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Is it okay to plot the demise of my smooth top range?

I just bought a new house and with it came a Kenmore Elite fridge and smooth top stove/oven. I admit that (the smooth top) it was the first thing I noticed about the kitchen when I walked in but I loved the house so here I am. I've not tried it yet. I dread cooking on the thing really. It doesn't seem to have been taken good care of (the fridge too). I've cleaned the top with the special smooth top cleaner and there is still...stuff...goo...something on one of the burners. I've even tried scraping it with one of those, well, scrapers, they make for these things. I can't use my cast iron on it and I've become incredibly whiny about the entire issue. So I would love to hear from those who have an opinion on smooth tops. I've searched on the board a bit but I just would like a fresh take. I'm seriously considering selling it and buying something else but I'll give it a shot.

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  1. If I have to use electric I prefer the old style with the spiral heating elements. The smooth tops just have to waste more electricity. Why be so unhappy with something you use each day? Get a gas range, what you really need for cast iron.

    Can you hook up to natural gas or get a propane bottle or submarine installed? Gas saves money too

    1. What's the worst you can do, break it? Or maybe that would be the best you could do? ;-)

      Seriously, I've sorta lived with one of these, as we have a smooth top range at work. There it's practically a luxury compared with what most people have in what passes for a kitchen in their office, I suspect. The key thing: the bottom of your pan must be absolutely flat. The funniest thing I've ever done on the office smooth top is try to boil some corn on the cob. We had an old enameled steel pot in the cabinet, perfect right? Well it was crazy warped and I basically had to stand there and hold one end down to keep it in contact enough for the water to heat enough. Hehehe. It did work though, came out not too bad.

      So, flat bottoms, nothing warped. And it won't quickly react to heat changes, certainly not as quickly as gas, and maybe not even as quickly as the old fashioned electric elements. Be prepared for that. Otherwise, though, it does work. Cast iron actually should be a fine material to use; just be gentle. (Or, if you're still desperate to get rid of the thing, don't be gentle, and you'll be rid of it right quick! ;-) Since cast iron doesn't react quickly to heat changes anyway, it should be right at home on a cooktop that doesn't react quickly. Just don't bang it down on the burner. No problem.

      It'll take some trial and error to see what heat levels you need, but this is true of any range for me, certainly any electric. Whatever is baked onto the ceramic top isn't likely going to be a huge issue except visually. Certainly these are valid reasons to get something else if you want. If you already have gas in the house, there may be a gas outlet just waiting for you to make that decision. In my opinion, the smooth top is not so much of a detriment vs the coil electric to warrant throwing this out and getting the coil type. So I would think the choice is either keep it or get gas. If the house isn't already plumbed for gas in the kitchen, or worse if it has no gas at all, this is a significant undertaking.

      3 Replies
      1. re: CrazyOne

        I haven't done this in a while since I now cook with a gas stove, but whenever I would get stains on the smooth top electric burners, I would try and burn it off. It works surprisingly well. Turn the stovetop on high and allow the caked on material to disolve. The residual would usually wipe clean with a damp rag afterwards.

        1. re: Bhutani

          I use a straight blade to scrape crap off my stupid flat top. i also use my cast iron..but i rent so i don't care. one day a gas top is coming my way and i can't wait.

          1. re: Bhutani

            Interesting! A girl at work told me about this method just this morning!

        2. You have a smooth top range, cast iron cookware, and the smooth top isn't broken? You could/should do better

          1 Reply
          1. re: rich in stl

            Well, I've always been a bit of an under-achiever.

          2. Oh just drop something really heavy on that thing and break it badly enough to have to replace it and get a gas cook top. Icky, phooh, feh nasty thing. The inventor should be condemed to eternity cooking on the nasty thing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Candy

              Or, better yet, put it on Craig's List. One man/womans "meat" is another's "poison."

