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Mar 4, 2010 11:07 AM

Grease fire in nonstick-coated broiling pan... safe to use?

I recently got this Chicago Metallic roasting/broiling pan:

The first time I used it was to broil some home-made lamb sausages, not thinking that the flash point of animal fat is well under 500 degrees, and the rack in the broiling pan meant a lot of fat collecting in the bottom. Three minutes later, I have a grease fire. I brought the pan out to our stone patio and the fire was out within a couple minutes.

My question is whether or not such a fire likely rendered the pan unusable. It looks totally fine, there's no visible damage to the nonstick coating, but I'm concerned that the fire could have destabilized the coating in such a way that chemicals could leech out into the food. The pan claims the coating is much more heat resistant than normal nonstick, and I don't think grease fires burn very hot, but I'm still wary.

Anyone here an authority on such things that would care to weigh in?

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  1. I want to caution to not ever again carry anything burning from inside to the outside. Decades ago I knew a man whose wife died doing that. When she opened the door, carrying the burning skillet, the wind blew the flames back at her, which she inhaled and died. I think this is food related enough to stand.

    4 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Yeah, in retrospect I should've grabbed the box of baking soda and dumped it on the pan, which I've had to do a couple times with grease fires on the stovetop. Somehow the fire being inside the oven was extra panic-inducing. Good tip, though!

      1. re: chaunceymo

        Hope I didn't come on too strong. That accident was over 30 years ago but the memory sticks in my head. Covering with lids,, other pans etc. also work. I'm betting your pan is fine but THAT I don't have expertise about :)

        1. re: chaunceymo

          If you have that again.. CI recommends a Kidde fire extinguisher with Sodium Bicarbonate as the ingredient to put out the fire. Apparently it's effective and doesn't damage your cookware.
          I plan on picking up one of these next time I'm at Lowes.

          1. re: grnidkjun

            (Hand slapping the forehead!) And I HAVE an extinguisher in the cabinet right by the stove. We toured an assisted living place yesterday in anticipation of MIL needing that. I may beat her there!

      2. Nonstick starts to atomize a little bit at 650F or so. The main concern then, however, is breathing in the vapor. I can't think of any reason your pan shouldn't be good to use.

        1. I agree with c_oliver and alanbarnes,

          It is probably better to leave it burning inside the oven. Of all places you want a cookware to burn, it would be the oven. The fire cannot go anywhere. If you must extinguish the fire, then open the door, point the extinguisher at it and spray. No need to take it out. It can be very hot. It can have toxic fume. You can drop it and spread the fire.

          That being said, it is probably human instinct. I would probably do the same thing if I don't think about it. If the nonstick coating looks fine then it is fine. Typical nonstick Telfon is not toxic to consume. Really. The question which people always debate about is the fume of Telfon, which we know can kill birds. Yet, there is often human-animal disconnection. For example, we can eat chocolate, but dogs cannot.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            The fumes of Teflon will kill rats and monkeys and people, too. It's just that birds are especially susceptible, and will succumb at much lower concentrations.

            But to generate fumes, you have to get the stuff a lot hotter than 500F. Heating an empty nonstick pan on a high burner for five or ten minutes will almost certainly do the trick. But if there's food in the pan it will likely catch fire before the temperatures for atomization are reached.

            1. re: alanbarnes


              Thanks. Yes, I should said in normal condition, the fume from a Telfon cookware is enough to kill a bird but usually not enough to kill a human. You are right.

              1. re: alanbarnes

                Actually, the non-stick coatings start releasing fumes as soon as they are heated. It gets more concentrated the higher the temperature. Birds have died from PTFEs released at temps as low as 285°F breathed in for only a few seconds. As a parrot owner I got rid of all my non-stick cookware years ago, as I would never any chances with our fids.

                Even though the small amount of fumes it takes to kill a bird won't kill a human, I don't want to be breathing them.

                1. re: decolady

                  "Birds have died from PTFEs released at temps as low as 285°F breathed in for only a few seconds. "

                  Um, no. There is some evidence that some applications of PTFE produce trace amounts of ultrafine particles around 285C. That's 545F.

                  If you volatilize PTFE and catch the ultrafine particles in a filter, they can be re-volatilized at temperatures as low as 240C (464F). See Seidel, WC., et al., Chemical, physical, and toxicological characterization of fumes produced by heating tetrafluoroethene homopolymer and its copolymers with hexafluoropropene and perfluoro(propyl vinyl ether) Chem Res Toxicol 1991; 4(2): 229-36.

                  But the effect of those particles on mammals has been extensively studied, and there are no clinical symptoms or lung alterations in mammals at temperatures under 800F. See, Lee KP et al., Ultrastructural alterations of rat lung exposed to pyrolysis products of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, Teflon). Lab Invest 1976; 35:152–160.

                2. re: alanbarnes

                  Thanks for all the info!

                  Wouldn't a grease fire burn at well over 500F, though? This is a pan-with-rack, so I was concerned more that the rack was sitting in the fire, releasing whatever nasty stuff those coatings release under high heat.

                  If the fumes are really the only dangerous part then it sounds safe to keep using the pan.