Most people have either seen or used an electric stove with drip pans wrapped in aluminum foil. This is a convenient strategy to keep a stove clean that a lot of people seem to use without problems, but the practice is a lot riskier than most realize.
Even though people have been wrapping electric-stove drip pans with foil for years, you can actually think of those who have done it without a problem as being extremely lucky. The risk of something bad happening is high, and it can be pretty awful.
What the Foil Is Supposed to Do
The foil is supposed to keep food and water off the drip pans. If a pan boils over, or if you drop some food that you're trying to spoon out of the pan, the foil will catch the drippings and stop them from hardening on the metal drip pan. It basically makes the pans much easier to keep clean because, even if something gets past the foil, there will be less of that stain-causing food that actually touches the metal.
Cooks tend to like to use foil because most of it will be recyclable when it's time to change the foil layer. Bits that are heavily stained may not be recyclable, but the rest of the foil can be balled up and tossed in the recycling bin.
What the Foil Really Can Do
Unfortunately, the foil can melt if it gets too hot. Flimsy foil meant for wrapping up your breakfast burrito is not made to withstand too much heat. Even though the foil can be used in an oven to cover food, the heat in the middle of the oven is nothing like the heat of a stove element on its highest setting merely centimeters from the foil. Even the lowest rack position in the oven gives a foil-wrapped potato more clearance than what is between an element and drip pan.
You can still place a metal pan on a stove element because the pan was designed to withstand that sort of heat. And using the metal drip pans is fine, too, because they're made of a thicker, harder metal like your cooking pans and won't melt from the heat of the stove element.
But when you place the foil over the drip pan, you also create a second layer that can heat up and trap that heat by the drip pan. The drip pan's heat plus the foil's heat can reflect back onto the underside of the heating element. Too much extra heat like that can damage the element.
Obviously, this hasn't happened to everyone. But it's kind of like driving without a seatbelt. Maybe you've done that safely many times, but if you encounter that one time when something bad happens, the consequences are much too great. Foil on a drip pan can also increase the risk of electric shock and also fire — do you really want to risk those injuries just to have slightly cleaner drip pans?
What to Do if You've Already Melted Foil
If you've ended up with melted foil on a drip pan only (that "only" is crucial), toss the drip pan and buy another. Generic pans cost a few dollars. However, if the melted foil is on the stovetop or, worse, on the element, don't use that burner.
Call an appliance repair service like CRC Appliance Repair Service to take a look at the element. Do not attempt to remove the foil yourself, as you could damage the element and create an even bigger fire risk. As for foil melted on the stovetop, the appliance repair techs can see if they can remove it without damaging your stovetop.
You can easily keep those drip pans clean without foil. Scrub them with baking soda and water weekly, and replace them as necessary. That is a lot easier than risking fire and damage all for the sake of a shorter cleaning time. For more information and help, contact us at CRC Appliance Repair Service.