Cleaning · Cooktops · FAQ · HOW TO · Ranges

Stove drip pans cleaning tips

I've got you covered on cleaning conundrums.

Drip pans for stoves rank among the toughest cleaning jobs in the kitchen.

Grime on aluminum burner pans, which fit under the electric coils on your range, often seemed to me to be resistant to scrubbing.

And they probably are, if you’re using regular cleaners and scrubbers.

Look familiar?

But my two tricks for cleaning drip pans — one for weekly cleaning and one for deeper cleaning — will keep them looking new and thus, keep you from replacing them so often!

Bonus: Clean drip pans for your electric stove don’t just serve cosmetic purposes; keeping the surface reflective ensures the most efficient use of heat, meaning you’ll use less energy when you keep your burners and drip pans clean.

Spot cleaning burner pans

For day to day drips and stains, make sure the burner’s completely cooled and pull it up and out from the stove top (see photo below). I usually remove the drip pan to my sink to avoid peripheral messes. Wet the drip pan and sprinkle on a liberal amount of my co-favorite household cleaner, Bar Keeper’s Friend (name the other in the comments for a gold star). Use a rag to work the cleaner into a paste and polish off the mess. Rinse and dry thoroughly before replacing the pans.

Carefully remove the electric burner before cleaning its drip pan.

Deep cleaning drip pans

Pick a time when you don’t need to use your sink or stove for several hours, like right before bed or work. Again, wait until the stove is cool and remove the burners. Put each burner pan in separate gallon plastic bags. Add 1/4 cup of ammonia to each and fill the remainder with hot tap water. Close the bags and let them sit overnight (or for several hours).

Then, drain the bags and scrub off the loosened mess. Rinse well before applying any other cleaners, as ammonia can create toxic fumes when mixed. Rinse and dry thoroughly before replacing.

 

Let me know if you try this and how it worked for you!

Cleaning · FAQ · HOW TO · Ovens · Ranges

HOW TO: clean an oven without oven cleaner

After an attempt to broil salmon last week prompted cacophonous disagreement with our smoke alarms, my roommates and I entered into a game of chicken with our manual clean oven.

Basically, it needs to be cleaned, and we don’t want to clean it.

I know it’s silly because my mind contains more appliance cleaning and maintenance knowledge than God graces on just anyone, but you know what they say about the cobbler’s kids.

Plus, it’s a royal pain. And it’s easy to make the excuse, “But I don’t have any oven cleaner!” or “I hate the idea of using harsh oven cleaner!” or “‘The Biggest Loser’ is on!”

Well, in efforts to invalidate the first two excuses and motivate me — and probably you too — here are three non-oven cleaner cleaning methods that really work.

  1. Ron Popeil solution
    For the “Set It And Forget It” overnight set: Pour ¼ cup ammonia and 2 cups of warm water in a bowl in your oven, and close it up tight. If you’re at home during this, make sure you open a window so no one gets sick. You can clean out the dirty oven with a scrubby sponge the next day.
  2. Mike Wallace solution
    If you have 60 minutes, fill a spray bottle with 1 tablespoon Borax (which also works great as a cheap laundry detergent booster and all-purpose cleaner!), 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil dishwashing soap and a quart of warm water. Spray the oven walls, scrub it clean after an hour and rinse thoroughly.
  3. Jesus Jones solution
    If you want it clean right here, right now, a paste of baking soda and vinegar left on the oven cavity surface could work well. Be careful to cover the holes of the gas line if you have a gas range really REALLY well, because if they get clogged, that’s a bad thing. If you go this route, you should be able to scrape off food mess with a spatula. Wipe out the oven thoroughly afterwards.
Cleaning · FAQ · HOW TO

HOW TO: clean cast iron grates

We read each and every Customer Satisfaction Survey returned to us by our customers. One customer’s cleaning inquiry struck me.

She couldn’t find any information on how to clean cast iron — the “rough” iron grates and burner caps on her new range. The manual only referenced porcelain-coated grates, not cast iron grates.