            2. I moved to a town with no gas 8 years ago. The smooth top did take some getting used to. I did use my cast iron carefully, just don't shake the pan. Calphalon non stick and kitchenaid or cuisinart stainless work great. The key is flat bottom. The ones with a thick steel/aluminum sandwich that does not warp when it heats up. Each round area has a different size and heat rating. If a pan is too small, not covering the heat source it is a waste of energy. It is really good when you need a low setting, put a large pot on the smallest burner and set to low. Can simmer corned beef for 4 hours easily.
              For cleaning we use either bon ami or barkeepers friend and a scraper with replaceable single edge razor blades.

              7 Replies
              1. re: phantomdoc

                Please forgive my dumb question (I have been fighting with my smooth top!! and bought the barkeepers -but not working so wonderful) -where are you buying the scraper? I live in small town and have not seen that at Walmart...and I remain a tad nervous about scratching it. Thanks-

                1. re: dklipscomb

                  I do not remember buying the scraper but I get the blades at Home Depot. Hardware store would be first place to look.

                  1. re: dklipscomb

                    Cerama-Bryte is sold at Lowe's, Wal-Mart, etc and it comes alone or with a small putty-type knife/scraper. Plus thin yellow scratchy pads to use.
                    It cleans up beautifully but it needs to be cleaned after every use. If a pot boils over it stains. Any little drips I wipe up quickly.
                    Barkeepers friend works great too- just make a paste and rub, rub, rub.
                    I wouldn't use cheap pans that are painted, but I have no problem with stock pots that are a little warped. My flat top gets VERY HOT so I rarely cook over 6 unless it's to boil water fast or quick-dry fry things. There was no gas option in this area, so we were stuck with electric when we picked this neighborhood. I miss gas cooking.
                    Anyway you have to clean it daily (I make my husband do it, he's got really good upper body strength and it always gleams)
                    You want to use the right size pan for the burner-that's sort of basic logic.
                    If you really hate it I'm sure you could sell it- they are much nicer visual option than the coil electric burner, and like I said they get very hot, very fast. (Mine is a Kenmore)

                    1. re: dklipscomb

                      I got my scraper thing at Lowe's but I also saw it at Wal-Mart.

                      1. re: dklipscomb

                        I just use a regular old razor blade, and then clean it with the cleaner that you can buy anywhere for glass top ranges.

                        1. re: phantomdoc

                          There is no gas in my area, and for me the smooth top is infinitely better than the old electric coil stove I used to have. I could never keep the coil stove clean enough for my liking, and when things boiled over I had to contend with the drip pans and all the gunk underneath the stove top, not to mention all the stuff that stuck on the coils themselves that can't be cleaned at all. When I bought my smooth top stove I was forced to buy all new pots and pans (wasn't sad about this at all!) I gave up the copper bottomed, glass, and enamel pots that I used to use in exchange for Calphalon joy. I replaced my Williams-Sonoma cast iron grill with a Calphalon grill works which just as well -- and the old grill still works great for outdoor cooking.

                          The scraper thingie is just a holder for a razor blade, most of the time I just wipe down the top with a soft dishcloth. I was out of the stove cleaner once and found that plain old baking soda did a fine job cleaning the carbon build-up from spill-over. I just made a paste of baking soda and left it on while I did some other cleaning, then wiped it clean. I love the smooth top!

                        2. Why can't you use cast iron on it? I had one for several years and frequently used cast iron on it with no ill effect. I finally ended up selling it because my new kitchen didn't have a 220 for it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: beth1

                            That's just what I've been told/read all over the internet. But lots of people with smooth tops go on and use their cast iron anyway. And I'm certain that I will because I love my skillets too much.

                          2. Thanks to all who have given their counsel. I appreciate it! I admit that Im hoping that the thing just stops working but I will give it a shot (ha!). Crazyone, I tried replying to your post but it kept giving me an error message.

                            I'm off to look at the bottom of all of my pots and pans to see if they are absolutely flat.

                            1. What kind of a question is that? Get rid of any appliance you don't like and spend enough money on your replacements to make you happy. As I like to tell DH, I use my appliances every day, and living for five to fifteen (or more) years with an appliance you hate will just cause you irritation everytime you use it.

                              When I moved into this house, I found electric coils, and I had previously only cooked on gas for my whole life. I burned everything, and when it starting sparking one day -- out it went. I have a great smooth top now and I have loved it for over four years. You will find that it is a really nice cooktop and that temperature is much easier to regulate than what you might imagine. It also doubles as a pseudo countertop when not in use, but you do need to be careful about what you bang or drag on it. Be sure to choose black of grey when you buy your replacement. White is for masochists, I think. Would I prefer gas? Not sure. I cook with cast iron, grills, woks, griddles, everything, and I don't miss it as much as I thought. In fact, I am sorry I didn't consider induction too, since that is where everything seems to be headed with respect to technology. It sounds like your smooth top has had a hard life, so maybe a new one might make you happy.

                              You will need good pots with flat bottoms. Disk based stainless steel or enameled or regular cast iron work well. To test, put the pot on a flat surface and see if it spins. If it does, get rid of it. It is dangerous on a hot burner with food in it. It will also cook unevenly. You can also use a high quality clad pan, like All Clad or Cuisinart Multi-clad. I have found disk bottoms work best, and I am especially fond of Paderno Grand Gourment and Demeyere (found at Sur Le Table). They are expensive, like All clad. I have been disappointed with some of the Calphalons and All Clad LTD due to warping, which is a hazard on this type if cooktop.

                              1. Yes it is OK to plot the demise of your smooth top range. I lived with one for 8 years because we lived in the country and did not have gas. About a year ago we moved into town and I bought a nice 8 year old Thermador gas range. The house that came with it was pretty nice, too.

                                As far as its demise, I think I'd start with a 22 ounce framing hammer. Hit it in the very center first. If that does not work, try a 5 pound sledge hammer...

                                1 Reply
                                1. "Is it okay to plot the demise of my smooth top range? "

                                  Absolutely! The sooner you do this, the happier you'll be.

                                  I moved into a house in the mid-80s with a builder-type smooth cooktop-oven combo that I despised for numerous reasons. I dropped a gigantic stockpot on it and solved my problem efficiently and quickly.
                                  (The stockpot was too large to fit under the top small oven ........... just one more thing to hate about this unsatisfactory "Suzy Homemaker" setup.)

                                  Another poster recommended a sledge hammer .............. that would work as well if not better than the stockpot, but I used what I had at hand. Get it the Hell outta Dodge. You'll be happier, your blood pressure will return to norma, you'll be able to cook with your cast iron again and world peace will ensue. Life is too short to spend it with things you hate (and have the means to change). "Don't sweat stuff that money can fix" became my motto after I was widowed.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Sherri

                                    That's a great motto, Sherri. Yes, this set up has a microwave oven directly over the stove/oven and there isn't a light so you can see what's cooking on your smooth top. I'm not much of a microwaver (I use it to melt butter for recipes and really that's about it) so that may be coming out soon.

                                  2. We have a smooth top and a gas top stove in our kitchen. For me, both have their merits: The gas is great for high temp ccoking, using a wok, etc. while the smooth top is useful for simpler cooking like grilled cheese, boiling water, reheating, etc. Th eissue with the old dtyle coils is trying to keep the stove clean (those "pans" underneath seem to have a life of about 1 month).

                                    1. Why would you dread cooking on it, for heaven's sake? If there is stuff on it, take a clean razor blade and scrape it off (try and get underneath the "goo", don't slash at it). My cast iron works just grand on my smooth top. Yes, gas responds more quickly, so what? Learn to use the electric and you will be fine. I don't understand what your specific problem is. . .what makes you get incredibly whiny about it?

                                      1. Gourmanda, I tried responding directly to your post but it gives me an error message. Not sure why I can respond to some messages and not others. Anyway, I was just being silly and light-hearted about the smooth top for the most part. I grew up with electric stoves (though not smooth tops) and am quite familiar with cooking on them. In fact, I'm less familiar with cooking with gas. I will be cooking on this smooth top soon and am sure I will develop my own opinions about it. I dread cooking on it because I've heard more negative comments about smooth tops than postive. Nonetheless, I will "learn to use the electric." I don't really have a problem I was just asking for comments from fellow hounds. As for the being whiny, well, that's my prerogative. :)

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Boudleaux

                                          Boudleaux, not sure why you were getting an error message either--tho' sometimes I do have issues with logging on to "My Chow".

