The curious incident of the AGA Shelf in the night

And you may well ask what it was.  Crash, bang, wollop at 4am.  Don’t worry, Gloria and Gaynor the cats are fine, Angus the AGA City60 too.  You will remember in yesterdays blog Dr Thomas had to cook dinner, the result, fantastic.  But what met me in the middle of night was another matter.

Angus-the-AGA-Banner-Final

Dt T came home last night with Brunhilda the bike as normal, she lives in the living room and he cooked dinner. The first time I let him lose on Angus the AGA City60, you see, as much as we share in our house, AGA owners, particularly new AGA owners are very particular about their AGA.  I have been known to stand there wiping Angus with an AGA E-Cloth to ensure he does not have any grease marks and is shiny and sparkly.  The robust cast iron cleans so easily and beautifully.

Other half has not had much AGA experience so as I was busy writing the next draft of my new cookbook proposal I gave Dr Thomas my AGA user notes that I hand to every customer who comes to my AGA demonstrations.  What could go wrong?

Well, dinner was fabulous, Dr T is a great cook, especially at using up leftovers, I did the washing up and Dr T dried the dishes.  On top of the AGA is a great place to dry cookware and lots of bits were piled up on-top of the AGA Chef’s pad adorning the top of Angus, that was until Gloria Cat came out of the cupboard and jumped on-top of Angus, the whole lot fell down at 4am and both of us woke to quite a clashing sound in the kitchen.  No harm done, just glad both of our cats, Gloria and Gaynor are happy with our new family member.

And as for those notes on how to use Angus the AGA, see below.

How to use the AGA

Cooking requires heat, and that’s what the AGA cooker does best.  An AGA does not just have stunning looks in any kitchen, it’s the way it produces a lovely soft radiant heat that makes it so special.  The heat from the ovens seal the food instantly so the hot juices that form during cooking cook the food perfectly and that’s why AGA food always tastes so much better.

In western cooking there are 10 ways to cook.  Look at any recipe and it will tell you the cooking method.  It’s always easiest to forget about the temperature stated in a recipe and cook by the function given, so boil on the AGA Boiling Plate, grill at the top of the AGA Roasting Oven, simmer in the AGA Simmering Oven and so on.

There are some things about the AGA that its good to learn to get best results, but lets look at the 10 ways of cooking every AGA gives you.

1 Baking

Baking is superb in either the AGA City60 Baking Oven with the knob for the top oven turned to the Bake function, or indeed with the top oven set to Roast with the help of the Cold Plain Shelf being inserted at the beginning of cooking the cake.

2 Grilling

Grilling is achieved in the top oven on the AGA City60 with the knob set to roast.

3 Frying

Frying can be done on the AGA City60 hotplate in either Boil or Simmer setting or on the floor of the top oven with the knob set to Roast.

4 Toasting

AGA toast is arguably the best toast in the world.  Just heat the toaster for a few seconds on the AGA City60 hotplate with the knob set to Boil, pop in the toast, cook for a few moments and turn over to toast the other side.  Crunchy outside, with a delicate soft middle.  Toast as it should be.

5 Stewing

Stewing is best done in the AGA City60 Simmering Oven, but remember to brown meat first and bring anything to the boil before placing into the Simmering Oven.

6 Steaming

Steaming of vegetables or puddings can be done on either the AGA City60 hotplate with the knob set to the Simmer function or in the dedicated AGA City60 Simmering Oven (bottom oven) once pans have come to the boil on the hotplate (and water drained off root vegetables after they have come to the boil).

7 Roasting

Roasting in the AGA City 60 top oven with the knob set to the Roast function produces perfect results with nice juicy meat.

8 Simmering

A gentle simmer can be obtained for pans on the AGA City60 hotplate with the knob set to the Simmer function, if extra care needs taken over a delicate sauce, place a coin under the pan to raise it up a little.  Alternatively, as the AGA City60 has cast iron surrounding the hotplate, items can be ‘off-set’ on the hotplate to allow for a more gentle heat if required.  The AGA City60 Simmering Oven is a lovely gentle heat for cooking casseroles, soups and stews (see point 5 above).

9 Stir-frying

Stir-frying can achieve great results using the AGA City60 hotplate using the Boiling function.  Using an AGA flat based wok its best to heat it up first, cook the vegetables before adding the meat.

10 Boiling

Boiling is faster on the AGA than with most electric kettles.  Using a good AGA saucepan or AGA kettle, 1 pint of water should come to the boil in under 2 minutes on the hotplate set to the boiling function

Grilling

The ovens on the AGA City60 have 4 sets of runners.  To grill, slide either the large or half size roasting tin onto the top set of runners and grill from the top of the top oven with the knob set to Roast.  (Don’t forget to line the tin with AGA Bake-O-Glide).  For a more moderate temperature to grill fish, you can grill from the top of the top oven with the knob set to Bake.

