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Radiant Heat Stove and Oven:
The Cast Iron AGA Cooker Beckons Memories

(HIT) - It isn’t just nostalgia that has made grandma’s cooking part of American folklore and a sure-fire icon for food advertisers. The fact is that if she cooked on one of those big old cast-iron stoves her meals really were better. The Thanksgiving turkey, biscuits and pies were exactly as moist on the inside and crisp on the outside as you remember. Why, even hated veggies tasted good!

While grandma was surely a gifted cook, she couldn’t have created those marvelous meals without radiant heat. That was the cooking method of those old fashioned stoves, and radiant heat a cooking method that produces consistently delicious and nutritious meals. Natural flavors and nutrients are sealed in with a radiant heat cast iron cooker, and meals can actually sit around in the oven or on top of the stove without drying out. You needn’t watch them every minute. You needn’t stir all the time. You needn’t adjust the heat.

Fortunately, there’s no need to scour far-flung antiques fairs for one of those old cast iron stoves and then find a wood or coal source to duplicate grandma’s meals. The beautiful alternative is the AGA Cooker, a cast iron appliance that is Europe’s gift to dedicated cooks, kitchen designers, busy families, and all of those, who simply insist on great, wholesome food.

Like grandma’s stove, the AGA Cooker is a massive cast iron affair that uses radiant heat to produce great meals, but there’s nothing cumbersome about the AGA. On the contrary, it’s outright elegant, and it cooks with gas or propane from your local utility.

What makes the AGA so elegant is its lines, English craftsmanship, and gleaming exterior. It comes in great colors, including cherry red, cobalt blue and forest green, and it inevitably becomes the cozy focal point of any kitchen.

The Radiant Heat Difference

There’s no great mystery to the principle of radiant heat. Philip Tonks, head of AGA in the United States, explains that radiant energy is produced from a heated mass and doesn’t depend on hot oven air for transmission.

"Just think of the way heat from a fireplace works," he says. "The energy doesn’t become heat till it hits a solid object and is absorbed. In cooking, the absorption of the radiant heat seals the surface of the food, holding in the flavors and moisture. In an AGA Cooker, the oven IS the heat source. The cast iron sides, back, top and bottom provide constant heat."

"By contrast, in conventional stoves, be they gas or electric, a very hot element heats air, which then circulates around the food," explains Tonks. "Because heated air absorbs moisture, this cooking method dries out the food and robs it of its flavor."

He adds that in ordinary gas or electric stoves there are wide temperature fluctuation. As an oven heats up, a thermostat shuts off the burner when the desired temperature is reached. The already super-heated air then shoots over the set temperature. As the oven cools, the temperature drops below the thermostat setting, and the element clicks on again.

Fluctuations of 25 degrees each way are common. So the only time the oven is actually at the set temperature is on the way up and again on the way down.

Four Ovens

Tonks admits that AGA owners do tend to love to cook, and it’s not unusual for them to tackle mutiple-course dinners. They can breeze through such a dinner with ease because an AGA oven can be stuffed with food and still cook well. The reason is that air doesn’t have to circulate through the whole oven to be heated and reheated, so it doesn’t matter if the air flow is blocked.

The large radiant heat cooker model features four ovens which are kept at constant temperatures. One oven is for roasting, another for baking, a third for simmering, and the fourth for warming. In addition, there are three stove-top burners that are so large that they can hold several pots at a time.

"It does take an adjustment to learn to cook on an AGA," notes Lori Fiorello, an owner of one of these extraordinary stoves. "We’re so used to cooking mostly on top of the stove and to constantly adjust the heat and oversee the cooking. With the AGA, 80 percent of the cooking takes place in the ovens—including things like bacon, omelettes and poached salmon. Because the heat is so gentle, you can even open an oven door with a cake in it. The cake won’t collapse. And, you know, how cheesecakes often crack on top? Not in an AGA.

As a working mother, I also appreciate the way the AGA Cooker’s radiant heat stove will simmer oatmeal overnight and have dinner cooked, but never burned, by the time I get home. It’s self-cleaning, too."

It’s easy to understand how cozy it must be to have an AGA humming away during the cold winter months, but since it is always on, might it not be a liability in summer?

Lori says no. "It’s about 2 degrees warmer in the part of my kitchen where the stove is," she notes. And Tonks says little heat escapes because of the stove’s sturdy construction and thick insulation.

"In warm climates, AGA radiant heat Cooker owners may spend up to 25 cents per day for additional air conditioning," he notes. "But naturally, the kitchen should be intelligently designed. For example, if you put an AGA—or any stove—in an area with huge windows designed to soak up the heat of the sun and then don’t ventilate it properly, the kitchen will be hot."

The unique radiant heat stove was invented in 1922 by a Swedish Nobel Laureate, who wanted to save his wife from slaving over a stove, but England takes pride in having crafted it to its gleaming perfection for over 70 years.

For more information about this unique stove, visit AGA online at

Courtesy: Home Improvement News and Information Center

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