Behind The Blue Door

Afternoon Tea | January 20, 2016 |

Baking battles:

Aga vs high tech



What turns a good baker into a great one? Is it true that the finest cakes and bakes will only emerge from the farmhouse favourite – the Aga? Or can the modern, hi-tech all-singing, all-dancing ovens beat tradition? The (oven) gloves are off.

The Aga


Image source: AGA

Romantically, Aga tales conjure images of charming farmhouse kitchens, bready aromas, and possibly a premature lamb reviving in the warming oven.

But what about the practicalities? Those reports of inaccuracy, heat loss and a personality which takes some adjusting to?

The modern models have moved with the times – but can these new features rival the very latest technology. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both:

Aga pros

  • Programming: Aga spokesman Laura James says that the new Aga iTotal Control cooker’s three ovens (roasting, baking and simmering) can now be remotely operated using a mobile phone, smartphone, PC, laptop, iPad or tablet. It will even start warming up if you send it a simple text message.

“You can ensure the cooker is warm and supper will be cooked at exactly the time you need it – wherever you are in the world. Essentially, you can sync your Aga at the touch of a button.” she said.

  • Multitasking: Baking, cooking, drying laundry, warming the house – the Aga tackles more than one job.
  • Eco credentials: Almost 70% of each AGA is now made from reused material such as lamp posts, gearboxes, guttering and even drain covers. Plus they can now run on gas, kerosene, diesel and electricity. Impressive credentials for those looking for earth-friendly options.
  • Sheer aesthetics: From the iconic shape to the fabulous colour ranges (anyone for heather, aubergine, claret or rose?), the AGA is certainly beautiful.
  • Radiant heat: The Aga cooker’s heavy iron castings absorb and retain heat, so food is cooked by radiant heat, not heated air – as with most ovens. The result is more moisture and flavour.

And the case against?

We do love an Aga and found it tough to pick out reasons to turn one down, but perhaps the cost (the Aga iTotal Control costs £10,090.) and the space you’ll need to install one will be sticking points.

Remember too, that an Aga stays on all the time, with some owners reporting an excessively warm kitchen in the summer months – and the need for a second ‘summer’ oven. Most modern versions use an Aga Intelligent Management System (AIMS) though, so are powered down when not in use, saving around 25% of energy.

Which brings us on to how much it costs to run an Aga. Reports vary, depending on the model (two, three or four-oven) and whether yours will run on electricity, gas or oil but you can expect to pay anywhere from £13 – £40 per week. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that you are likely to make savings on heating, kettle and toaster costs. They will also require servicing – and that comes at a price, along with a lengthy wait for cooling and then reheating – 24 hours each way according to one report.

Lifestyle trophy or essential kitchen kit? The choice is yours.

Best recipe for yours: This Easter pot roast lamb by Lucy Young works in a two, three or four-oven Aga.

Hi-tech ovens:


The list of hi-tech extras available for modern ovens can be overwhelming. Here’s why we’d choose one:

Steam injections: Once the preserve of commercial kitchens, the steam injection can finally be enjoyed by the home baker. Eliminating the need for spraying or basting, steam allows for consistent baking on all racks. This steam appliance by Bosch combines gentle steam and hot air for all types of baking.

The slide and hide door: Struggling around your old pull-down door with heavy pans and dishes could be a thing of the past with the new slide and hide feature from the new Neff range at Appliance City. More space is always a winner in the kitchen.

Self-cleaning: Oven-cleaning takes serious elbow grease. But not if you find yourself in possession of a pyroclean function, which burns off spills and grease at very high temperatures, reducing everything to a pile of crumbs and ash – easily swept out. This classic built-in Smeg at John Lewis has a host of great features, including a good self-clean system.

And the case against?

Many baking experts believe that a modern, hi-tech oven leaves bread, cakes and buns dry – even with the assistance of steam functions. Radiant heat, like that used in an Aga will always cook in a gentler manner.

Best recipe for yours: This espresso and cocoa nib banana bread from The Boy Who Bakes is a winner whatever the season.

The verdict:

The jury is out on this one. What the modern, hi-tech oven wins in convenience and fast, intense heat, the Aga makes up for in retention of flavour, nutrients and moistness. And many believe that comparing costs is just splitting hairs. Your choice should depend on a number of factors – the largest being your lifestyle, space, budget and how often you bake.

Aesthetics-wise though, we’d plump for a slimline Aga City60 in duck egg blue. Too soon to stick it on the Christmas list?


Now you’ve sorted out the oven – what should you bake? Discover our delicious teatime recipes with a twist


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The Jasper Conran Tisbury collection offers a plethora of informal tableware and home accessories that allow you to mix the collection into your everyday living. The tailored shapes with renowned Jasper Conran precision combine with a resilient porcelain, glass and wood to withstand wear and tear of everyday use. Natural colour styles contribute to an effortless look and feel.

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