Frying

The ovens are self cleaning, so frying on the floor of the top oven with the knob set to  Roast ensures no fat splashes on your tiled splash back.

Roasts and gravy

To cook a roast, be that beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey etc always place the meat in a roasting tin uncovered and slide it into the top oven with the knob set to Roast.   After, say 30 minutes, when the meat is nicely browned to the colour you want to serve it at, remove from the Roasting Oven and place into the Simmering Oven (below) to finish cooking.  Remember meat will not shrink as much in an AGA, so you will get lots more flavour and juicy meat.

To get great crackling on pork, dry the skin with kitchen paper, cover with oil and salt and place as high up in the top oven with the knob set to Roast for 1 hour until the skin crackles, move to the Simmering Oven for the remainder of the cooking time, the crackling will stay crisp.

Always allow all meat to rest for at least 20 minutes to allow all the juices to settle.  The  AGA Chefs Pad placed on top will stop the lid from scratching.

To make gravy, remove all but 2 tbsp the fat from the roasting tin.  Stir in 2 tbsp flour and blend in 500ml / 1Lb of stock – and a tbsp of red wine.  Stir well and put the tin onto the floor of the top oven with the knob set to Roast for 5 minutes.  Stir and return to the oven for 5 more minutes and the gravy will be boiling and thickened, ready to stir and serve.

Roast potatoes

Line a small roasting tray with AGA Bake-O-Glide and place some oil or goose fat into the tray, place into the top oven with the knob set to Roast for a few minutes to melt.  Put some peeled potatoes that are cut into even sized pieces into an AGA Saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil on the hotplate, simmer for a minute.  Drain.  Add 1 tbsp flour, shake well, pour onto melted fat and hang from the top set of runners and cook for about an hour, until crisp and golden.

Steaks and chops

Heat an AGA Grill pan in the top oven with the knob set to Roast for 15 minutes.  Place a piece of meat onto the pan, and heat for half the cooking time, turn to cook the other side.  It’s always best to oil the meat and not the pan so you get those lovely char marks.

Meat Rare Medium Well – done
Sirloin Steak 6-7 minutes 10-12 minutes
Fillet Steak 10-12 minutes 15-17 minutes
Duck Breasts 8-10 minutes 15 minutes
Lamb Cutlets 7-9 minutes

Stews, casseroles and hotpots

To make a stew, casserole or hotpot, its best to brown off any meat before adding the remaining ingredients and cooking liquid.  Bring all to the boil on the hotplate and place into the Simmering Oven to cook through. So why not prepare supper before going to work and let the AGA take all the hard work out of cooking?

Vegetables

The most important thing to remember is ‘if it grows below the ground cook it in the ovens’.  So when boiling carrots or potatoes, bring to a rapid boil, drain off all the water and place the lid tightly on top.  Place into the Simmering Oven and allow to cook.  That way, the vegetables steam with the residual water.  If the vegetables grow above the ground, just cook on top as you normally would on the top.  Remember cooking times on the AGA are the same as in a conventional cooker, however if you leave vegetables for up to an hour in the Simmering Oven they won’t overcook.

Rice and pasta

When cooking rice, if you remember the simple formula of one cup of rice to 2 cups of water you can easily produce perfect fluffy rice that has not stuck together and has absorbed all of the water.  Measure rice and water into an AGA saucepan, give it a little stir, place on the hotplate to come to the boil.  Ensuring the lid is tightly on top place pan into the Simmering Oven for 20 minutes.

When cooking pasta, there are 2 ways of doing it.  For fresh pasta, bring a large AGA pan full of water to the boil and add the pasta.  When it floats, it’s done.  If using dried pasta, bring a large pan to the boil, add the pasta, place the lid on top and pop into the Simmering Oven until the pasta is cooked according to the timings on the packet.  NB cooking on an AGA takes the same amount of time as you would in a conventional cooker.

Cooking fish

in the AGA City60 cook fish in the top oven with the knob set to Bake.  Don’t worry about having a cake in there at the same time, there will be no flavour transfer.

Bread

To bake bread.  Make the dough and allow to rise in a bowl sitting on top of the AGA.  The lid of the hotplate with an AGA Chefs Pad is good for this to stop the lid scratching.  Bake bread on the floor of the top oven with the knob set to Roast.

Pizza oven chips and ready meals

Cook a pizza on the floor of the top oven with the knob set to Roast.  To help get it out of the AGA, why not use the AGA Bakers Paddle.

