Key principles to know when cooking on an Aga

A few key principles which make an Aga, well, an Aga along with some common practice tips.

  • An Aga is always on! There’s no waiting around for the ovens to heat up; heat is distributed to to all parts of the Aga, meaning that the plates are always ready for a cheeky piece of (criss-crossed) Aga toast or whatever you need. The heat stored within the unit is magnificent and providing you follow the best-practice use of the plates and each oven then it really is efficient.
  • There are no switches. It becomes immediately obvious that there are no on-off switches.. This means that the plates are always on too to deliver heat when you need it - do make sure you close the plates when you’re not using them though - a huge waste of energy.
  • Automatic temperature control. Once energy is used by through cooking the thermostat automatically increases the heat available to the individual elements to restore their optimal cooking temperatures - perfect.
  • Heat Zones: the ovens. ‘You don’t set the heat with an Aga, you find it’ good advice from Richard Maggs whose books we love. The perfect heat is found by moving items around into their best cooking position, for example there is a substantial gradient of heat from the top of the roasting oven to the bottom of the simmering oven; so working on this principle you can work out whether the super-hot roasting oven is best (definitely for those gorgeous baked-potatoes!), or a longer, slower casserole-style bake from the middle-bottom of the simmering oven.
  • Partial offsetting. By jiggling the positioning of the pans around on the plates you can keep the pans heated to the key temperature, for example once you have bought a pan of water to the boil whilst fully on the boiling plate you can keep it boiling by moving the pan to sit half-on the boiling plate, and half-off onto the enamel (this will also give you more space to use many pans at once)
  • Start & transfer. A good way to free up space on the plates is to start something cooking by boiling on the boiling plate then transferring elsewhere within the oven to finish cooking. A common move is to the simmering oven once the pan is bubbling.
  • The importance of shielding. The heat produced within the Aga is a radiant heat (rather than circulating air), which explains the gradient of heat between the roasting and simmering ovens. The hottest spot within the ovens is the top of the roasting oven, so if you needed an item to be browned/grilled you would pop it at the very top of the roasting oven thereby cooking it most quickly, but also shielding the items cooking at lower levels in the oven. Cold shelves can be used as a physical barrier to prevent items becoming unintentionally over-browned. 

Hopefully these tips will help you to fathom the first steps with your Aga or provide a little extra insight for more seasoned users!