I know I can use oven-cleaner but it's extremely caustic. And I don't want to wear myself out scrubbing. Is there another way?
Use Sodium Bicarbonate, or baking power.
- make a thick paste, by adding a small quantity tape water
- Cake it onto the gunk. Leave it for an hour or so
- Come back and scrub it off -- maybe using salt as a abrasive.
It works on the exact same principles the oven cleaner does, but it is much weaker.
I used it for quiet a while til I realized oven cleaner does it much better and faster. But the oven cleaner does leave me coughing.
I always find a lot of gunk shifts much easier once it is warm or hot. So start to heat the top and then try cleaning it (taking care not to burn yourself).
Use a green plastic scouring pad. These are very effective. You can rub very hard without the fear of scratching or discoloring the surface. Use plastic tools, push hard repeatedly, and attempt to chip away. Spray degreaser on the area, let it soak, then try again later.
Use a sturdy fork to chip off most of it, until you can see patches of enamel showing through. Then spread a layer of hand soap over the area, and lay a wet cloth over it to prevent drying.
In half an hour, return, and use the cloth to wipe off the loosened gunk. There may be a little left, which you can easily scrub off, or repeat the above procedure.