Gas stoves have some advantages over electric cooktops when it comes to cooking meals. Experienced cooks like the precise control offered by stoves with gas burners and some cooks refuse to cook with anything else. But gas stoves lose their effectiveness when the gas ports on the burners become clogged, interfering with the flow of gas. A clogged gas burner will give off a weak flame—or in some cases, no flame at all if the burner is badly soiled. Fortunately, it's a fairly easy matter to clean gas burners.
How Gas Burners Work
The burners on your gas stovetop consist of a burner assembly attached to a small gas intake valve on the front or top of the stove, which is connected in turn to the main gas line. Turning the burner control knob opens the intake valve, allowing gas to flow through the venturi tube—a wide pipe that narrows in the center. The gas enters the venturi through one of the wide ends and its pressure increases as it passed into the narrow section of the tube. As the gas passes back into the second wide section of the tube, the pressure lessens, drawing in air through a small hole in the bottom of the tube. The air mixes with the gas and flows into the burner.
The burner head itself is just a hollow metal disk with holes or slots in the outside edge. Many burners are designed with a metal or ceramic cap that sits atop the burner head, which serves to diffuse and direct the flames emerging from the burner head. A standing pilot light (on older stoves) or an electric spark pilot is located on one side of the burner, and it sends a small flame or spark to ignite the air-gas mixture as it flows through the holes in the burner. Adjusting the control knob governs the volume of the air-gas mixture, thereby controlling the intensity of the flame.
How Often to Clean Your Stove's Gas Burners
The system is remarkably simple and trouble-free. Difficulties arise only when the flow of gas becomes hindered, which is most often caused when food residue spills over the sides of pots and pans and clogs the ports around the perimeter of the burner heads. Left unattended, this food residue can become quite hard and difficult to remove. The best rule of thumb is to clean the gas burners whenever the flame becomes irregular or exhibits a yellow color. Barring that, cleaning the burners once each month is probably sufficient.
What You Need
There is some variation in how manufacturers recommend cleaning the burner heads on a gas stove, but these materials will work for most stoves:
How to Clean the Burners on a Gas Stove
Read the Manufacturer's Instructions
Knowing what kind of care is best for your appliance will go a long way in protecting your investment. The product manual that comes with your cooktop will help you know which areas are safe to remove for cleaning, making your job a much easier one. The manual may even suggest recommended cleaning products (or products or ingredients to avoid). This can be a good starting point in learning how to clean and unclog your burners. If you no longer have the printed manual, there is a good chance you can download it from the manufacturer's online site.
Remove the Burner Caps
If you have an older cooktop with a standing pilot light, you'll need to shut off the gas valve before you begin. Many gas burners have a removable ceramic disc that sits atop the burner, serving to diffuse the flames. If so, simply lift this disc off the burner (naturally, you should make sure the burners are completely cool before doing this).
Remove the Burner Heads
Beneath the caps, the burner head sits atop the venturi tube. Remove the burner heads by lifting straight up. Take care not to bend or damage the ignition electrode if your stove uses this design.
Soak the Parts
Soak the burner heads and caps in a mixture of soap and warm water for about 20 to 30 minutes. This will help loosen debris that is hardened on.
Scrub the Burner Heads and Caps
Using a non-abrasive scrub pad and an old toothbrush, scrub away food stains from all surfaces of the burner heads and caps. If debris remains in the port openings, use a straightened paper clip to dig it out, but take care not to damage the metal. Don't try to dig around too deeply in the portholes; you are simply trying to unclog them. Never use a toothpick because there is a risk that the wooden pick will break and further clog the ports.
For extremely stubborn stains, make a paste of 1 part baking soda and 1 part water. Apply it to the surfaces of the burner heads and caps, and scrub with a non-abrasive pad and toothbrush. This may take repeated applications, but it will usually remove even the most stubborn stains.
Warning: Never use bleach or steel wool to clean stove burner parts.
Rinse the Parts
Rinse all parts thoroughly under running water, shake them to remove excess water, then dry them with a cloth. Allow all the parts to air-dry completely before reassembling the burners. As they are drying, you can turn to cleaning the other parts of the stove, such as the grills and drip pans. The same soak-and-scrub method will clean these parts, as well.
Reassemble the Burners
When they are completely dry, reassemble the drip pans, burner heads, caps, and grills. On electronic ignition stoves, take care not to bend or damage the ignition electrodes as you reinstall the burner heads.
Relight the pilots. On stoves with standing pilot lights, follow the manufacturer's instructions for relighting the pilot flames. Test the burners to make sure they operate correctly. Unusual flame color or shape may indicate the burner heads are not completely dry or that the caps are not seated correctly over the burner heads.
Your stove is now ready for your next gourmet cooking session.