What is an Aga? ( Very Long! and Xposted)
(Pardon me, AF folks, but the following post took too long to get together for me not to share it both here and in the KF! If you beg to differ, illuminate, etc., please have at it as you will):
Lately, there's been a small rise in posts by members who are seeking information on Aga ranges. Unfortunately, though, the advice that is given is often spotty and confusing. Sometimes it's just plain out wrong. Moreover, many of these threads tend to end with repeated suggestions to the OP that they buy another cooking machine (usually one that the responding poster owns). The latter response, btw, is fair enough. And it makes sense. After all, we tend to share about what we know. On top of that, Aga is a relatively expensive niche product and far from being a cooking necessity. As such, I don't expect there ever to be a large number of consumers who will choose to install an Aga instead of a GE, Kenmore, Samsung, LG, etc. in their home.
But we Aga owners are few and far between on these pages. Even amongst ourselves, when we are all talking Aga, we are also frequently discussing different machines of the brand. Sometimes the differences are slight. But sometimes they are significant. I personally find the mixing up of facts and claims about different machines with the same name to be frustrating. I also know that, when I was in the market for my own Aga, I found it incredibly difficult to find clear, accurate information about the specific machine I was considering -- the Aga 6-4. (Most responders thought I was talking about the traditional Cooker). So, at the risk of jumping out into the public square here with some very basic personal research (which may very well contain a few errors of its own), I'm submitting this thread in an attempt to better answer the question of "what is an Aga?" Please understand that my purpose in doing so is not to try and sell you an Aga! Or even to say my Aga is better than your cooking machine. (Of course, I love it, I enjoy sharing with you why I love it and I invite you to check it out for yourself.) For me, though, it's just enough already with much of the Aga confusion that abounds. Towards that end, I'm also hoping that real and experienced Aga vendors and/or other Aga owners and enthusiasts will chime in correct, clarify and/or amend what I've tried to get started here:
Aga 4-Oven Cooker: This is the traditional Aga range. (It can also be had in 2 and 3 oven models and in natural gas, LP and all electric models). In fact, as the standard bearer for the well-known British appliance manufacturer, most people are thinking of this range when they speak of Aga. For the past 80 years, the Aga Cooker has enjoyed the reputation of being the range of choice for many serious cooks (particularly in Great Britain). However, in these more energy-conscious times, the Aga cooker has become a much more controversial kitchen appliance. This is so for two basic reasons. First, its thermostatically-controlled/radiant heating system involves a cooking method of rotating the foods between the Cooker's various ovens. Most Cooker fans will admit that the learning curve for first-time owners of this unit can be steep. Further, at a time when the demands of our modern lives can be so swift-moving, the need to stop and steward a meal through various oven zones can be perceived as quite time-challenging. The bigger complaint, however, is that the Aga Cooker's technology requires the unit to stay "always on" -- day and night, winter through summer. As such, it is often trashed as a fuel-hogging, energy-waster that has not kept pace with the modern cooking technologies and environmental concerns. OTOH, fans of the Aga Cooker (which can be as "fanatical" about their cooking machine as those of Bluestar and LaCanche, for example) :-), swear by the results. They say that the Aga Cooker inspires expert "intuitive" cooking on the part of the chef and the results are well-done, evenly cooked, incredibly moist, incomparably crisp and remarkably delicious meals. Further, and particularly in colder climates, the "always on" feature of the Aga Cooker permits it to serve as a supplemental heating source in the house. Lastly, claimed life expectancy of this rather uncomplicated and extremely sturdily constructed cooking behemoth is 100+ years -- not including burners and thermocouples.
Basic Specs: Cast Iron construction; color-coated in vitreous enamel. This unit has 4 ovens which can roast, bake, simmer and warm. The cooktop has hobs, i.e., a boiling plate and a simmering plate -- both of which can accommodate up to 3 average size pots/pans each and which can range in temperature from 350 - 700 degrees Fahrenheit (15K btu max output). The cooktop also has a warming plate (140 degrees Fahrenheit) which is great for melting chocolate and butter, as well as warming liquids and foods. However you may opt to configure it with a gas burner instead.
