of the US (that is more my guess based on where we go for parts…).

An Aga is defined as a large iron cooker [it’s make of cast iron] which keeps its heat (from the Cambridge Dictionaries online). It has 4 ovens, each at a different temperature range: Roasting (~400 plus), Baking (~325-375), Simmering (~250) and Warming (~125).  On top there are two covered “plates” – the boiling plate and the simmering plate. There is also the “top plate” on the top left – not a cooking surface, just a warm area.

       

Open wide - the 4 ovens, clockwise from bottom left: warming, simmering, roasting, baking; center bottom door opens to the controls

boiling plate on left, simmering plate on right. Not sure why the right lid is always a mess - grilled cheese dross I think.

An Aga stores heat (although it is always warm, it only “runs” to make up for any lost heat). The goal in cooking on an Aga is to retain its heat and cook as much as you can in the ovens. That means often you start a dish on one of the plates, but you finish it in an oven. For example, you could boil the potatoes on the stove until your windows are running with condensation. Or, in the Aga, you bring the potatoes to boil on the boiling plate, pour off the water, cover it, put it into the Simmering Oven and then 30 minutes later your potatoes are steam-cooked and ready for mashing.  The house isn’t a humid mess and the potatoes are perfect.  The ovens too are designed for you to get a dish started in one place (the roasting oven for instance) and finished in another (the simmering oven). You need to fiddle with the time, but it is fairly straight forward.

You can use all areas inside of each oven – near the top it is warmer, or you can put it directly on the floor of an oven. You can put your whole pan in there, handle an all (assuming no plastic handles…).

I know this sounds really complicated, and you might wonder why bother. I’ll tell you why: it makes the world’s best bacon. This is not an exaggeration. You will not find better bacon anywhere. And the best part? The bacon fries in a pan on the floor of the roasting oven so you don’t have to clean up spattered grease. (Take note on the door of the top right oven (the roasting oven) in the picture above – see all that? That is from all the cooking and would be on my counters and in my hair if not in the oven. Don’t get disgusted, the door gets cleaned regularly and inside the oven is so hot that it carbonizes any spills.) When we finally got the Aga installed (my wonderful handy amazing husband Frank did all the work), Christmas Day 2010, guess what the first thing I cooked in the Aga was… yes, bacon.

Other wonderful things about my Aga:

  • Boiling plate boils a kettle faster than an electric kettle. In seconds it will start to make that happy boiling “tinkle” sound.
  • It is always warm, so when you are cold, you just need to stand near it or lay over the top and you’ll warm right up.
  • Great place to lay coats on cold winter mornings before going out. (Note – some parts are too hot to handle clothing, so you do need to be careful.)
  • You can warm plates on the top while the cooking finishes. You can see white plates on the top left side in the first picture, waiting for something to come out of an oven, get filled and then taken to the table. Makes me seem like a much more accomplished cook than I am.
  • All parts are handy… melt butter in a small pan on the top somewhere; soften cream cheese next to it or on top of it… toss all your leftovers in the simmering oven about an hour before dinner and they’ll all be warm at the same time – no more microwave shuffling of multiple dishes. You cook pancakes directly on the simmering plate – no pan needed, so less mess to clean up.
  • We compost fruit and veg scrap… and we keep the container right on top of the Aga (see the canister in the first picture again). The heat dries out the scraps and extends the time before we have to put them in the compost bin.
  • I find it easier to cook healthy dishes. Cut up some veg, toss in some herbs and olive oil, throw in the top of the roasting oven – 30 minutes later, perfectly roasted veggies. Almost as easy as opening a can of veggies and putting them in the microwave.
  • It has elimimated nearly all my other appliances. No toaster, no crock pot, no bread maker, no microwave bacon cooker, no electric skillet, no rice cooker. Truth be told, I still sometimes use the  rice cooker (my Aga rice is meh), but not very often. I also limit my microwave usage.
  • You can cook a ton of food at once because each oven can handle a lot of pans.  When living in England, I hosted Thanksgiving for nearly 20 people. I did all the food: turkey, side dishes and desserts. Everything was warm when it was served because the Aga is so versatile — cook in one oven, keep warm in another or on top. The turkey itself was finished at around 5pm, but I just put it on top of the oven (on the left side), covered it with a ski jacket, and 2 hours later when it was carved it was piping hot and delicious.

