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Induction on non-stick pans...harmful?

I understand that using high heat (especially too fast) is harmful to non-stick pans. I'm considering buying an induction range. It seems that induction will heat a pan much faster than gas or electric.

Is going induction too risky on good non-stick pans? I'm afraid that my kids or wife will throw it to level 9 and ruin a pan.


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  1. Hi, Kyle:

    I think your concern is a valid one, but I would be more fearful of harming your family's health in the event a pan gets unintentionally smoked than I would be of replacing the pan. The combustion products of PTFE are extremely toxic.

    One suggestion for you is Demeyere's ControlInduc technology, which they offer in both non-stick and Silvinox interior'd pans. The specific ferritic steel alloy used in the outer layer becomes non-magnetic above 485F, and so causes the induction appliance to decouple from the pan--no magnetism = no more heating. See, http://www.demeyere.be/default.asp?SL... Reasonable minds can differ whether 485 is still too high for non-stick, but the manufacturers and trade groups say that it is not.


    2 Replies
      1. re: kylebendor

        Hi, Kyle:

        You're very welcome.


    1. If you happen to have a pet bird in the house, I would definitely recommend against it. Once a non-stick pan reaches, I believe, 500 degrees, it will give off toxic gases that are deadly to birds.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Christina D

        Only if the bird is close to the coooktop.

      2. If you, or they, have the habit of leaving a pan on the burner for a long time waiting for it to warm up, then, yes you'll need to break that habit. A pan will be hot enough to use within 30 seconds. Sometimes I put the food in the pan before putting it on the burner. I usually put a sheet of paper (parchment or paper towel) on the burner surface (under the pan) to make cleanup easier. Only if I'm doing some extended searing does that paper start to char. For sauteing and cooking that involves water, the paper gets dirty before discoloring.

        Try to find out what is the default heat level. With my induction hotplate, it is 5 (out of 10). That is fine for boiling some water, but I usually reduce it to 3 or 2 to saute.

        Another point - when you turn off the burner, or lower the heat level, the effect is instantaneous. It stops heating the pan.

        There are some good induction compatible cast aluminum nonstick pans on the market. They heat evenly.

        1. < It seems that induction will heat a pan much faster than gas or electric.>

          No, not if you learn to use the new setting. Your question is no different than asking "Is an nonstick pan more harmful on a more powerful gas stove vs a less powerful gas stove?" I suppose that you can say yes, but that is really more of an user technique problem.

          If you are concern, you can always get less powerful induction stove too. However, to me, this is not really an induction issue.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I agree with chem.

            I don't know of anyone we know, here or in North America that has not had to learn to adapt to Induction cooking. We have done this with new pots and pans, so why not induction ? A few minutes to a few meals only, I think.

            It is a change, but not a challenge, nor taxing. Fun actually. We always left a little water or broth in the pans the first few times, just in case, and always started at first on the low settings. Quite frankly today, we never go over the medium settings with our pots and pans even to boil water for pasta.

            Take the time to experiment using Induction, and then take the time to teach the kids, the wife, Auntie, or anyone else. Keep it fun.

          2. Actually, I've not seen any non-stick pans which would work on induction. Most of the pans, in my neck of the woods, are aluminum, and therefore not induction-friendly. What brand of pans are you using?

            4 Replies
            1. re: KarenDW

              The nonstick pans that I have are cast aluminum with a steel insert in the base that makes them induction compatible. They have distinctive bare metal pokeadot pattern on the base.

              I've bought all mine at TJMaxx, a discount chain (in the Seattle area). Berndes is one European brand that makes good pans like this (as well as stainless steel).

              1. re: KarenDW

                I have a number of induction-ready non-stick pans - some fancy ones, like All-Clad and Swiss Diamond, some cheap off-brand ones. They all work fine. The key is not to use them for anything involving very high heat.

                For the record. I've also bought them all at the local T.J.Maxx (if there's no T.J.Maxx near you, look for a Home Goods; they're owned by the same company and often have similar merchandise).

                1. re: BobB

                  Just to be clear - not using non-stick at high heat is the safest approach regardless of the type of stove, nothing to do with induction per se.

                  1. re: BobB

                    Very easy to find nonstick, induction capable cookware these days.

