Think of a classic British kitchen and an Aga range cooker is likely part of that picture. The cast-iron construction, with its shiny enamel surface and Dig-for-Victory utilitarian appeal, is a sign of an efficient and well-run home, not to mention a cozy one. Before the Aga, cooking on a range, with open flame and red-hot surfaces, was unpredictable, dirty, and somewhat dangerous. In 1922 Nobel prize-winning Swedish physicist Gustaf Dalén decided to improve his wife’s quality of life by inventing a stove that would depend on a single burner to supply radiant heat to different temperature-controlled ovens within. This meant that the potatoes could be kept warm in one oven, while the Sunday roast was finished in another. The resulting range has two hot plates (instead of burners), one for simmering and one for boiling, and these are covered with an insulated chrome lid that prevents the heat from escaping when not in use.
The Aga was brought to Britain in 1929. During World War II, the exterior was updated by industrial designer Douglas William Scott, who several years later designed that other beloved comfort giver, the British double-decker bus. The competing Rayburn range, which offers a central heating option, came along just after the war, and the cast-iron Everhot was introduced in 1995. Despite a multitude of 21st-century stove options, the traditional range cooker has never diminished in popularity. Here are some notable examples.
Five to Buy
Object Lessons columnist Megan Wilson is the owner of Ancient Industries and curator of the Remodelista 100, a collection of essential everyday objects presented in the Remodelista book. Watch for her column every Tuesday, and have a look at her past lessons, including two English kitchen favorites, the Pastel Enamel Cooking Pot and the Ercol Stacking Chair.
Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your kitchen range or oven in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Kitchen Ranges & Ovens.