A drip pan can refer to a few different things. The first is a metal pan that goes under a burner found on a range top on a gas or electric stove. Another type of drip pan is a metal pan that is placed underneath another pan when something is being cooked inside the oven, to prevent it from bubbling over and sticking to the sides of the oven or potentially catching on fire. In addition, grills will also frequently include a pan for catching grease drippings so they don't drop onto a deck or patio.
Each burner on an electric stove will feature a drip pan. Typically, the stove will come with a set of drip pans, but they will generally need to be replaced every six months to one year if food becomes burned or stuck on them and they become more difficult to clean. They may be found in most kitchen stores and are fairly inexpensive and typically relatively simple to replace. The most common colors for stovetop drip pans are black and silver because they do not show grease as easily; remember to remove them regularly and wash them to prevent food from building up if something spills out of a saucepan into the drip pan.
The second type of drip pan is used to prevent food that is cooking in the oven from overflowing onto the actual walls of the oven. Casseroles, for instance, frequently bubble over and cause messes that are difficult to remove, as well as food that has been placed under the broiler or in a roasting pan. An aluminum drip pan is most common; sometimes these are disposable, or one may just choose to use a regular baking sheet under a casserole dish rather than purchasing a designated pan to catch drips. Using a pan such as this while cooking can decrease clean-up time later; a disposable pan can simply be thrown away, or it is much easier to wash a pan than the inside of the oven.
Gas and charcoal grills also typically feature drip pans to catch grease drippings, which could potentially be damaging to a deck or patio if they were to fall on the ground. The drip pan that is attached to the grill should be removed and cleaned regularly to prevent build-up. If purchasing replacement drip pans for either a stove or grill, it is always best to purchase metal ones and avoid plastic, since plastic could easily melt if it came into contact with hot grease.