Sunday, 28 June 2009

Should one switch off an AGA in summer?

For the last two or three weeks I've been vaguely wondering whether we should switch off the AGA. Now with the weather getting seriously sticky it's getting positively uncomfortable to sit in the kitchen - a problem since that's where we eat.

It's also, obviously, where we cook and where we dry clothes. No AGA = a trek to the launderette every time we change the sheets.

The main problem though is that there are no alternative cooking facilities other than a kettle (we rent our current flat) which is presumably why AGA owners keep them blasting away year-round. When I checked online just now I couldn't find an AGA expert who recommended switching them off.

Well, we're going to - at some expense I have to admit. We've just been out and bought a cheap toaster and a not-so-cheap Cuisinart Contact Grill which I fancied anyway as grilling isn't the AGA's strong suit. And tomorrow we're going to try and pick up a plug-in induction ring (having taken the precaution of snapping up a set of induction hob-compatible pans from Tesco. A fantastic bargain at £17 for 3 had I not had a pretty good stock of pans already.) We also have a slow cooker and a Remoska cooker so I'm hoping that will see us through to September. We won't be able to do a slap up roast or grill or bake but it leaves us with a reasonable range of summery possibilities.

Of course chances are the weather will suddenly turn and we'll be freezing in a week's time in which case all this expenditure will turn out to have been unnecessary. So I'm fascinated to know what the AGA or Rayburn owners among you do? Do you plough on, sweltering or do you have a conventional cooker as a fall-back?

14 comments:

Anne said...

I don't have an aga type cooker but can sympathise with the heat as my kitchen is in full afternoon and evening sun, its not exactly inviting at the moment!

Catherine said...

I used to have to have mine on all summer and it was horrible - especially when it came to all the jam making/preserving etc., I used to do. I think switching off is the right thing to do definitely, as long as you aren't dependent on it for water too.

local lass said...

I went to a Mary Berry demo where somebody had the temerity to ask MB if she turned off her Aga in summer. "No." Well, what do you do when it gets hot?" The answer, accompanied by a 20,000 volt withering look: "I open the window." So do I.

Global warming in this part of Scotland has a long way to go before we have many days on which my kitchen gets unbearably hot, and my temper gets very frayed if I have to resort to my electric cooker. Yes, I confess, I have a full size one as well as a two oven Aga, but only use it for baking, eg Mary Berry's Wicked Chocolate Brownies from her New Aga Cookbook; they are quite frugal as they rely on cocoa, and especially so using Stork tub baking margarine rather than butter (and inexplicably nicer with Stork) - best brownies recipe I know.

Fiona Beckett said...

That's what all the AGA experts say but all I can say as an AGA newbie is that even with the window open I find it unbearably hot.

Anyway we've done the deed and the AGA is off! My husband picked up a portable induction hob this morning so we'll have to see how we get on. Should be interesting . . . (And fortunately we're not dependent on it for water, Catherine!)

verity said...

Gosh, can't imagine the heat in a small flat. I did some baking yesterday and that was unbearable. Ny experiences of portable hobs is that they're very slow - how about an eletric steamer? It's a bit like going back to student cooking in a bedroom isn't it? I had a friend who did amazing things with a kettle and a toaster...

James said...

I'm not an aga owner (yet), but I've cooked in a lot of houses with them. Most do switch them off in the summer - unless you want to turn the kitchen into a sauna. They all have electric ovens as back up. Agas, like Morris Minor's can just let you down at essential times. I was cooking for a party of 26 on one a few months ago. Filled up the ovens and frying parsnip crisps on the top and all the heat went. Lucky there was an an electric oven too. I've inherited a baby belling combination oven/ grill with two conventional rings on top - not much bigger than a microwave and portable. Invaluable when I just need extra oven space like Christmas Day. I borrowed it from my mum when the owners of one holiday house phoned me saying the aga (and that house only had an aga, no back up) had broken down and was on low low heat. I've cooked for 20 on that tiny thing - it's great.

Grilling with your aga? Try the blow torch method: http://www.thecotswoldfoodyear.com/2007/12/1001-kitchen-tips-8-grilling-with-your.html

The only problem with turning aga's off though is re-lighting them after the weather has done it's worst blowing wind and rain at it while it's off. Might be calling on the aga man come autumn......

Fiona Beckett said...

I'm vaguely tempted by a steamer, I must admit, Verity but there's a limit to the number of appliances we can fit in our kitchen. Still, as you say, good practice for getting into the student mindset ;-)

Very good tips, James. Again the Baby Belling is something I considered but which would take up a fair bit of space. I used to have a really brilliant little oven made by ICTC with a big glass door so you could watch the food cooking but don't think they make them any more . . .

firang larki said...

Oof - sympathies - it is darned hot in a kitchen with an Aga and the sun full on it all afternoon. Since it does the hot water too, I guess us turning the beast off's unlikely. Ah the joys of renting and housesharing. Still at least you can use a fan without blowing the gas out, a problem when I worked in India (40deg C...mmmm).

There was one good use of the Aga last night though; kind of grilling/searing courgette in long slices, straight onto the boiling hotplate, and then dressing them with olive oil, lemon, garlic and capers (and even better for lunch today).

Any suggestions for hot weather food? Was thinking of gazpacho? Or anything that needs baking/roasting - it could go in the oven and I could leave the room before I broiled too!

whatshappeningatmyhouse said...

Haven't got one any more, but when I did, I ALWAYS turned it off in the summer - unbearable, otherwise, particularly in south facing kitchen. Have several friends who also have Agas and Rayburns, don't know a single one who keeps it on in the summer.

From local lass's comment, Mary Berry sounds like a rather rude and unpleasant woman - remind me never to buy any of her books!

Fiona Beckett said...

Actually I'll leap to her defence there - she's really quite charming just made in that traditional British mould where you don't let minor inconveniences like 40°C in the kitchen upset your routine ;-)

And hot weather food, firang larki? Well I like grilled courgettes too (see today's post). And gazpacho. Basically I try and eat most things at room temperature or cold which means you don't have to eat in a kitchen that's recently been cooked in. Cooked veg like courgettes and peppers left to go cold are perfect.

Foodie Farmer said...

Have pondered this question before and tend to agree with the Mary Berry solution of opening a window but our bedroom is also above the Kitchen so in particularly clement weather alternatives would be good. How did you get on with your experiment and is the grill any good?

Fiona Beckett said...

I'm just about to post on my progress, Foodie Farmer!

Caitlin said...

I think you have just persuaded me that I am never going to get an Aga!

Why do you have to go to the launderette? You don't actually wash your clothes in the Aga, surely? They'll dry fine on a rack with or without the Aga.

robin said...

I will declare my interest in this topic up front. I manufacture a brand new appliance called hi-GRILL (see www.hi-grill.co.uk) and market it as the grilling solution for Aga owners. I have been in the cooking appliance industry a long time and have come across many Aga owners who switch them off in the summer and also admit that it is not ideal for grilling.

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