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thom

Range finder

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Ok, I tried this thread in 'General Food, but 30 views and no replies after 24 hours doesn't bode well.

As I'm after a range which is suitable for buying/fitting in the UK anyway then I'll chance my arm with the same question here.

So voila:

All,

I call upon the assembled domestic gods/goddesses of eGullet to advise me on a significant purchase; my new range. Let me fill you in on the details.

Up to now my DINKY (double income no kids) lifestyle in a vibrant city has meant I have eaten out much, much more than I have cooked. Therefore, although I have an huge appreciation and a basic understanding of food, my technical cooking skills are of a very low standard. Sure, I can quickly throw together some great tasting dishes, but anything more exacting involving weighing, measuring, timing or other precise measures is beyond my abilities (and beyond the time/inclination I have had to improve them).

Now it's all change. I'm eight weeks away from becoming a father, and I will be moving to an old (1746) cottage out in the hills. The lack of local restaurants (and demands of parenthood) mean I will be spending a lot less time eating out and a lot more time cooking - this seems an ideal opportunity to really work at improving my culinary skills.

The move also represents the first time in my life I will be actively buying a range. But what should I go for? Here are the parameters:

*I am in the UK

*The house has gas.

*The kitchen is long and thin (around 25ft by 9ft). It'll be used as a dining kitchen so excessive noise/heat etc could be an issue.

*Budget? Not massive - I have a house to fit out after all. Probably around £2,000 (GBP) max. Can you get reconditioned ranges? Are they worth considering?

*I still want to be able to make quick and easy food (stirfrys, pasta sauces, grills etc) but would like a range that enables me to do more baking, roasting, slow cooking etc.

*Do I need two ovens? I really haven't a clue. How big do they have to be?

*Will I really (as someone aspiring to a 'decent' level of home cooking) need 6 burners or would four do?

*I find aga's mildly intimidating. Would I miss out by going for a straight gas cooker?

*I am never going to be a 'supercook', practiciality and ease of use/maintenance will outweigh the upper levels of range capability.

*Obviously the flipside is that I would like a range that could still accomodate my (hopefully increasing) cooking ambitions for the next ten years.

*I am slightly shallow, so I would really like something that looks good (possibly brushed steel finish?) and has a little social cachet - hey, at least I'm honest!

*What other things should I be thinking about? I appreciate that I am writing this from a position of such ignorance that I don't even know what I don't know.

Up till now I was looking at the obvious choice - a Smeg; but my step-mother (who is a fantastic cook) has one and thinks the fan oven cooks too quick and reduces flexability.

Any thoughts? Let me know what you think as I would like to order in the next month or two.

Your input, as always, is appreciated.

Cheers

Thom


It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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If you're serious about cooking you will certainly find a range very limiting. Go modern, go industrial. Electric convection oven with steam option, and and a 'heavy' gas oven for roasting etc. Gas hob with six burners with the option of a small removable cast iron plaque on one of them. Counter sunk deep fat fryer. Industrial kitchen machinery is streets ahead of its poncey domestic offspring, and is available is sizes perfectly suited to domestic kitchens, and all in brushed steel.

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i bought a flat in feb & we spent quite alot of time looking at ovens. I thought the smegs were nice until i looked up close. My boyfriend is a chef and we are very happy with our rangemaster Toledo, ours is the 90 dual fuel. It has 2 ovens & a seperate grill which alot didnt seem to have,we found it to be a simple yet smart design.

I am no good to advise on the technical aspects except the fact that i can use it !! Its was £1200

http://www.rangemaster.co.uk

I think if our budget had been greater then we would have gone for

http://www.lacanche.com

It is also well worth shopping round for prices both online and locally. we saved a couple of hundred pounds doing this

sarah x

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morning thom

i've got the cheaper of the smeg ranges, think it was about £800, got 5 burners incl a central wok one, and a single large gas oven.

i've had 5 years cooking daily out of it without trouble, oven might not be very good for low temperature work as it does heat up very quickly and needs a separate internal thermometer to keep a check on it, but other than that no problems.

looks the part with a stainless splash back and big chimney hood, my chef mate likes cooking on it too, i'd certainly buy another one unless i was prepared to spend a lot more.

gary


you don't win friends with salad

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I knew I could depend on the good folk of the UK board. Also pleased to see a good spread of opinions to confuse my muddled mind still further...

LML, I had considered the professional route, as through my job I am 'lucky' enough to meet many lovely salespeople of intimidating stainless steel equipment (we even sponsor the annual conference of CEDA - The Catering Equipment Distributors Association!). I had though heard of chef's that install professional equipment at home and then simply find it doesn't suit the usage patterns of a domestic kitchen (maybe like Schumacher dropping the kids off in a F1 car?). I could be convinced though, so tell me more.

