Many kitchens are equipped with a variety of small cooking appliances. This Fix-It Guide on cooking appliance repair tells how a cooking appliance works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a cooking appliance problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to disassemble and test a cooking appliance, how to adjust the heat control, and how to service the heat control. So whether you need griddle repair, electric fry pan repair, electric fondue pot repair, waffle iron repair, pizza oven repair, roasting oven repair, sandwich maker repair, or other small cooking appliance repair, this is the place to start. This Fix-It Guide also refers to electrical cord repair, heating element repair, and thermostat repair.
How Does a Cooking Appliance Work?
Cooking appliances are designed to cook food at changeable temperatures. In some units, the temperature control is permanently attached to the appliance; the unit cannot be immersed in water for cleaning. Those with removable controls often can be immersed with the controls detached. Some units with built-in controls have removable electric cords and some have built-in non-removable cords.
Small cooking grills have one element and no thermostat to regulate temperature. Sandwich makers and waffle irons have two cooking surfaces with internal heating elements; cooking temperature is regulated by a built-in thermostat. In some cases the elements are exposed (you can actually see them turn red hot) or covered (you can’t see the element, but you can feel the heat).
What Can Go Wrong with a Cooking Appliance?
Many things can go wrong with these cooking appliances. Fortunately, most of the units are relatively simple in design and simple to fix. For example, the electrical cord may malfunction. The heating element may be broken. The terminal pins on detachable cords may be faulty. The thermostat may malfunction. Internal wiring may have a short circuit. Other internal parts may be damaged or not working properly.
Make sure you read the cooking appliance owner’s manual before trying to clean it. Some can be immersed in water (though typically not put in a dishwasher) while others have nonstick surfaces that only require wiping with a damp cloth. Don’t immerse any part of the unit in water unless the manufacturer says it’s okay.
How Can I Identify a Cooking Appliance Problem?
In most cases, the problem is obvious. The cause of the problem may be a little more difficult to identify.
- If the appliance does not heat, make sure that power is on at the outlet and test the electrical cord; replace the cord if needed. If this doesn’t work, disassemble the unit and test the heating element.
- On appliances that have removable power cords, inspect the terminal pins (see below). Test the thermostat; if it doesn’t work properly, carefully use contact cleaner and a brush to remove any food residue.
- If the appliance heats on one side only, test each heating element and replace any defective element. While you have the cooking appliance open, check the internal wiring (see below).
- If the cooking appliance does not heat to the proper temperature, check the thermostat contacts. Some cooking appliances have an adjustment to reset the temperature ranges; you’ll need the owner’s manual to do this job.
The majority of problems with cooking appliances are caused by food. Pancake batter is especially tough on controls, seeping into crevices, then cooking into a hard mass.
What Do I Need for Cooking Appliance Repair?
With basic tools and a multimeter you can test and replace many components on cooking appliances. Replacement parts can be purchased from the appliance manufacturer or various aftermarket suppliers. These are the tools you’ll need:
- Small file
- Fine sandpaper
- Brass brush
- Contact cleaner
What Are the Steps to Cooking Appliance Repair?
Disassemble and test a cooking appliance:
- Unplug the unit from the electrical outlet.
- For appliances with a removable cord, use contact cleaner, fine sandpaper, a small file or emery board, or a brass brush to carefully clean the terminal pins located where the cord connects to the appliance.
- Remove screws and/or clips to access controls on the unit or the removable cord. Clean the controls with contact cleaner, sandpaper, or file, being careful not to damage them or loosen parts.
- Remove screws and/or clips to access the heating element . Use a multimeter to test for continuity and replace any faulty element.
- To adjust the heat control, follow the steps below.
- To service the heat control, follow the steps below.
Adjust a cooking appliance heat control:
- Use a candy thermometer to verify the appliance’s actual heat against its indicated heat. If the cooking appliance cooks with liquids (fry pan, wok, etc.), add water to the half-mark to test.
- Adjust the heat indicator on the control or adjust the temperature-adjustment screw (if available) to match the unit’s actual heat.
- Recheck the actual temperature against the indicated temperature and readjust as needed.
Service a cooking appliance heat control:
- Unplug the control and open the housing. Set a multimeter on RX1 (resistance times 1) and touch the thermostat terminals with the probes. In the on position, the meter should read near zero ohms.
- Clean any contacts to remove food or corrosion, then polish with fine sandpaper or steel wool. If the contacts have only a little debris, use contact cleaner.
- If the heat control still doesn’t work correctly, replace it with an exact replacement part.
Use colored nail polish to mark small appliances and their respective detachable cords. Otherwise you might wind up with a drawer of cords and not be sure which plug-in cord goes with which small cooking appliance.