When nonstick surface evaporates
By mistake I turned on the burner on which my empty nonstick frying pan was resting on, and only minutes later did I discover the error. I knew of the error from the smell and the sight of a little bit of smoke coming off the pan (it may have been from a small amount of oil not completely cleaned and/or whatever chemicals are used to create the nonstick surface).
When I cooled off the pan, and cleaned it, I noticed that it didn't appear to have the same surface look as it had previously. The surface doesn't have the "chips" of surface material that sometimes afflict old nonstick cookware, but doesn't have the same nonstick quality any longer.
I have found that I CAN use if for sauteeing (I do not risk cooking eggs in it!) and frying, and food doesn't seem to stick that much, but I wonder now that the same nonstick coating has evaporated due to my overheating misadventure, if the pan should be deemed safe to use. I wonder if the sauteeing might absorb whatever chemicals are no longer bonded even though I don't notice any taste difference in the food. (I also like to have a reason to explain the "off taste" in my cooking if such a complaint should arise and be directed against my cooking skills.)
I'm not getting the nonstick advantages, but otherwise it works ok. (I hate throwing out anything that still has some purpose of use!) My new Caphalon nonstick (anodized surface) pan surface width is 10 inches and is great for cooking complicated and involved dishes such as the baigan bharta I made the other night, but this pan is 8 inches wide which is more suitable for smaller batches of sauteed food.
I actually never heard of non stick evaporating- you must have one hot burner. I'm no expert or anything but I think that if you don't keep the heat on it too high anymore the pan may be safe to use. I have heard though that the fumes released when you overheat an empty nonstick can be very toxic.
No mystery, believe me. This same thing happened to me before with other nonstick items, which I did throw out.
If you place an averaged price nonstick piece of cooking equipment on an electric burner, and turn the heat up to high, and keep the heat on an empty nonstick surface, the used surface will be affected. In my case, I thought I had cleaned the surface completely, but I may have had some oil perhaps still left. In any case, in both situations, when I smelled something from a distant room, I ran to my kitchen, saw I had turned on the wrong burner, and noticed that the pan had some smoke coming from its surface. I let it cool, and it was never the same - it lost the nonstick ability.
My conclusion was that the nonstick material had been heated off.
Instructions for the use of nonstick material do state to only use medium heat. For good reason.