The AGA is a unique range cooker and an iconic design. It's British-built from cast-iron which means it cooks in a different way to other ovens.
The cast iron ovens don't dry the food out like an ordinary oven would, which means that all your baking and roasting is crisp yet deliciously moist.
Once you've tasted AGA cooking you'll never want to go back to a conventional cooker!
Each hotplate and oven of the AGA is at a different temperature, so the first principle of AGA cooking is very simple: you put the food where the heat you want happens to be. To cook something quickly, it goes somewhere hot, to slow it down, just move it to somewhere cooler. Simple.
Hotplates and Ovens: temperatures and uses
Most AGAs have two Hotplates: the left-hand one is the Boiling Plate and the right-hand one the Simmering Plate. With the AGA 60 and the 3 Series AGAs, the two settings are combined in a single Hotplate which can be switched from one setting to the other as required.
Boiling Plate: A high heat, so ideal for bringing things to the boil, shallow frying (also possible on the floor of the Roasting Oven) stir frying and deep frying. Using the AGA Toaster you can make delicious AGA toast on the Boiling Plate with a crispy outside and chewy middle (much tastier than from a pop-up toaster!).
Simmering Plate: A slightly lower heat, although it will gradually bring things to the boil if needed. Ideal for simmering, making sauces and starting things off before covering them and placing them in the Simmering Oven to continue cooking for longer periods. Using a circle of Bake-O-Glide baking liner you can cook directly on the Simmering Plate for delicious drop scones, toasted sandwiches, griddled Halloumi cheese and even dry-fried eggs (with the Hotplate lid down so the yolk cooks too!).
The AGA has two, three, four or five ovens, depending on the model. Each oven is at a different temperature to the others to suit different foods and cooking methods, and because the heat rises they are hotter the further up the oven the food is placed.
Each oven is named according to its use. The nominal temperature for each oven is listed below, but it varies depending on the shelf position you use (see 'Shelf runners' below):
Roasting Oven: This is the hottest oven (approximately 220-240°C) and much hotter than most conventional ovens. It's therefore ideal for roasting, pastry baking, Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes. Because the floor is made of cast iron, you can cook pizza and quiche directly on the bottom of the oven for a really crispy base (and no soggy bottoms!). Always use the Floor Grid (which is like a small oven shelf, and supplied with some newer AGAs) under the food if your AGA has ovens which heat-up in an hour or less to lift the food off the base element.
Baking Oven: This is at a slightly lower temperature than the Roasting Oven (approximately 160-190°C) , and so ideal for baking cakes and biscuits. The cast iron oven gives you a delicious crust on your baking with a really moist crumb, ideal for melt-in-the-mouth home bakes.
Simmering Oven: This is a cooler oven than the Baking Oven (approximately 110-120°C) , and so is the ideal place for slow-cooking perfect casseroles, slow-roasting meat, making crisp meringues, and gently simmering root vegetables, pasta and rice. If your AGA has ovens which heat-up in an hour or less, always use the Floor Grid (which is like a small oven shelf, and supplied with some newer AGAs) under the casserole or pan if placing it on the bottom of the Simmering Oven.
Slow Cooking Oven (5 Oven AGA only): This is like a second Simmering Oven, and is switched on and off independently of the rest of the AGA when needed. It only takes around 45 minutes to warm from cold, and so it's ideal for extra cooking space when entertaining or for large family meals. It is used in exactly the same way as the Simmering Oven, although because it is just a few degrees warmer than the Simmering Oven, it is particularly useful for slow-roasting large joints of meat like pulled pork and shoulder of lamb.
Warming Oven (4 and 5 Oven AGAs only): This is the coolest AGA oven, and although not for cooking, it is the perfect place for keeping food warm, 'parking' the joint on a Sunday before carving, holding meals for late-comers, and home-drying fruit and vegetables.
Shelf runners: There are up to four sets of runners moulded into the walls of the ovens, so you can choose a shelf position to suit whatever you are cooking. The shelf positions are numbered in AGA recipes from 1 to 4, 1 is the highest and 4 the lowest. To cook something at a higher temperature choose a higher shelf position, to reduce the temperature choose a lower shelf position. You can always carefully move something up or down a shelf position during cooking because things don't sink in an AGA if you open the oven door during cooking like they would in a conventional oven.