Issues or questions you might wonder about…

  • Is it safe for kids? Yes. My kids have never once burned themselves. They know where it is warm and where it is too hot to touch, and therefore to respect it, but that should be true of all appliances, right?
  • You put food in there and forget it is there, for several days. This is true. The smells vent outside so if you have left something, you often don’t realize it. This has had good results before (when we left soup in there for a day and a half… just had to add some water to the uber-concentrated veggie sludge and it was the best soup ever!) and bad (the broccoli looked like dried out flowers, ick).  Just makes it a little more fun and exciting each time you open an oven door.
  • I’ve failed miserably making caramels. Had to use the top plates to make it, which drains the heat over the 45 minutes required for cooking caramels. I kept moving the pan to the hotter plate because it was taking too long, but eventually scorched the candy. Dagnabbit. I haven’t tried again, but I will, and this time I’ll have more patience and perhaps not double the recipe…
  • They are expensive to buy and run. We purchased ours while still in the UK over eBay… got a great deal. I wouldn’t buy a new one – couldn’t afford it – but used worked for us. They do show up on eBay in the US at times.  Monthly, we think it costs us maybe $30-40 to run it (gas), so that’s clearly a choice. But the other benefits (warm kitchen, warm coats, great bacon) more than make up for it. For the “greenies” out there, you could heat a significant portion of your house with this. We didn’t go that far, but when we rehabbed our current house and kitchen, we designed the new HVAC systems (up and down) so that we could balance out the extra Aga heat as efficiently as possible. Not perfect, but better.
  • Isn’t the house always hot/warm? Can you run it in the summer? It does make the kitchen warmer than the rest of the house. But the heat isn’t too bad in the summer. Interestingly, we had it off for a week last summer to clean and service it and I will tell you, the kitchen just felt weird. It wasn’t right that it was cool/normal. This oven is the heart of our home and when it was “cold”, the house felt sad and the family was a little “off”. So, the little extra heat is worth it. (I’m not saying I’d run it in summers in my hometown in middle Georgia, but Cincinnati isn’t too bad…)

That’s it, my Aga. I love it – it makes me very happy. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for not just an oven, but something that enriches your life. And I’d be happy to make you bacon anytime.

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29 Comments

  1. ldmccormck

     /  February 26, 2012

    I’ll take you up on the bacon! And even though I’ve heard about your Aga again and again, I just never get tired of you talking about anything you have passion for. Hugs

    Reply
  2. I have been begging my Dear Sweet Husband for an Aga for years now. My Meemaw had one in her kitchen and I just loved it. I remember being a little kid watching her cook and loving every square inch of that stove. Love the color choice on yours…I want a red one 😉 I think I’ll have to show my husband your post…maybe it’ll nudge him in the direction of letting me have one. *cross my fingers!!*

    Reply
    • I should mention, the ones I have been drooling over are wood burning. I had no idea you could get on that ran on gas…learn something new every day, don’t you?

      Reply
      • they come electric too these days! I can’t imagine wood burning… more work than I’m prepared for, but I would imagine that food is even better…

  3. I have wanted one of these. And you now have sold me with the bacon comment. I believe that just about everything is better with bacon.

    Reply
  4. I’m jealous! This sounds fabulous and I would love to have one. Thinking of reblogging this on my own blog. . . (if I can figure out how to do it.)

    Reply
  5. Reblogged this on mycookinglifebypatty and commented:
    I’m always interested in cooking equipment large or small and an “Aga” is something I’d not heard of before. Sounds like a wonderful type of stove/oven! Thought maybe you all would like to read about it too!

    Reply
  6. I’m sold. My next big present to myself will be an Aga oven. The kitchen is the heart of our home, too! My husband can cook his applesauce pancakes on the simmering plate while I fry bacon and bake cardamom-prune scones in the oven. We are true believers in cast iron. Thank you for this post. I’ll be poring over Aga oven information to learn more about them for the next year:)

    Reply
  7. someday….someday….

    Reply
  8. Lee Murray

     /  February 27, 2012

    But can you make a Han & Cheese sandwich with it?

    Reply
  9. I want! I want! I want!

    Reply
  10. Eileen Marden

     /  August 13, 2013

    What a lovely written piece! I’m having an Aga fitted in the next couple of months. Not a huge one like yours, the small 2 oven one but now reading this I just can’t wait!! Have secretly been feeling a little scared about char coaling everything that I put in it but you’ve made it sound a lot more straight forward than some of the books I’ve read! Thank you! Eileen, UK

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you liked it and I’m thrilled for you and your new Aga. I really do love mine and think that like childbirth the stories are always a little more dramatic than the real thing. 🙂 All the best

      Reply
  11. Anna

     /  August 26, 2013

    Oh how I share your love of Aga stoves. I moved house six months ago and leaving the Aga behind was like deserting one of the family. Under pressure from the ‘greenies’ and the rising price of energy (I live in the UK) we decided to manage with the modern stove already in the new house. Horrific! I forgot to switch it on before starting to cook and forgot to switch it off afterwards. Nothing turned out right and cooking was a nightmare. After six months and a cold and dismal British summer that gave a creditable impersonation of winter, we cracked and bought an Aga. It was delivered 12 days ago and I am in heaven…………..