Pricing: Approximately 18.5K.
Aga Companion: This is a 24" wide unit with 2 electric ovens and a cooktop that may be either gas or electric. It is a more "modern" stand-alone unit that is often used where a high quality cooking machine is desired but space is at a premium. Most frequent use of this unit, however, is as a "companion" to the traditional Aga Cooker. Capable of being installed alongside the Aga Cooker, with the same look and color, an installed Aga Companion can expand the width of the cooking zone to 84", increase oven offerings by 2, and provide standard cooktop burners. Many Aga Cooker/Companion owners (especially those who live in warm climates) will turn the Cooker completely off and rely solely on the Companion for their cooking needs during the summer months.
Basic Specs: Cast Iron Construction, coated in vitreous, colored enamel. One convection oven; one conventional electric oven with broil/grill capacity. Cooktop BTUs range from 6k-12K.
Pricing: Approximately $5.5K
Aga 6-4: This model is Aga's answer to that sector of the consumer market which is seeking a modern, high-end, pro-style range. The 6-4 looks very much like a traditional Aga Cooker, but performs to contemporary standards. Typical Aga Cooker purists consider this unit to be an Aga "mutant" and an insulting departure from the integrity of classic Agas. Frequent US consumer critique: Euro-size ovens are way too small. My disclaimer: This is the Aga unit that I own and I love it! I find it to be a very versatile, high-performing, good-looking machine that can serve one as easily as crowd of 20 or more. Yes, ovens are small, but with 4 of them that can run simultaneously, the job gets done. It fits in beautifully with my overall kitchen design scheme. And, besides, it's roughly half the cost of an Aga Cooker and does not stay always on!
Basic Specs: Cast Iron Construction; Color-coated in vitreous enamel. 39" in width. 4 continuous, self-cleaning ovens: roasting, convection, grill and simmering/warming; The cooktop has two ultra-rapid burners (17K and 20.5k Wok burner), 2 semi-rapid (11k) and 2 rapid (6.5K). Both ultra rapid burners have double rings which provide for high variability in flame control, including simmering function.
Pricing: Approximately 9.5K-10.5K, depending on choice of custom or standard colors.
Aga Legacy: My guess is that this Aga model is the one that is fastest growing in popularity in the United States today. A stand-alone model in terms of looks, it bears no resemblance to its cousins in the Cooker, Companion and 6-4 lines. Again, those in the traditional Aga Cooker camp will having nothing to do with a Legacy. However, this unit seems to be winning friends and a tad of influence in the North American market. Overall, it's a contemporary Aga product that is quite versatile, has classic good-looks, is much larger than a Companion (and somewhat comparable in price) is less expensive than a 6-4 and considerably lower in price than a Cooker. There are several different Legacy configurations available which can vary between dual fuel and all electric units and from 36" to 44" in width. With the Legacy, there is the option of solid doors, or cathedral glass doors. And unlike all other Aga machines at this time, the Legacy can even be had in stainless steel! For sake of brevity, the specs and pricing below is for the solid door, Aga Legacy 36" (electric) and the Glass door Aga Legacy 44" (DF)
Basic Specs (All-Electric Legacy 36"): Solid steel chassis not cast iron) construction. Ceramic cooktop with surface outputs of 1200-2200 watts; Three ovens including programmable convection bake, dedicated broiler and a 7 mode multi-function programmable oven (including defrost,fan-assisted broil, browning and bake).
Pricing: Roughly 5.5K
Basic Specs: (DF- Legacy 44"): Chassis of solid steel construction (not cast iron). 6 sealed gas burners, ranging from 850K to 15K BTU. 3 ovens, convection, broiler, 7 multi-function programmable (see Legacy 36: above). Available in 6 standard Aga colors and stainless steel. Glass cathedral doors.
Pricing: approximately 7K