Sarah, the rangemaster looks good, and possibly the scaredy-cat novice in me will make me lean towards an integral domestic system. I keep seeing adverts for lots of different 'Smeg-a-like' cookers and it frustrates me that I just don't know which will cut the mustard. Surely there must be some worthy 'Which' type report that can give me the low-down on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Gary, I do like the Smegs a lot. I have heard no more good or bad about them then any other manufacturer, so my loyalty is purely based on their sneaky, insidious, brand-building marketing (I knew Marketing Directors must have some use in the world). Also, I know that if I've bought into Smegs then when I come to sell my house some other nesting, professional couple they will also appeciate the lifestyle image of a rustic country cottage with a big shiny Smeg (I won't tell them about the dry-rot or the in-breeding neighbours).

That said, if someone out there is confident that althogh Smeg is the 'name' brand real home-chefs use Brand X then I could also delight in the snob value of the unexpected choice (that's why I have Wusthofs when all my vacuous loft-living friends have barely-used Globals in their knife-blocks).

More feedback please! What has worked for you?

Cheers

Thom


It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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That said, if someone out there is confident that althogh Smeg is the 'name' brand real home-chefs use Brand X then I could also delight in the snob value of the unexpected choice (that's why I have Wusthofs when all my vacuous loft-living friends have barely-used Globals in their knife-blocks).

well now you're slagging off global's you can get lost :biggrin:

(first my car choice, then my knife choice what next?)

gary


you don't win friends with salad

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i'm with his Lordship on this one. i don't see the need for a range. separates is the way to go. one big advantage is that you can get the oven off the floor which is good anyway but extra useful if you have kids around.

i have had three ranges - a Paul Bocuse, a Lacanche and now a Smeg. I hate the Smeg - it is a gas oven that gets too hot and burns things on the bottom - though is very big which is great. have had problems with the ignition in both the oven and the rings. unfortunately it is 80cms wide (strange width) and there is virtually nothing else which will fit the space. The Bocuse was great though i never quite got used to the hot plate thingy. two ovens is good but i think one really big oven plus a small one is better. The Lacanche was good too but suffered the same thing with the two mid sized ovens.

[i ought to point out that the Smeg came with the house and the other two were bought new - so the comparison is not quite fair]

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Gary,

It is lucky you are a sturdy Northern bloke or else you would have crumbled under this barrage of incessant faux pas...

Remind me never to pass comment on any woman whilst in your presense, or I shall doubtless manage to crown it all by offending your other half.

Unless your other half is not a woman? Damn. Hey, that's fine too, good for you... Oh god, too late...

Cheers

Thom


It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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I had though heard of chef's that install professional equipment at home and then simply find it doesn't suit the usage patterns of a domestic kitchen (maybe like Schumacher dropping the kids off in a F1 car?). I could be convinced though, so tell me more.

I agree with the advice about using commercial equipment at home -- it is longer-lasting, performs better, and is ultimately more satisfying to use than domestic stuff.

However:

1) You must be sure that the installation fits fire and insurance requirements. In some locations, these can be onerous: large spaces between the unit and the wall, steel or thick tile insulation, commercial ventilation systems and fire extinguishers, etc. Ignore these requirements and you could find yourself hassled by a building inspector or without insurance cover in the event of a fire.

2) This equipment is not cheap. A very small steam/electric "combi" oven (e.g. the little Electrolux) will cost about £1000; a very basic 6-burner commercial gas stove, with oven, about the same. And these prices are before VAT, and before extra insulation, and before your builder says "wotcher? I don't know how to install this stuff" and ups his price. And, some of this kit requires deeper installation space (worktops) than the usual home kitchen specification will provide. Deep worktops are great if you have the space, but they entail extra expense, further hassle with the builders. Even after all this commercial equipment is better value than the cheaper domestic stuff, but the initial outlay is high.

3) This kit is designed for cooking large quantities at speed, and you may therefore be forced into using larger pots and pans. Our commercial stove in France has large, hefty burners; visitors occasionally grumble that a saucepan just large enough to boil a single egg doesn't sit comfortably on them. (It also has a flat-top on which the egg pan works fine, but they are generally afraid of using it). So a stove upgrade leads inevitably to cookware upgrades ... again, a good thing, but again, not cheap, and perhaps troublesome if you are mostly cooking for two.

4) This kit isn't dumbed down. A professional oven doesn't have a button on it marked "push me if you wish to roast a chicken". Stoves may not have electric pilots, so that you have to light burners and ovens with a sparker or match. A combination steam/electric oven takes some learning -- how to recharge the water softener, how to set the programme for steam injection, etc. Again, more satisfying and you may end up a better cook, but there is an initial outlay.

