Nothing divides people into two distinct kitchen camps more than an Aga. On one side are those who love their iconic oven with a passion and accept higher bills as a small price to pay. Firmly on the other side are those who consider it beyond madness to have a cooker that is constantly hot and whose temperature you can’t control.
Aga range ovens: Top tips for Christmas day cooking
The fact that an Aga is a multi-tasking workhorse that can make toast, iron a shirt and dry wellies all at the same time is of no consequence to them.
No-one loves an Aga more than Mary Berry and whatever your opinion, the following tips and tricks for cooking the perfect Christmas dinner will ensure your prep goes smoothly whether you’re cooking on an Aga, Rayburn or other range cooker:
- Turn up the heat on Christmas Eve. Your cooker is effectively a storage heater with a finite amount of heat to give. Cooking for large numbers of people depletes range cooker heat reserves quickly so you need as much stored up as possible. Dial up the temperature the night before Christmas for furnace-like heat on the big day.
- Don’t be afraid to open the door of your Aga to check up on food. The heat comes from the sides as well as the base so you won’t lose much at all by opening the door.
- Think carefully about breakfast on Christmas morning. If you love a cooked breakfast on Christmas day, lifting the hotplate lids for boiling water and scrambling eggs means that by the time the all-important cooking marathon starts your oven may struggle. This is a time to forget the energy-saving advice Aga owners live by and plug in the electric kettle and toaster. Just for one day.
- Don’t cook your turkey straight from the fridge. A huge benefit of range cookers is their oven size and most will fit turkeys up to 14kg. A massive chilled bird will take most of your Aga’s heat to cook before you’ve even started the sprouts. Let it stand in a cool room to come up to room temperature slowly.
- Know your cooker. If you are planning to slow cook your turkey, check the temperature of your Aga simmering oven and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Remember that the simmering oven can drop temperature quickly when hotplates and the roasting oven are all working hard.
- Only use hotplates when necessary. Mary Berry follows the 80/20 rule which dictates 80% cooking inside the ovens and just 20% on the hotplate. Nothing cools a range cooker like lifting the lids and using the hotplates. Boil water for vegetables in an electric kettle and cook them in the simmering oven.
- Use your range cooker's 'wasted' heat. You can still use the top of your cooker even if you are avoiding using the hotplates. Melting butter for sauces can be done in a bowl set on the back of the Aga. Sauces and gravy can then be kept warm on the top of the Aga too. Place on a cork mat or piece of bake-o-glide to protect the enamel.
- Yorkshire puddings: A staple of many a Christmas lunch, these need to be cooked when your Aga is at its hottest so don’t even think about making them on Christmas day. Cook them the day before, let them go cold and reheat in the roasting oven for five minutes before serving. Or cook for eight minutes from frozen.
- Use hot plate covers. This simple step prevents heat escaping and allows the oven to come up to temperature more quickly. Remember, your cooker is more like a marathon runner than a sprinter and is built for endurance. Play to its strengths and don’t try to make it run a sprint on Christmas Day. The loser will be the turkey.
Do you have a time saving tip for Christmas cooking? Send us a tweet or message us via our Facebook page and let us know. And if you’re dreaming of cooking the turkey in a new open-plan kitchen in a new home next year, all Michael Graham homes to buy or to rent can be seen by clicking the property search button now. The three below boast an Aga if you’re in the Mary Berry camp.