One year into owning our AGA cast iron cooker, we give you our AGA stove review complete with an overview of what an AGA oven is and our honest assessment of the pros and cons we see for our family.
If you follow Plain English Kitchens on Instagram like we do, no doubt you’ve seen your fair share of AGA cast iron cook stoves. Brilliant colors. Old world charm. But… and it’s a big BUT… how practical are they really in our modern age? You have questions – so did we. Watch our AGA stove review video or read on.
Sneak peek… we LOVE it!!! But is it right for you?
What is an AGA Cooker?
Aga cast iron cookers have a unique and timeless design that has remained largely unchanged since first appearing in England in the 1920’s. Their bright-colored, enameled cast iron shell adds an attractive charm in any kitchen. But it’s their functionality and cook quality that has captivated food lovers for decades across Europe. It wasn’t until the 90’s that AGA ovens first started appearing in US kitchens. They remain a rarity given Americans increasing resistance to log hours in the kitchen preparing food from scratch.
Most AGA stoves run on natural gas. If you look for knobs to dial in the temperature, you won’t find any. Instead, you’ll find one single dial that maintains a constant temperature for all of it – ovens, stove tops, and all. That’s right, it runs all the time.
Our AGA stove has 4 oven compartments, but some have 3. Each chamber runs at a different temperature and serves a unique purpose. Looking straight on at the oven, the bottom left compartment is for warming (100-200 deg Fahrenheit). Above that is the slow cooker (200-300 deg). Bottom right is the baking oven (300-400 deg). And top right you have the broiling oven (400-500 deg).
Atop the stove are two burning plates with insulated covers that trap heat remarkably well. When you lift the top left cover, you’ll find the boiling plate. Not just for boiling water, we use this plate for searing and cooking meat, or heating up anything rather quickly. Right of that you find the simmer plate. We often bring something to a boil on the boiling plate, then move it to the simmer plate to maintain a steady heat. It also cooks the perfect egg. Our AGA has a warming plate on the far left top, but newer models offer different features.
Newer models of AGA cast iron cook stoves also offer different ventilation options, but the classic model, like ours, has a trademark black enameled flue pipe. The flue vents out through the roof much like a gas water heater. We were also surprised to find, unlike newer models, ours did not require any electrical supply.
Why do we have an AGA stove?
AGA cook stoves tend to look like something out of a fairytale; something you dream about, yet so farfetched they could never possibly become reality.
That’s where we were in early 2020 as we closed on our foreclosed, 5-acre farm property and knew the house, and kitchen especially, would need a major overhaul. As the 1970’s wallpaper was coming down and we dreamed about how the new spaces would look and function, Joelle casually brought up, “So there are these things called AGA stoves I’ve been looking into, and I’m sure it’s a longshot and totally not realistic, but it would pretty much be my dream oven… ????”
It’s a good thing I like a challenge!
We looked into a new one but just couldn’t afford going that route. Since we had grown accustomed to making weekly Facebook Marketplace runs to furnish nearly everything else in our home second hand, we started to keep our eye out for a used AGA stove.
Remarkably, one came up just before we needed to finalize our kitchen layout and was only an hour away! We reached out, went and saw it, researched like mad how in the world you install one of these things, designed our kitchen layout around it, and hired a professional moving crew to bring the 1300 lb. beast into our kitchen. The fairytale was coming true!
Our honest AGA stove review
We managed to get the stove installed all on our own and it has run perfectly ever since. We’ve also experienced it running for over a year. This is important when reviewing an AGA as the oven itself radiates a fair amount of heat into your space and gives you a different experience in each season. Here are the Pros and Cons we have seen.
It’s always on. We honestly thought this would be a surefire con. But lo and behold, the genius of the AGA rests in its ever-prepared nature. We log hours in the kitchen every day; cooking, baking, meal prepping. This oven has proven to be the perfect companion for a from scratch lifestyle. And while we fully expected to pay an arm and leg on utilities to run it, the budget impact has been surprisingly negligible. Any given month, we saw our gas bill go up only about $10. To offset that, we have seen our furnace run much less in the winters, and stop running almost entirely in the spring and fall, dropping our gas and electric bills significantly.
It multi-tasks like none other. Four different oven compartments, each with their own function, literally means you can be doing four different stove functions at once. And this happens often in our home. It’s not uncommon to have vegetables roasting, something baking like our soaked baked oatmeal, and a roast slow cooking all at once.