5) None of this kit is self-cleaning. In a professional kitchen, there are helpers, stagiaires, etc., to clean grease filters, scrub steel surfaces, clean ovens with toxic cleaning solutions, recharge water softeners, and so on. Use it at home and you may have to do this work yourself.

6) None of this equipment is insulated for heat or noise. Big gas burners, grills/salamanders and flat-tops generate a lot of heat (and use a fair bit of energy). Commercial convection ovens buzz and whir. Commercial ventilation equipment is noisy. I would like to install a commercial fridge and undercounter freezer in the new kitchen in London, but will probably end up going for domestic models because of the noise.

Just a few things to think through before visiting your local catering supply house...


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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First choice would be an Aga You will soon love it. No waiting for the ovens to heat up. Have a some gas rings and a microwave/combi oven as backup.

Second choice a small professional range. You can get them secondhand for reasonable money.

They are designed to cook, whereas most domestic ranges and oven (except, perhaps Gaggeneu) are simply designed to reheat and crisp; thet get neither hot enough or cool enough for low temperature cooking or drying. If you have a professional range you will need a ventialtion and heat extraction system.

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Sounds like space is a consideration, so I would say a range is very limiting - we have a very large kitchen (photo somewhere in eG) and we still have separates - AEG 5 burner gas hob sunk into the worktop, and on an adjacent wall - double Neff ovens - one is convection and regular, the other regular - this means that under the hob area I have double deep drawers to fit loads of pots and pans...

In the Neff convection oven we manage to fit a 30 pound turkey - which is why we bought it - consider what you will be putting in your ovens - An AGA for example, barely fits a large chicken, I tried at a friend's house the other day...

Personally I am against stainless steel in the home b/c of cleaning issues - no matter what the claims are, brushed, streak free, fingerprint free, you can always see every little mark and with a child on the way, this is something I would think about - especially b/c even cleaning it will leave streaks if you don't spend 1/2 hour getting it just right...

We cook quite a lot at home and often very big, this combination was served well for over 8 years...


www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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Hi mate

I was just wondering, aside from the (undoubted) coolness factor and the resale value, I'm not convinced from what you say you really *need* a f*ckoff six burner semi pro monstrosity.

If youe cooking skills are fairly basic surely a pretty standard four burner oven, perhaps with a cute stainless steel finish from your local domestic shop will do. So many times I see people with big multi-burner things installed in their kitchens whose main use is to boil an egg and it seems like money wasted.

Think; what is there you are likely to be cooking which will use the extra horsepower? Unless you're doing multicourse dinners for 15+ people with multiple simultanous hot entrees four burners and a bit of forward planning is normally enough; and even that probably won't be happening that often. I've been cooking for donkeys years and have enough trouble finding uses for one oven, let alone two...

Then throw in, as Jonathan D said, all the hassle of fitting, keeping and cleaning. Personally I'd spend five hundred quid on a decent domestic oven get another one a few years down the line if I really need one. Its a no-lose situation really cuz if you DO find yourself in a position of needing to upgrade its probably because you've turned yourself into a bloody good cook in the meantime. In the meantime I'd spend the rest of the dosh on a massic scaletrix kit for the kid, which you can hold in trust (and occasionally regularly test out) for the next seven years...

cheerio

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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Thom, I have a Smeg A1 Opera which heats to over 300 degrees and can go as low as 25 degrees (I use it for raising bread occasionally). These are temperatures measured on an oven thermometer but interestingly enough the oven thermometer is very accurate upto 250 degrees.

I would also advocate buying Scalextric.


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Excellent feedback; and to think I worried this was going to be my first zero-response thread. Thank you all for the very constructive responses.

I am actually still debating the kitchen design. It is all freestanding solid wood units at the minute. They roughly match, but are by no means a 'set'. My inclination is to keep this sort of feel, with individual pieces of furniture, belfast sink, freestanding fridge etc. Washer/Dryer will be in a separate utility room.

This does therefore make me lean towards a range, as wouldn't separate ovens/hobs etc. involve the kitchen being 'fitted' as the individual elements would need to built in? Same goes for the professional range, which sounds fantastic but also well beyond the use I would get from it.

Aga's I just don't know much about. I do worry about the amount of heat they put out 24/7, especially as the kitchen is narrow and low-roofed and would double as a dining kitchen.