“I’m sure I’m not the only person who is wondering,” she wrote — and I agree with her.  Plus, I love a good challenge.

So I e-mailed the smart folks at Wolf appliances for help on cleaning cast iron grates. They sent me a knock down, drag out PDF containing their best cleaning tips, including recommendations for products they’ve tested!

From the guide:

Burner Grates

Recommended products

  • Mild detergent
  • Paste of baking soda & water (NOTE: the customer previously tried this unsuccessfully)
  • Mild abrasive cleaners
    • Soft Scrub Orange
    • Bon-Ami
    • Barkeeper’s Friend
    • Fume Free Easy-Off (spot cleaning)
    • Carbona 2-in-1 Oven Cleaner (cleaning solution can be reused once)
    • SOS pads
    • Dawn Power Dissolver
    • Krud Kutter

Recommended method

  • Remove from range top and place on a flat surface near the sink
  • Remove grates from unit and place on a flat surface near the sink to clean. DO NOT immerse in water. Towel dry.
  • How water and liquid detergent; paste of baking soda and water
  • Degreasers (Formula 409, Fantastic Orange), use sparingly. Towel dry.
  • “Multipurpose NO SCRATCH” Scotchbrite pad (blue, NOT green)
  • Mild abrasive cleaners, rinse and towel dry
  • Worst case scenarios – Spot clean with Fume-free Easy Off
  • Carbona Oven Rack Cleaner, following directions on package

 

Budget-wise · FAQ · Food · Freezer · Refrigerator

Power out refrigerator tips: What to do when the electricity goes out

Rule No. 1: Don't open your refrigerator or freezer.

Here in Minnesota, we generally suffer a few power outages each winter season. But when the power goes out, your refrigerator is not cooling. So what should you do with all your food?

1. Call the power company
Find out how long the power will be out.

2. If the power outage is less than 24 hours:
Keep the doors shut on both the refrigerator and freezer compartments to keep food cold or frozen. If you’re experiencing a refrigerator power outage for more than 2 hours, you might want to pack dairy and meats into coolers (Styrofoam is fine) filled with ice, says the CDC.

3. If the power will be out for more than 24 hours:
Add 2 lbs of dry ice in the freezer for every cubic foot of freezer space, which will keep the food frozen for two to four days, according to appliance-maker Whirlpool Corp. Otherwise, you’re going to have to eat all that perishable food. Or try canning the food, if you know how.

Thought it seems counter intuitive, a full freezer stays cold longer than a partially filled one and a freezer full of meat stays cold longer than a freezer full of baked goods. A half-full freezer will keep food safe for 24 hours, and a full freezer will keep food safe for 48 hours, according to the CDC.

If food contains ice crystals, you can refreeze it, although the quality and flavor may be affected. Test meats to ensure the temperature hasn’t risen to 40 degrees. Use your gut. If it looks like it’s in rough shape, toss it.

Cleaning · Dishwashers · FAQ · HOW TO

HOW TO: clean a dishwasher

Dishwasher suffering from that "not-so-fresh" feeling?

Most of us think of dishwashers as cleaning our dishes, but you should routinely clean your dishwasher, as well — especially if you’ve noticed a change in its performance. (I’m a huge advocate for performing regular maintenance on your appliances, just as you would your car, to maintain the life and — therefore — get the most out of your investment.)

Dishwasher detergent and food residue might buildup over time (especially if you use too much dishwasher soap and pre-rinse your dishes, which can leave white film on dishes). Clean out the filters and scrub the spray arm nozzles with a toothbrush to loosen any food residue clogged inside.
Then, the real secret of how to clean dishwashers is hiding in plain sight of your own cupboard: white vinegar.

Fill a cup with vinegar and put it in the top rack of the dishwasher (don’t add any soap to the dishwasher dispenser) and run the dishwasher as normal. Voila!