Built in slow cooker. Separate but related to the above two pros, the built-in slow cooker has been a much loved and used surprise. Throw a whole chicken or roast with some veggies into a dutch oven, place it in the slow cooker overnight, and you have lunch perfectly prepared for the next day. Or pull an already prepared meal out of the fridge after lunch, throw it in the slow cooker, and dinner is there and waiting for you. The slow cooker uses have been endless for us – including the perfect way to warm up a mug of coffee or tea!
The cook quality is exceptional. We are not trained chefs. But this oven cooks the tastiest and most exquisite looking food we have ever had. The way it radiates heat instead of applying heat means food gets cooked evenly without drying it out. We’ve found foods to be less picky cooking in our AGA, meaning things just come out cooked well regardless of being at the exact recommended temperature or not.
Built to last. AGA cook stoves are serious tools in the kitchen. Yet they are so simple in design that there is hardly anything to go wrong. Parts will need to be replaced over time, but if cared for, these AGA stoves will run worry-free for decades. They are heirloom quality cookers that may even outlast your home itself.
There are things about owning an AGA stove that either take some getting used to, or can be flat out annoying at times. That said, here’s our list of cons to consider:
It’s always on. You are correctly looking back at the start of the pros list. While we absolutely love that our AGA oven is always on and ready for a food adventure, there are times this can shift to an annoyance. This is primarily in the summertime, on 90+ degree days. We don’t run the A/C much, so you feel the radiating heat the oven produces piled on top of our muggy Midwest summers. The benefits for us still make the oven totally worth it, but we can understand where that wouldn’t be true for everyone. Some AGA owners turn their stoves off during the summer. And if you live in a warmer southern climate, you’ll certainly want to weigh this one out.
It takes getting used to. Whether you’re used to a gas or electric oven, most function pretty well the same. Preheat to the desired temp or dial in your stovetop burner and adjust accordingly as you go. No knobs on an AGA means an entirely new cooking experience. You learn your oven over time. You learn what height to set your oven racks at for the perfect sourdough loaf. Or go back and forth between oven compartments discovering one was too hot or not at all hot enough. After a year, it all feels like second nature. But it took some commitment, head scratches, “oh boys!”, and failed dishes to get there.
It’s sealed off from smell and sight. Yep, no convenient little window with a light to peek through. No, sniff sniff, “hmm, what’s that burning smell?” You NEED to set a timer with everything! Thankfully we’ve only opened an oven compartment once to find blackened, inedible beets that were roasting for 24 hours. But it can easily happen. The oven is sealed incredibly well and all smells vent out through the flue pipe.
Maintenance can be hit or miss. While they are very durable and built to last, you have to consider what you will do when maintenance needs do come up. We researched certified AGA technicians in our area prior to purchasing one. Thankfully there were a handful. But this may not be the case everywhere. You will want to do your homework ahead of time. Information on these ovens is pretty scarce across the internet and even your trained local appliance repair guy may be at a loss.
Other fun and unexpected benefits of AGA ovens
- They dry anything rapidly! Laundry, mason jars, dish towels, wet socks after a family snow excursion. There is almost never a time something isn’t drying on ours.
- You can cozy up in front of it. It’s seriously like sitting in front of a fireplace. Fall through winter, the whole family will gather around it to read books. Occasionally we’ll even snuggle up for an at-home AGA date with a warm beverage or treat on cold winter nights ????
- It stands out. Our AGA oven is almost certainly a talking point for anyone who comes to visit. Some recall one from the unique AirBnB experience they had some years back. Others think back to seeing them in their international travels. Either way, AGA’s are an eye catcher and great conversation starter.
- They become the center of your home. For all of these reasons, and many others that we probably aren’t even aware of yet, your AGA stove just becomes the center of all functions at home. Much like I imagine this would be true of a home with a wood burning cook stove 100+ years ago in Little House on the Prairie times, it can still be every bit true today in a modern home.
Would you recommend an AGA oven?
For our family’s needs and lifestyle, the answer is a resounding, “yes!” A year later, we couldn’t image life without our AGA cook stove. That said, you will need to weigh out how well the functionality matches up with your own lifestyle. If you are in the kitchen daily preparing from scratch meals and experimenting with new recipes, then it could be a great fit. If you regularly go a day or two without using your oven and aren’t sure if the pros listed above would really be pros in your household – looks aside – this may not be the oven for you.
Some final thoughts…
Our entertainment revolves around food, so much like a television is constantly on for entertainment in other homes, it only makes sense to have a cook stove that is always on in our home. This has made an AGA cast iron cook stove the perfect fit for our family.
We hope you have found this AGA stove review helpful in assessing how well these stoves may integrate into your own world. I expect you’ll have questions, and we’d love to hear from you if you do!