Is My Grill Pan Seasoned or Carcinogenic?
This may be a really dumb question, but last summer, I bought an inexpensive, light silver (aluminum?) pan with lots of dime-sized holes to cook veggies, shrimp, etc. over a gas grill. After several uses, the silver has gone completely black with a thin, scorched "crust" of oil or something - and it's fused on there for good.
I know blackened meat is a carcinogen -- so does that mean the pan may be carcinogenic too? Or is it just getting seasoned? I wouldn't think twice if it was cast iron, but I don't know about other metals.
Aluminum is not a metal that needs seasoning. If its black its probably coated in burnt on oil. Try putting the pan in a bigger container of water. Bring the water to a boil with the grill pan in it and use a bamboo wok cleaner to rub away at the coated on oil with the pan in the water.
I'm not technically expert in this, but I think what you have is oil that has "polymerized" (or some such), that is, has changed its nature to create a tough, dried film on the surface. It is the same thing that happens with cast iron seasoning, except that cast iron might interact with a polymerized oil in somewhat different fashion. The coating might be unsightly, but it is probably helpful in terms of non-stick properties.
As for carcinogens, I'm pretty sure you have much more powerful environmental carcinogens to worry about. This stuff doesn't flake off in quantity in your foods, even if it were the same kind of hazard that we attach to scorched meats, and I rather doubt that it's the same stuff anyway.
Yes, there might be a few free radicals left in the coating on the pan. The simple solution is:
Don't eat the pan.