Smoking Electric Stove Burners and How to Deal

Dear Home Ec 101,

I have lived in 3 apartments in the past 5 years and every single one has had smoking stove burners. At my first apartment, I thought maybe the burners just had some cleaner left on them from the last tenants so I took them out and cleaned them thoroughly with water. That didn’t help. Then I tried baking soda. That didn’t help either. I checked under the drip pans and cleaned everything that needed cleaning. Nothing worked. I could only cook with one burner. The rest smoked like crazy and even with the fan on, my tiny apartment got smoky. My 2nd apartment had and my current apartment has this problem as well. I already hate cooking and since I can only use one burner, it turns me off to cooking even more.

Any advice or explanation on why this happens?

Signed,
Smoked Out
Heather says:

You know the phrase your parents used to utter in complete exasperation, “And this is why we can’t have nice things?”

That’s pretty much it. I’d put money on the main, large burner being the only one that doesn’t smoke.

Why?

The other 3 burners have years of accumulated grease spatter.

You’ll notice that if you run your finger along the coil – WHEN IT IS OFF AND COMPLETELY COOL, but I didn’t really need to say that, did I? – that it is not completely smooth. All of the tiny crevices, nooks, and crannies on that surface are the perfect catch all for grease particles.

Electric BurnerYou know those burner covers that grandma had? The one with the roosters on that you chuckled at? They did more than countrify the kitchen, they kept grease from landing on the other heating elements. I’m betting the last tenants didn’t use them and weren’t particularly careful about cleaning up after cooking. The reason that one burner doesn’t smoke? It was the only one that regularly had a pan on it, protecting it from the grease splatter. Over time that grease builds up and every time the less used burners are turned on, the grease starts to smoke. So, you have a couple of options here.

1. Burn the grease off completely, but know that you’ll probably set off your smoke alarms, possibly annoy your neighbors, and may have to air out and vacate the kitchen for a while.

Don’t just crank those bad boys up to high. Wait for a breezy day, open all of the windows.Remove the coils from the stove and clean them thoroughly, use baking soda – as you mentioned – on any visible spots. DRY the coils thoroughly. Now thoroughly clean the stove, be sure to lift the top of the range and clean up any spills lurking beneath the burners. You absolutely do not want any grease lurking about for the next step, that could be a fire hazard.

Replace the burners.

Now if you have one, bring a fan into the room to help clear the air more quickly and don’t forget to turn on the range’s hood fan, too.

Turn the burners to high and stand back, but do NOT leave the room, yet. Wait until the burners stop smoking and turn them off. Wait a few extra minutes in the room to be 100% sure that a fire doesn’t start. No, it’s not exciting, but you really don’t want to have to see how nice the people who hold your renters’ insurance really are.

Once the stove has cooled to a safe point, go ahead and vacate the kitchen until the air has cleared.

Regular cleaning should prevent the need to do this in the future.

OR

2. Replace the electric burners, generally they are somewhere in the range of 11 -20 bucks each. Just make sure they match your appliance. You can easily search for these on Amazon or just call your local appliance repair store, they would be glad to help you out.

To prevent smoky electric burners, just keep them clean.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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