If you don’t have any vinegar (or the smell grosses you out), my brother swears by powdered citric acid in the dishwasher soap dispenser, and I’ve also heard of people successfully cleaning the dishwasher using Tang in the detergent dispenser.

Photo courtesy eHow.com

Appliance Design · cooking · FAQ · Ovens · Ranges

Convection oven baking tips

.christmas snowflake food
It's cookie season. Do you need to brush up on your convection baking knowledge?

 

Are you taking full advantage of your convection oven (if you don’t know what that is, read What is convection?)?

You probably already know to decrease your oven temperature 25 degrees and decrease the bake time about 25 percent for convection oven vs. conventional oven.

But if you already know how to use convection cooking — and you probably do if you partake in holiday baking and cookie exchanges — I bet you’ll still learn something from Dacor’s convection oven baking tips (PDF).

Also, if if your convection oven cooking times seem to be longer now than when you first bought your convection oven, perhaps you need to clean your convection filter.

In a convection oven, the fan draws air through the filter. So especially if you do a lot of roasting,  grease particles will stick to the filter and could obstruct the airflow. Check your use and care manual for instructions on how to clean your filter. Some, like Dacor convection oven filter, are dishwasher safe.

Cleaning · Dishwashers · FAQ · HOW TO

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishwashing detergent left in dispenser

My new baby (and yes, those are blue laminate countertops)

I got a new Asko dishwasher a couple of weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it: the way all my pots and pans fit, the stemware holders for my house’s wine habit, the knife holder for my vegetable habit.

Nothing comes out with a speck of food, and we no longer have to yell at each other over a tsunami of washing sounds. My life has improved two-fold. No more dishwasher problems.

Well, there was one. The Cascade Action Packs we had just bought on sale were getting stuck in the dispenser.

After reading the Use & Care manual (gold star for me), I noted that Asko recommends using powder detergent, and only about a tablespoon of it depending on the hardness of your water.

When I switched back to powder, everything was fine. But it’s not always as easy as switching dishwasher detergent.

If you still have caked detergent after running your dishwasher, try these dishwasher troubleshooting tips, adapted from Whirlpool Corp.

Was the dispenser cup wet when you added detergent?

If dispenser cup is wet, the detergent can clump. This also means that if there’s still detergent left in the cup, don’t think, “Oh, well now I don’t have to refill it!” Clean it out and start over.

Is the cycle incomplete?

If the previous cycle did not complete, the detergent can become caked in the dispenser cup if it is left sitting in the dishwasher. But this probably isn’t the cause for those with chronic detergent-caking issues. Again, clean the detergent from the cup and start over again.

Is the detergent old?

Older detergent exposed to air will clump and not dissolve well, which will cause the dispenser door to stick to the detergent. Buy new detergent, and this time, keep it in a tightly closed container (i.e. not the box with an open flap) in a cool dry place (i.e. not under your sink right next to the wall where your dishwasher runs hot!).

Is the water temperature too low?

For best washing and drying results, water should be 120oF (49o C) as it enters the dishwasher, so check your water heater setting. I also try to remember to run the kitchen sink tip until hot water comes out to help this.

Were items blocking the dispenser that kept it from opening?

Items blocking the detergent dispenser will keep it from opening. Make sure water action can reach the dispenser.

Other good (if not obvious) detergent guidelines

  • Use automatic dishwashing detergent only.
  • Add detergents just before starting the cycle.
    • I’m guilty of this. I’ll fill the detergent cup when I’m done with the night’s dishes so I only have to press the button before bed a few hours later. Don’t be like me.
  • The amount of detergent to use depends on the hardness of your water and the type of detergent.
    • If you use too little, dishes won’t be clean.
    • If you use too much in soft water, glassware will etch.
  • Your manufacturer’s suggested amount is based on standard powdered detergent, so follow instructions on the package when using liquid or concentrated powdered detergent.
  • Water hardness can change over a period of time. You can find out your water’s hardness for about $15 by calling Water Doctors.