I recently cleaned up after a long-term houseguest, only to discover that my range and stove (and pans) were a mess. I grew up in a scientific family, and my father was a chemist, and one of the early jobs I had as a child was cleaning glassware.
Now, we all know about chemical reactions, and anything less than squeaky-clean equipment will react with food, creating off flavors. So, when faced with a big, greasy mess (which, let's face it, happens to all of us) what do we do? And how do we keep it from happening too often?
First of all, you should clean your equipment regularly. This means not just your range top, but disassembling the range to clean burner pans, elements, and underneath the range top (on most ranges, you can lift up the top, and there will be a latch to hold the top elevated while you clean). This also means cleaning your oven. On self-cleaning ovens, you should run the self-cleaning cycle at least once a month (more if you have a tendency to be messy). I clean my range top, underneath the top, and burner pans weekly.
If you clean regularly, you will need little more than mild soap (I use Dr. Bronner, which is safe enough to brush your teeth with) and water. Some people prefer other cleaners. But what to do if your broiler or burner pan is a mess, with burned-on grease?
I discovered the answer to this last Monday, my regular cleaning day. I had run out of every other cleaner (my houseguest was pretty messy) and I hadn't made it to the store yet. So, in desperation, I pulled out a bottle of Pine-Sol original. And to my astonishment, a little full-strength Pine-Sol on a paper towel cleaned off my broiler pan so easily I could hardly believe my eyes.
Obviously, unless you are accustomed to drinking gallons of retsina, you will want to rinse everything extremely thoroughly to avoid any unpleasant reactions with food later (and it's probably not really safe to consume, anyway). But the Pine-Sol worked even on those parts of the oven that receive a few spills but are not cleaned with the self-cleaning feature. It also cleaned burner pans I thought were beyond repair, and burned-on food underneath the range top.
For weekly cleanings, a paste of baking soda (yes, that is safe to consume) and water should do the trick, or Dr Bronner will work, too. But if you've been neglecting your equipment, Pine-Sol made my greasy mess clean enough for a showroom!