Don’t wait until the grates are glued to the stovetop by a mix of fish sauce, olive oil and breadcrumbs. Clean on a regular basis! A pro advises how to do it—naturally.
As is true of laundry, a cook’s stovetop doesn’t exactly take care of itself as time goes by. Tiny drops morph into bigger spills, and a Jackson Pollock-worthy scene of splatters and droplets will manifest in all the colors of the rainbow.
Isabel Theriot, owner of Eco Clean Cleaning Service in New Orleans, had advice on how home cooks could get around most major cleaning problems, no matter your style of stovetop. Theriot uses only all-natural products, as many home cooks prefer in the kitchen, but it’s worth noting that the USDA is still a big fan of a diluted bleach and water (one tablespoon bleach per a gallon of water) for kitchen surfaces, including the fridge.
Among Theriot’s favorite products is Bon Ami, which she says is sort of an organic Comet. (The product has lots of fans among home cooks.) If something is really caked on, she says, she’ll spray it with vinegar and “walk away from it and do something else for 20 minutes.” White vinegar, she insists, is “really great for breaking down stuff.” She’ll typically do a mix of 60 percent vinegar, 40 percent water, and a few drops of essential oil to counter that whopping, heady vinegar aroma. (If something is particularly difficult, she’ll increase the percentage of vinegar—or the elbow grease.)
You want to really be careful not to scratch a glass surface, notes Theriot, so stick to moist rags and hard work—along with Bon Ami and a vinegar solution.
The ubiquitous green scrubber scouring pads are just the thing for metal ranges, says Theriot, but if you’ve been cleaning once a week or every time you cook, as she does, you can get away with a regular rag. Stick to the same Bon Ami and vinegar solution.
It’s so easy to forget about those grates, but removable gas burner grates should be cleaned regularly, too. “You can make good detergent with castile soap, water and essential oil,” says Theriot, who will take them off completely, washing them with detergent, water and essential oil. If the situation is dire, she’ll break out the Bon Ami and a scouring pad, and warns that sometimes “you’re not gonna get everything off if it’s really burned on there.” But you can try: Wipe your stovetop down completely and let those grates sit overnight in vinegar and water, then rinse it off with water and a rag the next day. (There are also easy ways to remove and clean electric coils, but you’ve got to be careful.)
The most important thing? Make sure there’s no food or liquid left on your stovetop every time you cook, says Theriot. “I’m really anal; I don’t let anything stick.” Words to live by—and one way to avoid the dreadful sinking feeling of “What is that?” when you return to your stove the next day.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Gourmet, and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen.