This guide is not about recipes. Instead these tips, specific to Aga, Rayburn and other range cookers, will help you get through the biggest meal of the year without any disasters!
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Remember this! Your cooker is a marathon runner when it comes to cooking. Don’t try and make it run a sprint on Christmas Day; it will fail!
- Turn your range cooker up on Christmas Eve or for the whole holiday! Your cooker is effectively a storage heater and it only has so much heat to give. Cooking for large numbers of people depletes range cooker heat reserves quickly so you need as much heat in the store as possible. Turn it up, even to max, the night before and you will have more heat to work with on the big day! Remember that turning your range cooker up doesn’t alter the speed at which it regains heat but rather the max temperature it will reach. Take this into account with your cooking, you don't want to burn anything!
Think carefully about breakfast on Christmas morning. Tricky one this as a big breakfast is so important on Christmas day. The problem is that if half the family are wandering in and out, boiling water for eggs and frying bacon on the hotplate, then by the time the real cooking marathon commences your oven has already had a good run and may struggle later! If you have an electric toaster then fire this up and maybe just consider a liquid breakfast. A pint of bucks fizz anyone?!
- Don’t cook your turkey straight from the fridge. A massive chilled bird will take most of your Aga range cooker’s heat to cook before you’ve even started the sprouts. Let it stand in a cool room to come up to room temperature slowly. Most range cooker ovens will fit Turkeys up to 14kg, that is a lot of bird to cook! Don't miss our 'Range cooker Roast turkey timings' guide.
- Know your cooker. Do you know how hot the lower oven is? If you are planning to slow cook your turkey then do check temperatures and allow extra time. Lower ovens can cool quickly when hotplates and roasting oven are working hard. I did 24hr pork once in a holiday home; it came out nearly raw! I had to put lunch back by 3hrs while I roasted it conventionally!
- Avoid using the hotplates, or at least use them less! This one is tricky but nothing cools a range cooker like using the hotplates. Use the simmering oven for veges and anything you can. The 80/20 rule is great but aim for 100/0 instead! (100% of cooking inside the cooker, none on hotplate).
Use your range cooker's 'wasted' heat. You can still use the top of your rangew cooker even if you are avoiding using the hotplates at all (see no 3!). Got some butter to melt? Pop it in a bowl and sit the bowl on one of our drying racks on top of the range cooker. Similarly use it to warm plates and serving bowls and even keep things warm when finished in the oven. A thick towel over a tray of roasties sat on the rack keeps them hot for ages! We have different sized racks for all range cookers.
- Don’t boil water on the range cooker. This one is crucial, bringing 4 or 5 large saucepans of cold water to the boil will stop your range cooker dead - it will literally be cold! Fire up that electric kettle; it may use ‘extra’ energy but your range cooker can't afford the energy to boil water on the big day!
- Set up your range cooker carefully in advance. Arrange the shelves how you need them the night before so that come the big morning you don't have the doors open for 20mins fiddling with those annoying 'won't pull out then get stuck' oven shelves. If you need extra ones we sell the old fashioned runner shelves for range cookers here for easy access.
- Are you catering in bulk? Remove the silver rack shelves from your oven and use only trays that fit on the runners; much more space to use!
Pre-warm your pots, pans and trays. This tip came all the way from Oslo, Norway courtesy of Jannike - many thanks! Store your trays and dishes in the simmering and warming ovens (if you have them) the night before and pile pots and pans you may need on a drying rack on the hob. It saves the energy your cooker would normally use to warm these pans on Christmas day.
- Cook in relays. Don’t try and do everything on the day. Make your roasties in advance early morning or even the day before, I reckon they taste better twice cooked anyway!
- Control the family! Don’t let all and sundry keep opening the oven doors to 'check the turkey' or steal roasties! Guard range cooker well and keep the heat inside!
Use insulated hob covers to keep heat in the Aga range cooker. it will regenerate quicker. Ours make lovely gifts ;)