Which is the right modern Aga for me?
Here are a few questions to ponder over, then a longer explanation at the end!
Have you ever lived with an Aga before? You want a Dual Control BECAUSE It is a real Aga, on all the time, ready to cook in all of the ovens, just the same as a traditional Aga. But cheaper to run.
Do you have fond childhood memories of living with an Aga, warm comforting food and a warm comforting kitchen? You want a Dual Control BECAUSE it is a real Aga, on all the time, warm and comforting.
Do you have childhood memories of an ancient Aga that struggled to heat the water and cook the food, but was lovely all the same? You want a Dual Control BECAUSE It is a real Aga. It will never run out of heat and the food always cooks perfectly.
Is your kitchen south facing with a glazed roof? Is your house modern and really well insulated? You want a Total Control or an ER3 BECAUSE You can turn them off if the kitchen is ever really hot.
Are you concerned about having a really hot kitchen in the summer? You want a Dual Control BECAUSE This is England, it is only really hot for three days in the year and the rest of the time you need to lean on a nice warm Aga on a wet and windy August afternoon.
Have you ever cooked on an Aga? You want a Dual Control BECAUSE It is a real Aga, using the same cooking techniques, but easier to use as it will never run out of heat.
Have you never cooked on an Aga and don’t want to learn the Aga cooking techniques? You want a Total Control or an ER3 BECAUSE They are much, much, more like a conventional cooker wearing an Aga’s overcoat, yet still cooks like a proper Aga if you want it to.
Do you have a really small kitchen? You want a City 60 BECAUSE It is small enough to fit any kitchen, but it is a proper cast iron Aga.
Is your kitchen on the first floor or up a lot of stairs? You want a City 60 BECAUSE It weighs half as much as other Agas.
Are you really into modern technology and can you programme any electronic device? You are a teenager and YOU want an iTotal Control. Your mother wants a Dual Control BECAUSE Get real. Whose house is it? Who cooks? Who pays?
Are you a really keen cook who wants to watch half a dozen pans all cooking at the same time while you prepare your masterpieces? You want a Dual Control BECAUSE The hotplates have an eco cut-off system so that you can leave them switched on and they only use a trickle of electricity when the lids are closed and you will eventually learn to put everything in the oven and leave the kitchen!
Do you have a natural gas supply? You want a Gas Dual Control BECAUSE it is even cheaper to run than the electric. Make sure that you have listened carefully to the sound and pitch of a Gas DC power flue fan before you commit to one.
Do you have really good EE/Orange mobile phone signal at home? Are you prepared to pay £6 a month for your Aga to use an app? You could have an iTotal Control, but you actually want a Dual Control BECAUSE Really? £6 a month for ever? Just so you can show your friends how you send your cooker a text?
Is the Aga going to be in a holiday house or weekend cottage? You want a Total Control BECAUSE You can programme it in advance to be on and warm for your next visit, but off until then. You might also consider an ER3 BECAUSE they heat up in an hour from cold.
Do you live in an old and draughty house? You want a Dual Control BECAUSE The Aga is always on and will give off a gentle warmth around the kitchen and if all the doors are open, it will warm the whole house
What colour are you going to have? 60% of all Agas are cream. 20% of all Agas are black or pewter. Pewter does not show the dust. Black does show a lot of fingerprints. Mine is duck egg blue. Hang a large sheet or towel over two kitchen units or the back of two chairs, to give you an idea of how a large block of colour is going to look. This is a statement cooker, be brave, have a real colour.
The Dual control is essentially a traditional three oven Aga, but with separate hotplates - the three ovens are heated by a single heat source and are either all on or all off together, like in an oil or gas Aga. The two hotplates switch on and off independently of the ovens and of each other. Thus you can use all three ovens and one or both hotplates, or no ovens and one or both hotplates. No need for separate hotplates elsewhere in the kitchen. The ovens are all at standard traditional Aga temperatures, Roasting is 230C, Baking is 185C and simmering is 115C.
The Dual control ovens heat up in about 4 hours, so you can have them off in the summer if it is hot and switch the cooker back on for a Sunday lunch party or big meal, and then off again afterwards. It is designed to be on for all of the time, most of the year, so if you want the background warmth of an Aga in your kitchen, this is the model to go for. It is also £1,000 cheaper than the Total because it has no computer technology..
The Total control is slightly different to a traditional Aga - each oven and hotplate is independent of the others, so you can use only one oven and no hotplates or only one hotplate and no ovens or all three ovens and both hotplates, depending on what you are cooking that day. The Total control ovens have electric elements embedded in the floor and roof, so you tend to get more effective grilling than in a traditional Aga. The simmering oven is always 100C, making it a follow-on oven, and you have to start things off elsewhere on the cooker before putting them into the simmering oven to continue cooking.
The Total control ovens heat up in about an hour, or two hours if you turn on all three from cold at the same time. It is designed to be off most of the time, or on all of the time if you like. The total has a 'slumber' function where the roasting and baking ovens are at 120C, thus warming the kitchen in winter and the heat up time is about half an hour from this. It can be programmed with a built-in timer to come on ad off in time for you to cook every day, whilst being off or in 'slumber' the rest of the time.
In both versions, when the ovens are on, the hotplates heat up in less than 5 minutes because the cast iron is already warm. When the ovens are off, the hotplates heat up in about 10 minutes.
In both versions, they are more efficient than traditional Agas since they are packed with 21st century insulation, ensuring that the heat generated stays in the cooker and in the food. With the hotplates off when not in use, your running costs are dramatically reduced in comparison to a traditional Aga - keeping the boiling plate at 360C 24/7 uses about half the fuel it takes to run a traditional Aga, where with the new ones you only turn the hotplate on when you need it.
In both versions, the 5 oven adds a 'hot cupboard' which is essentially the left hand side of a traditional 4 oven Aga, with a simmering/slow cooking oven (at 115C) and a warming oven (85C). This is switched on an doff independently of the rest of the cooker and heats up in about 45 minutes. It uses a 300W element, so is very cheap to run. There is an option of a traditional warming plate (included in the price) or an induction ring which costs an extra £600.
If you are really keen on induction, look at the new ER3 and ER90, both of which have a traditional cast iron hotplate and two induction rings for truly instant cooking.