As to what I'll be doing in this kitchen of mine? Well, hopefully ambitious family cooking; though with me and my friends from roundabout all pupping at a frightening rate I'm picturing more 'dinner parties' (is there not a less 80's way of describing them?) to compensate for the fact we can never go out where I will be desperate to strut my culinary stuff.

So, I'm still leaning towards a range. I like the idea of two ovens. Do they always come with a choice so one is gas and one electric or do I need to seek this out? I assume the mix is a good thing? Also width; I have heard some discussion that the narrower units make a mockery of the two ovens format, meaning you can only simultaneously roast a small sparrow and a meadow pippet. What's the minimum size for two practical ovens?

Also, if I am to choose a range (and I'm not 100% there yet) then is there anywhere I can find info on the different brands. If I buy a car I know I would prefer an Audi to a Daewoo (Gary, don't tell me you've swapped the Porsche). If I buy a range then do I want a Smeg, a Stoves, a Rangemaster, that one beginning with 'B' I saw in the homes mag? Haven't a clue. Can anyone enlighten me?

Cheers

Thom


It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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I have a Zanussi MC5634 four gas burner/electric fan assisted oven/grill which is about 15 years old and worth about tuppence. I have no room for a range, professional or pretend, and I don't particularly want one. I cook nearly everything at either 180c or 200c unless a baking recipe calls for a higher temperature.

I do need to spend money on decent pots and pans, but apart from that, I don't feel as though my cooking is hampered by the equipment I have, or don't have more to the point.

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I suppose it all boils down to how much you want to spend.

when i bought mine i wanted the industrial look but didn't want to spend an arm and a leg, so for about a grand got the cooker, the splashback and the hood (baumatic).

It looks a lot more expensive than it was and is always a talking point when people come round, although i was amused when potential house buyers look at the range, the shelves full of pans and cookbooks then go, 'do much cooking then?' :wink:

one thing i do like is the width of a range, thinks mine's 90cm, you've got space to take pans off the heat or rest meat, warm plates etc without having to clutter up worksurfaces (of which i have little)

i would agree that good pans and sharp knives make a bigger difference to your cooking than an expensive cooker.

ps before you slag them off inadvertently my pans are le pentole, and very nice they are too!

gary


you don't win friends with salad

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Gary no offence meant!! Where do you get the pans if I may ask?

oh no it wasn't you andy, it's that n'eer do well from the other side of the pennines!

(see earlier posts, all started after a beer in manchester and a discuusion about cars).

i got my pans from peter maturi in leeds, i think they do mail order, divertimenti also stock them they're quite readily available i think

they're the classic stainless steel, copper sandwich based pans. but quite stylish and indestuctible.

the best way to buy them is as a 'starter set' you get small saucepan & lid, big saute pan and lid and medium 'casserole' with lid. you save a lot buying them this way.

then you can add as you need, once you've got the lids i just buy the pans alone so i now have a milk boiler which makes a good bain marie, another sauce pan and a bigger casserole.

if it's any recommendation nigel slater and conran use them!

gary


you don't win friends with salad

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pentole are wonderful - even washing them up is enjoyable. i even posted a picture of my pentole stock pot on the eGCI stock pages - its a pin up.

on the one oven/two oven thing, one big oven and you can roast say chicken and potatoes at the same time and put the crumble in while you're eating the chicken. the question is where do you warm the plates?

AGAs are very expensive and need plumbing in and i loathe the lack of control on the top (you have to have separate hobs really) but i don't agree about the size of the ovens - they are very deep and you can certainly fit a huge turkey in one.

i was never allowed scaletrix but i did buy myself a remote control helicopter. minutes of endless fun.

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Gary,

I won't say another word in case you drive over in your Porsche and chop me up with your Globals. In fact, I'd appreciate it if you could email me a list of all the brands that you actually purchase so I can make sure I don't cast any misinformed aspersions as to their value, quality, or the character of the sort of people who would purchase them in the first place.

Andy,

You humble me. Don't worry, I don't for one minute think that a good cooker will make me a good cook. But if I can do up the kitchen to a decent practical and aesthetic standard it would be a pity not to indulge myself with a shiny stainless steel 'boys toy' that will also accomodate my delusional plans of cooking competently for posh dinner parties.

This reminds me of when I started Thai-boxing private lessons with a guy who was 9-times European champion and twice world champion. I'd splashed out on some really nice bag-gloves, and as he helped me put them on he said 'I used to fight in these, but the cheaper ones. They're really good.' Yes, I felt like a poseur to a horrific degree. And he worked me so hard I was sick.

Jon,

Good call about the the Scalextrix. I think my personal choice would be to keep the costs of the range down and indulge myself with one of those little petrol-powered monkey-bikes that go about 30 mph and grate your knees off when you corner. Hopefully both it and me should be in one piece by the time my son is old enough to use it. If I let him.

