Do not fear what lurks beneath those coils
If there’s one thing that really annoys me in a kitchen, it’s those corroded circular burner electric stoves. I’m sure good versions of the stove exist, but I’ve only encountered cheap ones that reside in college dorms and old New York City apartments. They’re inconsistently hot, often slanted or bent, and—worst of all—always have food stuck deep inside them. Unlike a gas stove, the burner grates of which can simply be lifted and wiped, electric stoves are connected to electricity (those connections can be difficult to unhook, especially if your stove is on the older side), making it nearly impossible to clean quickly at the end of the night. Unfortunately, if you want to clean your electric stove, you’re going to have to disconnect those coils somehow. And trust me, you want to clean that stove. Just imagine how good you’ll feel when it’s finished.
If there’s a lot of really gross bits of food caked onto the coils, the first thing you can do is try to burn it off. Turn on all the burners and wait for the kitchen to smell like a mistake. If you have a fan over the stove, turn it on high, and open a few windows if you can as well. Once all the larger pieces of food have charred off, wait for the burners to cool completely, then rub them off with a dish towel or paper towel.
Remove the electrical grates (they should twist and pop out, but if you’re having issues, consult your stove’s manual). Using a barely damp dish towel with a spot of dish soap, rub off any excess charred food and other gunk from the grates.
If there are more stubborn bits of food stuck to the grates, make a paste using a few spoonfuls of baking soda and water. Spread the paste onto the gunk-covered bit and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rub off the paste (and, hopefully, any remaining gunk) using a wet scrubby sponge.
Let the burners dry completely—I’ll say it once again: completely—before reconnecting the grates to the stove. Water + electricity = bad. Wait at least an hour or so, and don’t put anything at risk. Grab a pan and make yourself an egg or something, you’ve definitely worked up an appetite.