Here at AGA Cottages, we don’t want to teach you how to suck eggs but, if you’re unfamiliar with the AGA way of cooking, some general ‘How To’ tips will help you get the most out of your AGA and your holiday.
The construction of AGA ovens means that they retain heat and it will not affect the dish if you open the door during cooking. Inside the ovens, heat comes from all surfaces at the same time. This means that cooking in an AGA is a gentler process than in an oven with one, fierce source of heat. Food is cooked with moisture preserved and therefore you will notice a difference in the flavour of your dishes.
The Boiling Plate and Simmering Plate
This is the most straightforward place to start as all AGAs have a boiling plate (left hand side) and a simmering plate (right hand side). Both are covered by twin, insulated lids, which are always warm to the touch when the AGA is on. Underneath, the AGA plates are waiting, ready to cook when you are.
The Boiling Plate is large enough to accommodate three average sized saucepans at once and the heat on this plate, as the name implies, is hot enough to boil a kettle, often much faster than an electric kettle.
The Simmering Plate is the same size as the boiling plate but is maintained at a much gentler heat, making it ideal for the gentle simmering of sauces, scrambling eggs and dishes where a less fierce heat is required. It’s also a good place to dry fry eggs (on a piece of bake-o-glide) and can be used as a griddle. If the insulated cover is left up on the simmering plate for too long, the temperature will drop and it will become less efficient.
The 80% – 20% Rule
The main mistake that even some established AGA owners make when using their AGA is not sticking to the 80%-20% rule. This is the main principle of AGA cookery that 80% of your cooking should be done inside the AGA and only 20% on top. So, instead of bringing a saucepan of vegetables to the boil on the boiling plate and leaving them on top until they’re cooked, with traditional AGA cooking, you would simply bring the vegetables to the boil in a pan, drain ALL the water away, add a close fitting lid and then immediately place the pan and vegetables (yes, minus the water!) into the simmering oven to finish cooking. (Click on our individual oven guides above to find out which is the simmering oven on your model AGA). This effectively steams the vegetables and you can leave them in the simmering oven until they are as you normally prefer, whether that’s al dente or cooked through.
This is the general principle for most, if not all dishes cooked on an AGA. With a bolognaise sauce for example, start the dish as normal and once all ingredients are in and the sauce is at boiling point, place the lid on top and continue the rest of the cooking in the simmering oven. Advanced AGA cooks would even put the pan in the oven in between adding ingredients but we’ll save that for another day!
AGAs make perfect rice to accompany other dishes; simply place one cup of rice to two cups of water in a pan, add a bay leaf and a pinch of salt, and once boiling, cover with a close fitting lid and place the pan in the simmering oven. You get the idea?
AGA toast can be prepared on the boiling plate with a wire toasting rack. Simply take thick slices of bread and place between the wire paddles. If the bread is fresh or moist, heat the toaster first to prevent sticking. Place the toaster with the bread onto the boiling plate and bring down the insulated cover with the handle of the toaster angled to the side of the cover handle. Depending on how you like your toast, turn over after 1-2 minutes and repeat on the other side. AGA toast is always deliciously crisp on the outside and moist and soft on the inside.
The Warming Plate
The larger AGAs also benefit from a warming plate to the left hand side of the boiling plate. This is a versatile space, which can be used to keep the kettle warm, keeps sauces warm, melt chocolate or soften butter. It is also the ideal place for dough to prove and a great space for drying clothes. It will even iron for you if you fold clothes neatly before placing on top!
The Roasting Oven
The roasting oven is a versatile space, which can be used for roasting, grilling and baking. It is big enough to accommodate a 28lb (13 kg) turkey! The roasting oven is the most commonly used of all the ovens. The higher up the oven, the hotter it is, with temperatures ranging from 250°C, 490°F, Gas Mark 8-9 at the top dropping to around 220°C at the bottom. Food can be grilled by placing it at the top and shallow fried by sitting a pan on the bottom of the roasting oven. Some ovens may be slightly hotter on the left hand side where the burner is so rotate food to ensure even cooking.
The temperature in the roasting oven can be reduced by lowering the rack to a lower runner or by inserting a cold shelf at the top of the oven. The temperature of the roasting oven will also fall after a batch of roasting which makes it a more suitable temperature for baking if you don’t have a baking oven.
The Simmering Oven
Used as an extension to the plates and the roasting oven, the simmering oven is used to continue and complete the cooking of a range dishes from vegetables to pasta, soups and roasts. The simmering oven is also perfect for slow roasting, slow cooking casseroles, soups and a range of other dishes requiring slow, steady cooking.
The average temperature of the simmering oven is 140°, 250°F or Gas Mark 1.
The Baking Oven
A feature of every 3 or 4 oven AGA, the baking oven is at a moderate temperature which is perfect for bread, cakes and biscuits. It can also be used to finish the roasting of a joint when it requires the temperature to be lowered after an initial blast of heat. Like all AGA ovens, the baking oven is cast iron and holds it’s heat which means that you can open the door to check on the progress of your cakes without worrying that they will sink.
Like the roasting oven, the baking oven is again hotter at the top. All AGA ovens have external ventilation, which means that not only is your house not filled with cooking odours, but dishes can be safely cooked together without any cross contamination of odours between dishes.
The average temperature of the baking oven is 190°C, 375°F or Gas Mark 5.
The Warming Oven
The warming oven not only warms plates and dishes, but it also keeps food warm without drying it out.
The average temperature of the warming oven is 85°C, 175°F or Gas Mark 0-1.
Quick links to the different AGA sizes:
Article by Rebecca Russell