    Reply
    • congratulations! i can’t imagine being without. Had a gas-related part go bad and it was down most of a day and I was ridiculously blue…

      Reply
  12. Cristof eigelberger

     /  December 8, 2013

    Got an aga and absolutely love it. Not only bacon but chicken and eggs are amazing!! Extraordinary thing is when we were looking at the our house to buy, most people looked at the aga as a problem! To us it is the absolute primo!, We are now upgrading our pans. What are you using?? Le Creuset cast iron? Getting a pan that is perfectly flat is difficult without spending some bucks.

    Reply
    • I was just today drying something on the hot plate, and it occurred to me that if I didn’t have an Aga I would have no idea what to do with this thing needing drying… The cooker is a crucial part of my happiness. We have yet to get to the “upgrade the pans” part of Aga ownership. Family too young… We still use Aga baking and roasting tins; and I found some good stainless cookware at Ikea of all places – good, flat bottoms… I have a few cast iron pieces, but it is mostly not good, but a decent stand in until LeCreuset becomes an option. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Anna

     /  December 9, 2013

    Apart from cooking and drying stuff, the Aga simmering oven is great for mending. My husband is great at mending things with a dab of superglue then he puts the article in the simmering oven or on the back of the Aga to harden and it’s as good as new.

    Incidentally, he fought tooth and nail against buying our first Aga 18 years ago ( too expensive, temperamental etc. etc.) Know what I did? Took him to an Aga cookery demonstration straight after work when he was starving. A wonderful. motherly figure took goody after goody out of her cavernous Aga and offered tastings. He was first in the queue (or ‘in line’ as I believe you say Stateside) to place an order.

    Reply
    • love it! it really does make the best tasting food ever. I just spent Thanksgiving with my parents and had to suffer through a regular oven and hated it!! I’m spoiled for ever!

      Reply
  14. Yolanda

     /  November 10, 2015

    To cook rice, use 2 part rice, 2 parts water. Boil with lid on for 5 or so minutes. Leave lid on and put to the side and it will continue to steam for 15 minutes.
    Love my aga, except in summer. Winter it dries clothes beautifully, sometimes without the need for ironing.

    Reply
  15. Anna Knowles

     /  January 21, 2016

    Another way of cooking perfect Aga rice is to toss the rice in a tiny bit of oil ((this keeps the grains separate) on the boiling plate, then add double the volume of boiling water, (it will bubble furiously) then put the lid on the pan and put the pan in the simmering oven. It will take about 20 minutes to make perfect rice that doesn’t need draining – just fluff with a fork. Once it’s cooked you can use it immediately or let it stand in the oven (covered) until you’re ready to serve.

    Here’s a way of cooking small potatoes that is very trouble free: Toss your potatoes in a little oil or oil and butter and a bit of garlic. A sprig or to of thyme is nice too. Turn the potatoes gently until they are coated with oil, put the lid on the pan and leave in the roasting oven for an hour or longer. They will emerge a lovely golden colour, (color!) soft and flavo(u)rsome.

    Reply
  16. Brent Bonfiglio

     /  April 3, 2016

    I have to say I completely agree with you! My family LOVES LOVES LOVES our beautiful White AGA!!!! we live in rural MA and the warmth is wonderful! It help keeps our very chilly and drafty home nice and toasty! the boon is that we often loose power for weeks at a time… no problem here… our AGA keeps us warm and cooks wonderful meals….. we will never go with out an AGA…..best purchase that we ver made… and they’re pretty!!!!

    Reply
  17. VeronicaOss

     /  July 28, 2016

    Hope you got your rice figured out in your Aga. I’ve had my two oven for a couple of months now and LOVE it. And my family loves it too. I dry clothes on it, pans, have cooked everything on it. Even perfect rice! I have this old Aga clothes iron with an interchangeable bottom i heat up on the simmer plate. I put it one there close the lid and iron with the other attached. When it cools, swap them out. Beautiful! I could not be more thrilled. Thanks for your post!

    Reply
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