Two Things I Love/Hate About AGA Cookers
Some of the upsides, and downsides, to living with an AGA.
When I moved into my new home, I inherited an AGA cooker with the property. People drool over AGAs. “You’ve got an AGA?” they ask, and quickly follow up with, “Lucky you!”. There is often genuine envy in their voices.
For those of you who don’t already know, an AGA is a large, heavy, metal stove, and an iconic British brand. There are different models, but the standard AGA has two hot plates on top, and two ovens below.
I want to love my AGA, I really do. I’m working on it.
Anyway, in the spirit of positivity, here are two good things you should know about AGA cookers.
1. The ovens in an AGA are always warm
The stove, once switched on, stays “on” all the time, and that means the ovens don’t need warming up before you use them. This is excellent news if you, like me, don’t think about cooking until you are really hungry.
On the negative side, my AGA has only a very crude mechanism for regulating the oven temperature. Basically, the only real control is a knob that you turn one way to turn up the heat, and the other way to turn down the heat.
The same knob controls the heat across both ovens and both hobs. Although the latest models have ovens you can control independently, in most standard AGAs, including mine, this single knob is all you get.
In the photo above, you will see another knob on the right. This determines whether you can set the AGA temperature manually or via a remote control. The remote control also allows you to program when you want the AGA to switch itself on — a potentially important feature in a heavy metal stove that takes many hours to warm up. Unfortunately, my remote control doesn’t work, so I can’t comment on the usefulness of this feature.
If you’re really observant, you will have noticed another knob on the left of the photo, alongside a fan symbol. Yes, my AGA has a fan in the oven. How efficient is this? I have no way of telling but, when it’s switched on, I can hear a whirring noise, and it seems to dry out the food more.
You can tell the fan is on by the lurid blue light. This is difficult to demonstrate in the photo, but it is really quite blinding. Luckily, you can shut the door of the control panel and hide it from view.
Now, my AGA appears to have a nifty thermometer on the outside, which you might presume displays the oven temperature. Sadly, it isn’t really a thermometer at all. It’s just a fake — or, if you prefer, a design feature.
So, how do I know what temperature my ovens are running at? The short answer is: I don’t! All I know is that the top oven is hot, and the bottom oven is less-hot. Now, since I am a bit of a control-freak, this thermotic vagueness is a pretty big drawback for me.
2. The AGA is one giant radiator
An AGA stove is made of iron and coated in enamel. This makes it a thing of beauty, allegedly. It also means the great beast of a cooker also works as a giant, cast-iron radiator.
Not only does my AGA keep the kitchen really toasty on a cold evening, but it is useful as a drying rack for tea towels — and anything else you care to hang on it.
You can also use the top of an AGA for drying dishes, and it is particularly useful for drying glasses, because you don’t want those water-drip stains to smear the finish on your glasses.
On the negative side, buying an AGA and keeping it heated 24 hours, does seem a touch extravagant in this energy-conscious world. In fact, I would class my AGA is the most expensive radiator I’ve ever owned.
I bought my new property in September. It is situated on a windy hill in Wales (a very windy hill) and is not the warmest of places, so I’ve actually found the AGA surprisingly comforting to live with. It certainly keeps the kitchen warm.
Lovely though the heat is in the winter, what will I think about this giant radiator on a hot summer’s day? Will it be unbearably warm? Will I be forced to turn the thing off and have to try to live without a cooker? Perhaps some people can happily survive on cold salads all through the summer months, but I don’t want to.
To love it, or to lose it, that is the question…
You will have gathered that I have mixed feelings about my AGA.
As an object of admiration and veneration, I feel I should be thrilled to live with one, and I’m trying hard to fall in love with it… but, like many relationships, it’s complicated.
On the one hand, my AGA is an expensive monstrosity which is difficult to control and might, in the summer, be impossible to live with. On the other hand, it is certainly a warming presence in my life at the moment. It really is lovely to come down in the morning to a toasty kitchen, and to sit in the warmth when the wind is howling outside and the rain is lashing at my windows.
Will I keep it? Or will I swap it for something more conventional? I don’t know yet. I think I must live with the beast for a while longer yet before I decide.
If you have views on living with an AGA, particularly if you have experience of owning one, I would love to hear from you. Why do you have one? How do you cook with it?
Come on, AGA lovers, convince me.