                                          Gotcha-- sorry if I was a little hostile, guess I didn't notice that your tongue was, indeed, planted in your cheek ;) Personally, I like my smooth top as it looks nice and is easy to clean (once cleared of previous owner's "goo", of course). I hope you enjoy it and that your cast iron pans will love their new home. You might find, however, that one burner heats considerably faster than the others, you can either adjust your cooking accordingly or see if you can take of the knob and make a slight adjustment that (similar to adjusting an oven knob). Wishing you many happy meals to come....

                                          1. re: gourmanda

                                            Thanks! I appreciate the input. I'm going to put a little more elbow grease into it this weekend using the advice gained here and test it out!

                                        2. You may think this is crazy, but since the burners are already covered by the flat top, why not cook on them like a grill? I do this all the time. I find the burner comes on immediately when I turn it on, the surface heats up immediately and cools down when I turn down the burner. Okay, maybe I wouldn't touch the burner, but it certainly stops cooking eggs too quickly as soon as I turn down the burner.

                                          It's so much easier to just scrape the top with a razor blade than to do dishes! The blade doesn't scratch the surface either. I know, I'm a bit of a rebel, but I LOVE my flat top cos I can just cook right on it! No more pans!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: nancytoday

                                            Now coming up on 10 years with glasstop. My cast iron works fine since I learned to turn the heat control to 1/2. No visible wear although some discoloring. Had an old Revere ware saucepan that had warped and Revere replaced it with a flat one for free. I thought that it would be a problem but I can get good heat and mild heat when I need it. It took a little getting used to but not a problem anymore. I was never a real wok user and I do not see a way to do this.

                                          2. Life is too short to cook on a stove you hate.

                                            "Accidentally" drop your heaviest cast iron on the smooth top monster from as high as you can get. You might have to repeat with additional force until it breaks.

                                            Then go buy a gas stove that you can use with bottled gas and hook it up. Probably not a DIY job but will be worth the expense.

                                            1. Two of my girls have had smooth top ranges, both of them have had two different ones, neither like them nor do any of us that try to cook on them. One daughter now has gas, the other is plotting the demise of hers. The one plotting the demise, insists the glass top range has warped all of the pots and pans she owns, some were my mother's old Revere Ware, that had survived 50+ years on a gas stove with no problems. Her problems may be related to the tendency to turn up the heat to compensate for the slow response time.

                                              My wife and duaghters make a lot of candy for the Holidays and this is all but impossible on a glass top stove. And don't even get a granual of sugar on it, as that could be perminate. No one in our family likes cooking on one. Although I hear that people that don't actually cook, just love them.

                                              1. I, too, am plotting the demise of my smooth top stove. Meanwhile - BAKING SODA

                                                Try a baking soda paste on the remaining burnt-on spots. Tried this out of desperation after working, unsucessfully, thru ALL the other products. Let it sit for a few hours, then go back and buff out the spot. Perhaps the slight alkalinity breaks down the spot, but it was amazing- Looked like new, so I was no longer embarrassed by the top. Now plans have changed from 5 lb sledge to passive-aggressive waiting ---

                                                1. To clean it... just Bar Keepers' Friend and a sponge. Goodness knows how much stuff I've burned on to the burner part of my smooth top range, and BKF gets it off every time, shining as good as new. As far as the scrapers go... a razor blade that goes into box cutters works fine and is much cheaper.

                                                  Good news! You CAN use cast iron on your smooth top range. I do all the time and it works beautifully. The reason the manufacturer recommends against cast iron is because the surface of a cast iron skillet or pot is slightly irregular, and if you slide it across the top of the range, you stand a good chance to permanently scratch up your range. So, if you're going to use cast iron, make sure you lift it off the burner before moving it.