AGA Thyme - The Kitchen Shop That Cooks


Frequently Asked Questions

What is an AGA Cooker?

Designed in 1922 by a renowned Swedish physicist and first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1929, an AGA Cooker is a cast-iron, gas-fueled, enamel-glazed cooking stove that uses non-drying radiant heat to gently cook food, often in less time than a traditional stove.

Why is radiant heat best for cooking?

Radiant heat makes a significant difference in cooking results, which is why the AGA Cooker is legendary among chefs and owners worldwide. The AGA is the only stove that cooks using radiant heat. The best way to discover the AGA difference is to attend an AGA Cooking Demonstration.

To truly appreciate why food cooked using radiant heat tastes better, it's important to define the three different ways in which heat can be transferred to food, since each produces significantly different results.

Conduction occurs when energy moves through a solid material, such as when a silver spoon in a cup of hot coffee gets heated. This method isn't used to cook food very often, but it's the same concept as putting a nail into a baked potato to conduct heat to the center for faster cooking.

Convection occurs when airflow creates energy. When this cooking method is used, air is heated and as the heated air rises and comes in contact with food, the heat is transferred to the food. To increase the amount of heat delivered, either the air must be hotter or the air needs to pass over the food more quickly. This is why a convection oven adds a fan to mechanically force more rapid air movement. Unfortunately, this method tends to dry out food.

Radiant heat is transferred when energy comes from a heated mass and is not dependent on an intervening media for transmission. Sunlight is a good example, as is heat from a fireplace in a cold room. This type of energy doesn't become heat until it hits a solid object. In the fireplace in a cold room example, the energy passes through the cool room air with almost no absorption by the air. Instead, the energy is converted to heat as it hits an object and is absorbed. In cooking, the absorption of radiant heat seals the surface, allowing food to retain its natural flavors and moisture.

Why is radiant heat considered more forgiving?

Most conventional ovens cycle—heating up and cooling down, rarely being at the exact temperature at which the dial is set. As food approaches being done, the up cycle tends to overcook the food, making it very important to take out the food at precisely the right moment.

The AGA does not cycle. The gentle, radiant heat in each oven is very constant. Accordingly, it is much less critical that food is removed at an exact moment. This is what is meant when the AGA is called "forgiving".

If it's always on, isn't it expensive to run?

The Aga was designed to conserve energy and fuel. It's unique storage system requires very little fuel to maintain optimum temperatures of the ovens and hotplates. Like your refrigerator or water heater, it runs quietly and efficiently. Always ready when you are!

Is it difficult to learn to cook with an AGA?

Actually, you don't need to learn how to cook on an AGA -- you need to unlearn the worry and stress that often accompanies cooking on most stoves. Imagine not having to remember to plan time to preheat the oven, or not having to worry about exact temperatures or times. Cooking on an AGA Cooker allows you to fully enjoy the pleasures of cooking, and gives you more time to be with your family and friends.

There are certain "AGA methods" which makes the AGA more versatile and easier to cook on than a conventional range.

As just one example: cooking bacon in a pan on the floor of the oven eliminates splatters, smoke, and much of the smell associated with cooking bacon on a conventional range. AGA owners quickly learn the location of the constant temperatures found on the hotplates and in the ovens. When a recipe calls for a certain temperature, it is easily found.

When you buy an AGA, the dealer also gives you two superb AGA Cookbooks—one designed by AGA for worldwide distribution, as well as a "home-grown" collection of recipes submitted by US AGA owners. The recipes help AGA owners get the most out of their AGA.

Does it take more time to cook on an AGA?

Cooking on an AGA Cooker often takes less time than cooking on commonly available professional-quality stoves. Water boils almost instantaneously. Remarkably, a 25 lb. turkey can be roasted in just three-and-a-half hours, about half the time it would take in a conventional oven. This is due to the efficiency of cooking with stored radiant heat.

Other time-saving AGA features include the amount of cooking that can be done simultaneously, as well as never having to wait for pre-heating. An AGA Cooker is always ready when you are.

Since it's always on, will an AGA make my kitchen hot?

Because AGAs are extremely well insulated, only 3,000 - 4,000 BTUs (1,000 -1,200 watts) per hour, depending on the model, are released into the kitchen. This is the equivalent of the heat generated by ten to twelve 100 watt lightbulbs.

In addition, different from how standard stoves are used (80% on top, 20% in ovens), cooking with an AGA is primarily done in the ovens (20% on top, 80% in ovens). This keeps escaping heat to a minimum.

Most owners find they love the slow, gentle heat of an AGA and how it invites people to congregate near it. (People and pets are often found enjoying the warmth as they would the hearth of a fire.)

Some AGA owners choose to turn down the thermostatically-controlled temperature during extremely warm weather. This doesn't change the taste or quality of food cooked on the AGA. It will increase required cooking time slightly.

How do you clean an AGA Cooker?

