Mark Mason

Aga can’t

Old-fashioned, inflexible, frighteningly expensive to run – this is Britain’s most overrated stove

Earlier this year my partner paid several hundred thousand pounds for an Aga. There’s no other way of putting it. A major cause of her excitement about our new house was the presence in its kitchen of the whacking great oven. I, on the other hand, was unsure how I felt about it — Aga-nostic, if you like. Six months later I’m sick of the bloody thing. What’s more, I’ve worked out why Aga lovers go on about them so much.

For those of you fortunate enough never to have encountered one of these beasts, the facts are these. An Aga has to be kept on constantly, sapping your fuel source (ours is electric) 24 hours a day. My model has two ovens, one at a fixed high temperature, the other at a fixed low temperature. There are two hotplates, ditto. And that’s it. No grill. No capacity for turning something down to a precise simmer: you can either watch your pasta boil dry in two minutes flat or come back for it tomorrow. No room on a hotplate for more than one saucepan at a time, so tough luck if your recipe needs more. Not an awful lot of room in either oven — if you had more than a few people round at Christmas, the turkey wouldn’t be the only thing that was stuffed.

Also, an Aga chucks out heat around the clock. ‘Isn’t it lovely in winter?’ coo the admirers. Possibly, though for what it costs you might as well have a brazier in the kitchen into which you throw £10 notes. And the flip side is that it’s a nightmare in summer. For the past few weeks we’ve had a sauna rather than a kitchen. At least I’m not my friend David, renting a house whose oil-fired Aga also controls the hot-water system.

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