The same but different!
People worry they'll have to learn to cook again - don't!
A couple of techniques to slightly alter but there's nothing to be afraid of, in fact most things are easier and you'll get better results than an ordinary oven.
1. Fixed temperature ovens
Alter the oven you use instead of the temperature dial.
AGAs have two, three, four or five ovens and they're all at different temperatures (see below for how the AGA works to learn why). Conventional cookers use one oven and change the temperature, with the AGA just use the oven that's at the temperature you need. Cooking times don't change.
2. Oven Cooking
The AGA is a 'heat storage' cooker so it's best to use the ovens as much as possible - retaining heat and using less energy than open hob cooking.
That's essentially it!
With a couple of small changes and the radiant heat from the AGA's cast-iron ovens your cooking is transformed - great results every time!
Read on for a more detailed explanation.
A brief history
When cooking was done over an open fire there wasn't much you could do to alter the heat other than move things further away. Heat was quickly lost if you didn't keep up with the fire and feeding the household was a hard, messy job.
Fortunately we've come a long way since then!
The 'kitchen range' came along with its side-oven allowing baking and a little control over temperatures - but still an open fire with very poor efficiency and the control you did have was limited and very labour-intense. (And a kitchen range was still a rather exclusive item.)
Improving on the open-fire heated range the AGA was born. Invented by Dr Gustav Dalen, a Nobel-prize winning scientist who decided that enclosing the fire would be safer (he'd lost his sight in an experiment), more controllable and more efficient.
He was right - less fuel was needed and there was much more control over the temperature of the cooker.
The 'Traditional AGA'
Right from the first AGA until 2011 the principle stayed the same: the whole cooker is heated from one central heat-source.
This was a solid fuel (coke usually, never wood!) fire in the early days, then oil and gas burners were added in the 1960s, an Economy 7 electric in the 1980s (elements heating heat-storage bricks in the cheap overnight period), then the '13amp' electric (one single element doing the job the oil or gas burner did) in the 2000's.
The AGA cast-iron top oven.
Steak on the AGA hotplate.
All worked on the same principle - heat from a single source (keeping things simple: one burner, one flue, one set of workings and controls) is used to heat the hotplates and ovens to different temperatures using cleverly designed flue/ducting and cast-iron conduction plates which ensured the correct temperatures were achieved in the different ovens and hotplates.
(Incidentally - we now refer to all these 'single heat-source' models as 'Traditional AGAs'.)
The result is separate ovens and hotplates with different cooking temperatures - always ready to roast, bake, simmer or boil, anytime of day or night with a gentle warmth (rather than the fierce heat of the open fire) emitted to the room from the outside of the cooker, finished in hard-wearing vitreous enamel.
Why the constant temperatures and 24 hour running?
Since the AGA was originally designed to be heated from a single source, and bear in mind - a fire isn't instantly controllable; it's easy to run at a set rate but not so quick to heat up or cool down, it made sense to leave the fire at a constant level and take heat in different proportions to the different ovens and hotplates.
When the oil and gas models were introduced there was still the need for year-round warmth (those old houses weren't ever warm!) so the always-on, gentle-warmth-to-the-room mode of operation was retained. The same was true when the electric models came along in the 1980s and 2000s - it wasn't until recently that we all became much more aware of our fuel consumption, running costs and carbon footprint. So AGA's boffns decided something new was needed.
You can still buy traditional AGAs by the way - when you've weighed up the requirements for you and the house they'll be going in sometimes they are still the best option.
AGA Total Control
In 2011 the AGA Total Control was launched.
Revolutionary in the AGA world you could do something you've never been able to do before: switch each oven and each hotplate individually.
Yet you still have true cast-iron AGA ovens and hotplates (the heating elements are in the roof and floor of the ovens and embedded within the hotplates) and still using the tried and trusted fixed temperatures you get the benefits of the AGA's radiant heat with the ability to control which ovens and hotplates you want at any given time.
The cooking principles (constant temperatures and oven-cooking) remain the same.
The Total Control AGA can even be programmed to be on when you want it and to drop to a low 'slumber' setting when it's not needed, saving energy and reducing the warmth to the room (and reducing running costs).
The Dual Control AGA was launched in 2013.
The second of the 'New Generation' models it's a combination of a traditional AGA's always-on ovens (heated by one heat-source, either an electric element or a gas burner) with the separately switched electrically heated hotplates from the Total Control AGA.
Seen by most as the ideal combination (it's now our most popular model) with a slightly reduced but still constant warmth (although not as low as the Total Control) but with greater economy and control than the Traditional models.
AGA Dual Control (gas ovens / electric hob) - controls.
Next came the AGA 60 - heating the ovens with elements in the roof and floor meant the cooker didn't need to accommodate a separate heat-source and the whole machine can be made smaller, ideal when space is limited.
Initally named the AGA 'City60' (now renamed the 'AGA 60' - it's great for anywhere, not just city-living) it's a popular model for kitchens where space is at a premium and can be fitted wherever there's a 60cm cooker aperture.
The AGA cast-iron top oven.
The AGA 60 has a single hotplate with two settings - simmer or boil, its top oven can be set to either 'bake / slow roast' (approx. 190C) or 'Roast' (approx. 240C) and the bottom oven 'Simmer' (110-120C). Both ovens and the hotplate are switched separately so you can have any or all on at any time.