In general, you don't need to. The hotplates and ovens are virtually self-cleaning, since food deposits or spills soon burn away to a fine carbon powder. An occasional sweep with the wire brush provided is suggested. In addition, the ovens are ventilated into the flue so all smells are released outside. A damp cloth will bring a shine to the vitreous enamel and chrome surfaces with a daily wipe.

Where and how are AGAs made?

AGAs were first imported into the UK in 1929 and are now solely manufactured by AGA-Rayburn in England. All the principal casting for AGA Cookers are made at the historic Coalbrookdale Foundry in Shropshire, where in 1709, Abraham Darby became the first person to smelt iron using coke instead of charcoal. This breakthrough heralded the modern industrial age.

Every AGA Cooker is hand built. Every single part of the finishing and assembly work is performed and repeatedly inspected by human hand and eye. The enameling is done by hand, a process that takes three days. Each of the three coats is built up, inliidually inspected and dried, then fused in the furnace up to 1517° F for 45 minutes. Right up to the final coat, any minor imperfection is considered a reason enough to send the offending item back for shot-blasting.

In England, AGA Cookers are regarded as the ultimate range cooker.

What other appliances can be replaced by an AGA?

Most AGA owners initially believe they would never give up their microwave oven or toaster. Yet in a short while they often do. Why? Most no longer prefer the few minutes saved by a microwave oven over the differences in taste and finish imbued to food which has been reheated using radiant heat. As for the toaster, how can anything compete with the flavor and grid pattern of the unique AGA metal toaster?

Although AGA owners may never give up the pleasure of outdoor grilling when the weather calls for it, many compare the results of the fierce heat delivered by the AGA grill plan on the Boiling Plate or on the Roasting Oven floor to the taste of charcoal grilling. Whatever the weather, the heat sears the outside of the meat, preserving the juicy succulence, while minimizing shrinkage. And when there's not a lot of time, no need to wait for the grill to be ready.

Where are the burners?

Instead of traditional burners, the AGA has two hotplates under the easy-to-lift chrome insulated lids on top. The left hotplate is the "Boiling Plate," and the right is the "Simmering Plate." These allow you to perform all cooking tasks usually done on a burner, plus a wide range of additional tasks. For example, use the simmering plate as a griddle, cooking perfect pancakes or grilled sandwiches directly on the flat surface (and clean-up is easy). When cooking numerous items for the same meal, each hotplate can hold several pots simultaneously.

How do I know what the temperatures are in the ovens?

The temperature of the AGA hotplates and ovens are all different , depending on their distance from the heat source. Radiant heat is so gentle that temperature is less important than with other cooking methods. AGA owners quickly learn approximate temperatures and cooking times, and enjoy the luxury of the greater flexibility their AGA Cooker adds to their lives.

Why are there no knobs?

Thermostatically controlled heat means the elimination of all but a single knob/dial. Each burner and oven is at approximately the same temperature at all times. Once heat is used during cooking, the AGA automatically brings each cooking area back up to the appropriate level of stored heat, waiting for the next use. The temperature gauge tells you when the AGA has returned to optimum storage levels.

What are the differences between the two-oven and four-oven models?

The Two-Oven AGA Cooker has a large Roasting/Baking Oven capable of taking a 28-pound bird, plus an equally generous Simmering Oven that is ideal for slow cooking and keeping food hot.

The larger Four-Oven AGA is ideal for bigger households and, particularly for those who love to entertain. It offers all that the Two-Oven model does, plus an additional Baking Oven and a Warming Oven. Like the Two-Oven model, it holds up to six large saucepans on the Boiling and Simmering Plates. In addition, it has a large Warming/Serving Plate.

Which accessories come with an AGA Cooker?

When you purchase an AGA Cooker, you receive everything you need to start cooking, plus a few fun luxuries. You'll enjoy one large and one half-size roasting tin, two grill racks, two oven grid shelves, a plain shelf, a tea pot, a wire brush, the AGA toaster, and a grill pan. Click here for more information about AGA accessories.

What vitreous enamel colors are available?

The AGA is available in eight standard colors: Cream, British Racing Green, Dark Blue, Royal Blue, Claret, Pewter, Black and Golden Yellow. In addition, there is a "Signature Collection" of six AGA colors available at a premium price: Wedgewood Blue, White, Pistachio, Heather, Terra Cotta and Aubergine.

Custom color matching and decorative enhancements, such as gold plating and vitreous enamel lids, are also available (at additional cost). (An Arabian princess ordered a bright pink AGA, and a completely chrome AGA was ordered for an American customer. Avid sports fans have even ordered different colored doors for their AGA in their team colors!).

Where can AGAs be found?

There are approximately a quarter of a million AGA Cookers in the United Kingdom and around the world. The AGA is exported to many countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Holland, France, Eire, Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic. Some of the most interesting installations include: in the Antarctica used by the British Antarctic Survey Team,; on a narrow boat, in a lighthouse; in a church; in the recently restored former home of author C.S. Lewis; in castles; and in royal residences.

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