Cheers

Thom


It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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But if I can do up the kitchen to a decent practical and aesthetic standard it would be a pity not to indulge myself with a shiny stainless steel 'boys toy' that will also accomodate my delusional plans of cooking competently for posh dinner parties.

I think this is a reasonable consideration, and have to admit that a cooker like mine would look dreadful in your kitchen. It looks dreadful in mine. I suppose I was just trying to point out that you can probably get away with a lot less than you think you might need, which is really the same as Jon was saying.

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AGAs are very expensive and need plumbing in

Only if you also have the Aga heating your water. Most don't do this, therefore they aren't attached to the water supply.

and i loathe the lack of control on the top (you have to have separate hobs really)

But this is very similar to the "flat top" surfaces on most professional ranges. Last year my wife hired a chef to cook a birthday lunch in our kitchen and serve it to a large group of friends. He flipped the covers of the Aga open and used them just like a flat top.

The most difficult thing about an Aga is that it is a stored heat system, and the heat is drawn off faster than it is replenished. So if you do a lot of saute work, the flat tops cool off after awhile. Still, you get used to this; the only reason you really need a separate hob is so that you can turn the Aga off when it gets really hot -- we do this for about a month each summer.

i don't agree about the size of the ovens - they are very deep and you can certainly fit a huge turkey in one.

Right. Or two chickens, or several ducks. The depth of Aga ovens is very practical; I prefer it to the usual little cube you get in a Neff or similar home oven. You may need different roasting pans for an Aga, though: slightly narrower and a lot deeper.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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One further comment about the "domestic professional" cookers (Britannia, etc.): 6 burners, stainless steel, etc.

Many of these that I've seen and occasionally used in friends' houses seem to me like fakes: impressive to look at, until you get closer and realise that they were never really designed for serious cooking. One, for example, has a burner useful for nothing other than a fish poacher. That's fine if you are planning on poaching fish every night, but ultimately not very practical. And the grates on some of these "domestic professional" units look very flimsy.

Then again, I don't have one of these units and may be criticising unfairly. A lot of people throw stones at Aga cookers who have never really used one. Ours came with the house, and I would think twice about buying one if we were building anew, but it has actually proven a good friend in the kitchen. Maybe this illustrates Andy's point, that the cook and the cook's disposition may be more important than the kit.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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thom, i would suggest you decide how much space you have for your oven/range and what fuel/s.As i said when we designed our small kitchen we found we only had 90cms left thus went for the toldeo 90(rangemaster,the Aga company), it has everything we need. 5 rings (1 for woks) 2 ovens (one normal.,one tall-for rib roast & plate warming etc) Seperate grill(big plus) and dual fuel,fan assisted oven

Our choice was made on the fact that it had all the features we wanted, it looked good(simple,sleek but sturdy), which we personally didnt find the smeg did when we looked closely, I find agas are lovely in the right enviroment but often look out of place.Our 2nd favourite was a belling was our 2nd favourite but i found the door seal a bit shoddy.And it fitted !

Johnathon is correct that alot of these ranges do look fake close up, trying to look classic or flashy with giant buttons etc. U really do need to go and have a good look at whats availiable.

I am sure there are which reviews availiable, i think u have to pay online or try the library

Check online as there are so many websites but beware sometimes prices look low but infact delivery is extra. The reason we went to a small local store in surrey was the fact they discounted as we also bought washer dryer and fridge freezer.

Once u have choosen your favourite model/s look on [url=http://www.kelkoo.co.uk as they compare online prices & advise of p&p...(i know see i could have saved £36 on mine !)

have fun looking

sarah xx


Edited by sarah w (log)

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QUOTE (enthusiast @ Sep 9 2003, 03:58 PM)

AGAs are very expensive and need plumbing in 

Only if you also have the Aga heating your water. Most don't do this, therefore they aren't attached to the water supply.

i was being lazy - when i said plumbing i meant you needed to build a flue.

as for the flat tops - you are right, the problem is that they lose heat very quickly (and the oven temperature goes down too). i believe the answer is that you are not meant to use them as hobs at all, everything is meant to be cooked in the oven, the flat top is used just for browning and bringing things to the boil.

i also don't like the way you can't smell things in the ovens - very easy to forget the rice pudding left in the bottom!!

[my partner tells me i should add that my experience of cooking on AGAs is with my ex-in-laws (saw way too much of them and always did the cooking!) and the 4 oven AGA there was about 30 years old. She likes AGAs but her arguments are very flimsy - "its like having another sweet person in the house...it makes great toast(?!)...it even does the ironing."]

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