How do you keep the metal pans under the stove elements clean?

This is a problem that has plagued me my entire cooking life. You know those metal pans below stove burners, the ones that are there to catch food spills that would otherwise fall into the depths of the stove? I cannot for the life of me seem to keep these things clean! Within two months of moving into any apartment these things are as black as char that no amount of soaking in the sink will remove.

Now I know this can’t be how they are supposed to look. In the mini-rants thread in the pit, ZipperJJ complains how someone he/she knows constantly blackens these pans. I can relate to the person being pitted. Practically every time I cook I’m bound to spill something over the edge of the pan, whether it be water boiling over, bacon grease, pasta sauce, etc. The heating element is too hot to remove the pan before the substance sits long enough to burn on.

I guess I just don’t understand where I am going wrong. Does everyone else just not ever spill anything when cooking? Do people use oven mitts to immediately remove the heating elements after a spill and soak the pans? Is there a secret voodoo dance of kitchen cleanliness that I was not informed of?

So enlighten me dopers, how am I supposed to keep these stove pans clean?

I’d suggest just replacing them from time to time. Or even having a clean set for when you want them to look nice and then put the ugly ones back in when you’re not worried about it.
Also, I think some people line them with foil, but I’m not sure how effective that is.

You might want to hit up a restaurant supply store and ask them for suggestions, they’re likely have something a bit more powerful then Dawn or ammonia.

They’re disposable. Well, semi-disposable; last time I bought them they were $5 for two, or something like that. I mean, I wash 'em for a while with Clorox Clean Up and/or hot soapy water, but I don’t get too Virgo about it. When I decide they’re too marked to continue, I get new ones. The square ones for gas stoves are tricky to find, but I’ve seen the round ones for electric stoves at the dollar store. Check at Target or something similar in the same aisle where they sell vegetable peelers and mixing bowls. They usually hang on a hook.

Back when I was really poor, though, I covered mine in aluminum foil. Never interfered with the functionality of the stove, and when they got mucky, I just unwrapped the foil and put on new.

ETA: Durn you, Joey P! Sneaking in there all efficient and stuff! :smiley:

And what’s even worse, my gas-powered stove doesn’t have those little pans! The stove itself turns black, and takes an inordinate amount of soap and scrubbing and I -still- can’t get it all off!

I don’t know any stove (save used ones already in apartments when you move in) that comes *with *the little metal pans. (Although I admit I’ve never bought a stove; but I have spent a lot of time mooning over them in appliance stores. I am sometimes strange.) They come in a variety of sizes, and in shiny and black. Hie the to Target, my friend!

Ditto for the tinfoil. I do that all the time and it works like a charm.

I saw a household hints show on PBS once that suggested making a paste out of cream of tartar (available in the supermarket spice aisle) and lemon juice to clean the burner pans. But when I tried it, it didn’t work very well and I wound up just replacing them eventually.

As mentioned, tin foil works well. Put the shiny side up for a little extra heating power. Alternately, many places sell pre-formed disposable inserts made of aluminum to place under the burner. (Measure your burners beforehand if you go this route.) Either way, make sure you don’t block the oven vent. This is often a hole underneath one of the back burners – it lets gases (mainly steam) escape.

As for cleaning, oven cleaner works well. If they are really dirty, take them off the stove, spray with cleaner and place them flat (not stacked) in a sealed plastic garbage bag overnight. To avoid bad odors, I recommend placing the bag outside.

Happy cooking!

My gas stove has grey steel liners and I just put them in the oven on the cleaning cycle, and they come out nice and clean.

Tin foil.

But those pans are $2.50 to $3.50 each. They might be cheaper than the foil some people use to protect them.

I’m a big fan of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers for cleaning most everything stove related. Still takes some elbow grease, but I get them cleaner than with anything else.

They are there to get dirty. Why go through the trouble of tinfoil?

When I had an electric stove, they were impossible to keep clean long-term, but I used the oxy-clean stuff on it with some really hot water and it did some wonders. Eventually you will have to replace them if the mess is too bothersome, but they are there to get dirty… it never bothered me.

I got a new stove last summer, and I don’t have any pans to catch the overflow, nor is the funk from my cooking turning black. I am the queen of the boiled over pasta water, and I’m kind of a sloppy cook. But when I’m done cooking, I hit it with Formula 409 or whatever, and it wipes right up.

You can buy them in black, as well as the more common shiny aluminum color. The black ones hide the charred spills much better, so you can go a longer time before you replace them.

Laundry detergent.

I add a half scoop of it into the sink with my burner rings, the little catch pans and the woven metal grease filter from the stovetop fan. Add hot water just to cover. Then I toss in a kettleful of boiling water.

Let them soak about 30 minutes or until you can stick your hand in without burning yourself.

Seriously. I did this when I first moved into this apartment. The grease filter was a deep orangey-brown color–thick and sticky with grease. When I lifted it out of the soak it was bright, shiny aluminum again. Just like new!

For easy upkeep, I generally buy the preformed aluminum pan covers. They’re fairly cheap at the dollar store.

The drip pans need to be cleaned more often, as well. The spilled stuff becomes impossible to clean if you continue to keep heating and cooling it many times after the initial spill.

I bought new ones about a week ago. They were ten dollars for a set of four pans.

I just use the microwave.

For all my cooking. :wink:

My wife used to soak them in, IIRC, OxyClean. Worked like a charm. Now, our stove doesn’t have them, we can just use a sponge.