Le Creuset + Melted Plastic + Eating Poision
I was in the midst of browning meat for a stew recipe with my Le Creuset pot. I finished the first batch of meat and removed it from the pan, and then took my new nonstick oxo tongs to the pan to remove some of the darkened stuck meat bits to prevent burning.
Then I looked at the nonstick tongs and realized that about 1/4 of the tip had melted off, and that there was blackened plastic all over the pan! Then there was lots of smoke! Then the fire department arrived.
After the nice fireman left, I browned the rest of the meat and onions in a different pan while I scrubbed out the Le Creuset. Unfortunately, now there is dark marking on the bottom of the pan and some minor flaking. I got it pretty clean though- the inside of the pan was smooth to the touch, but then I continued on with the recipe (it's still going).
We've got the windows airing out the kitchen, but I'm worried that the meal might now contain some toxic plastic. The meat never came into contact with the melted tongs, but if toxic chemicals are still in the Le Creuset or somehow penetrated it (there were a bunch of tiny shallow pin-sized holes in the enamel after I finished cleaning) that I'm going to eat poison.
I'm guessing that the tong tips are nylon. People have been using nylon spatulas for years. If you have one, look at the bottom edge. It probably is beveled from melting. Nylon is used in various surgical applications, including sutures. Medical nylon may be purer than that used for cooking utensils, but I don't recall any scares or rumors regarding nylon.
I agree with the other two posters; if you drop dead tomorrow, I'll be astonished. The lesson here is that metal and wood products are best for jobs requiring heat, in my opinion. Yeah, yeah, I know you're not supposed to use metal tongs in LC products or non-stick products, but I can assure you that if you're careful you will have no problems. Tongs are used for turning items after all, not stirring them.
Thanks everyone. We ate the food and did not die yet, so hopefully worst case scenario we lost some brain cells from the smoke. I don't think the meat ended up absorbing any smoke directly, as we had removed the meat from the pan prior to any smoking. Then the windows were opened so quickly that the meat had as much chance of smoke absorption as the bananas on the other side of the kitchen did.
We're going to go ahead and get some replacement wood utensils.
Been there....but not on the cooking surface. Making some grilled sandwiches and had my long slotted spat and rested it for what seemed like 6 seconds on the edge of the skillet. That started melting before I even knew it.
I pay more attention when using nylon tools since that day.
How hot did you have your burner? Since cast iron has so much heat capacity, you actually shouldn't kick the burner much higher than the halfway mark most of the time - that might have contributed to the situation.
I agree with others that the nylon is probably not a big concern, but that these days I like silicone better than nylon where possible.
Also, I use metal tongs in my le creuset all the time. Just don't got scraping away at the surface with them and you'll be fine.