To cook oven chips, place onto a baking tray and place into the top oven with the knob set to Roast for time stated on pack.

Place ready meals onto a baking tray and place into the top oven with the knob set to Bake or Roast – inserting the Cold Plain Shelf towards the end of cooking if needed.

Pastry

There is no need to bake pastry blind with the AGA if the filling is being cooked too.  So when making quiches, flans or tarts, just pour the liquid filling into the pastry and place on the floor of the AGA City60 top oven with the knob set to Roast to cook.

The Cold Plain Shelf

The AGA ovens are heated by 5 walls that radiate heat into the oven.  So say for example a lasagne is cooking in the Roasting Oven and it’s at the point colour wise where you want to serve it, but the middle is still a bit fluid, slide the cold plain shelf above the lasagne and leave it to finish cooking.

In essence, the cold plain shelf arrests the heat coming from above and allows the food to stop browning and cook through.  It’s very important the cold plain shelf is kept out of the AGA when not in use but by all means use it as a baking tray – lined with AGA Bake-O-Glide of course!

Cleaning

As the ovens are self cleaning, they never need to be cleaned out.  To clean the hotplate, use the wire brush.  To clean the enamel, invest in an AGA E-Cloth and AGA enamel cleaner and Stainless Steel cleaner – it’s quick, easy and smear free.  And to clean the inside of the lid, when it’s cool – clean the lids with a detergent wirepad.

To clean the inside of the oven doors, take them off by lifting up (taking care to use an AGA oven glove or set of gauntlets), setting upside down on a cloth with enamel side down and allow to cool.  Clean with a detergent wirepad and don’t immerse the door in water.

Oven shelves

The ovens on the AGA City60 can accommodate 4 Grid Shelves at one time.  Numbered top down with the first set of runners at the top and the fourth set at the bottom.

With feet pointing down, and the metal spike at the back, place into the oven ensuring it touches the bottom of the set of runners above.  Push in.

To remove, lift the front of the shelf as you pull it out.

The Floor Grid

This grid should be placed on the floor of both ovens in the AGA City60 if cooking for 25 minutes or longer directly on the oven floor.

3 thoughts on “The curious incident of the AGA Shelf in the night

  1. Hi! I am finding difficulty in gauging the length of time needed to cook root veg in simmering oven—boiled 7 minutes, drained, placed on floor of simmering oven seems to need at least an hour—-the city 60 simmering oven seems to be very much the same as the warming oven in the traditional 3/4 aga–both of which I have used for many years—so where am I going wrong?–veg should take about 20 minutes——–Regards, Joss

    • I have found no difference with the Simmering Oven on my AGA City60 and a traditional heat storage AGA. Make sure the Simmering Oven is fully up to temperature and bring the vegetables to the boil in a pan. I don’t even give them 7 minutes, I just bring them to a good boil. Drain the water off and place into the Simmering Oven for 20 minutes (same lengthen of time as it would take to cook on top). This is where AGA pans come into their own. The have tight fitting lids and the lids are flat so you can stack them in the Simmering Oven. The tight fitting lid is the really important part for steaming vegetables like this. However, I have always found, no matter what AGA I have cooked on that new potatoes can be like little bullets and can take longer, but they would do if being boiled on top in any case.

      However, this method of cooking vegetables in the Simmering Oven is no so critical with the AGA City60 and if you want, you can just boil them on top. However, if you don’t have an extractor, you may find excess steam in the kitchen.

  2. I love the idea of the City60. I was inquiring about one when I found my gas, two oven for such a fantastic deal. I’ve had my Wedgwood blue beauty in now for about a month so far. I LOVE it but am still struggling on how to cook a few things. One big question that is giving me pause is can i leave things in the simmer oven all day? Lasagna for instance. I put one together this morning and my husband, who thinks it would be complete mush if left in there all day, will put it in later this afternoon for dinner this evening. According to your post above under “Stews, casseroles and hotpots” you CAN “let the AGA take all the hard work out of cooking” and let it cook all day. Is that correct? Can you leave it there and come home to it and not be just a pan of mush? Do you cover it with foil or leave it uncovered. Or possibly cover it all day, then uncover for that last bit of cooking depending on the moisture. I’ve been thinking of an experiment to conduct with pans of ready made (or maybe not) casseroles, documenting various times and consistencies. Hm. Any help would be much appreciated. I live in Indianapolis, Indiana and no one here has ever heard of an Aga let alone cooks in one. There are some folks around this area with them according to my installer but none in my economic circle. Alas, that is why I am at a loss. Thank you for any help you can offer.

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