                    I think the only time I use the two hottest settings is when boiling pasta water. But the nonstick/health issue seems to have been totally put to rest.

                2. I have only used a cheap countertop induction unit, so take my advice for what it's worth. The induction stove I had would heat extremely unevenly, basically creating a donut of intense heat in the pan while the sides and center remained cooler. You could really see it when heating water in a saucepan… a ring of rolling boil surround by calm water. In my opinion this uneven heat is what destroyed two of my nonstick pans in short order. I had a teflon pan and a ceramic coated pan, both of which lost their coatings after a month of cooking.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RealMenJulienne

                    That induction ring is quite evident on my burner (Max Burton), but it hasn't destroyed any pan. I have a well used 8" skillet whose coating is getting a little rough, but the pattern of that roughness is not a donut. But I use a pan like that for eggs, sauces, reheating things, sauteeing, not searing.

                    If I don't need the nonstick qualities I try to use other pans, mainly stainless steel.

                    My previous induction burner (Tautung) turned itself off a few times due to high heat, so I've gotten the habit of using other burners (coil or butane) if things are going to get hotter . Plus things like frying steak and fish and roasting peppers are better done outside where smoke and smells don't linger.

                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                      That might be peculiar to the small units - I have a full cooktop (GE) and it heats pans quite evenly.

                    2. Not all non-stick pans contain POFA's or PTFE's Some of the ceramic non-stick pans are an example. Swiss Diamond coats their pans with industrial diamonds and they are making some induction pans now and also have converter discs. Chantal pans are enameled inside and out with a copper and carbon steel middle. They are very fast on induction and very fast on gas or electric.

                      That said, there is very little evidence that ordinary non-stick pans cause any harm to humans. If you own a bird, don't keep its cage near the cooktop. If you are heating an empty pan on high heat you could harm your bird and the pan. Most cookware performs best at med to med-high heat whether non-stick or regular stainless or what ever, aluminum etc.

                      I've been in the housewares and table top business, as a buyer and in sales, for 40 years. I have done my homework. Forget what you have heard from the "Chicken Littles" and use your own common sense.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: Candy

                        Got be careful (or just ignore) those 'no PTFE' claims.

                        "Swiss Diamond coats their pans with industrial diamonds"
                        Not exactly.

                        "PTFE is the component that gives nonstick properties to the surface of the cookware and many other consumers’ products. Our patented coating is reinforced with diamond crystals which are amalgamated into a nano-composite (mixture of extremely thin particles). Thus it requires lower quantity of PTFE, much lower than most of other nonstick products"

                        1. re: paulj

                          Yeah I know. They do indeed use Ptfe's, but the diamond coating is applied at such a high temperature that they a almost burned off. There are some ghost PTFE's but so little is left that you'd have a hard time killing a bird with the fumes.

                        2. re: Candy

                          Thanks, Candy. I wish people would just get over this.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Thank you C Oliver I live in a university town. i am amazed at times how stupid some of the people are. There are many studies about this stuff. They are going to believe what they want to believe despite science's evidence to the contrary. I had one faculty person come in one day to buy a wok lid. The lids are made of aluminum. She rejected the lids because the steam rising into the top of the lid would rain down on the food and contaminate the food with aluminum particles.

                            Another nay sayer on Swiss Diamond's scratch resistance posted a picture of a skillet where someone had gouged "Liar" into the pan. It looked like they used a chisel. It was a very bad way to destroy an expensive pan to try to prove a point, and of course it was immediately obvious what had been done,

                            1. re: Candy

                              Ah, yes, I've always worried about those "aluminum particles" :(

                              It's that old story of confusing what one thinks with the facts. I've learned a huge amount from this site by 'listening' to others rather than staying with old beliefs. A lot.

                          2. re: Candy

                            Hi, Candy:

                            With due deference to your experience, I disagree that concern over the health effects of scorched PTFE is a wingnut issue or unsupported by science.

                            Bear in mind we are talking here about accidentally taking pans past 500F. This is clearly not an approved use, but it can nevertheless be expected to happen. All the studies I'm aware of address pan use with lower temperatures (as you would expect), and there I'll agree that the weight of science supports the conclusion that *within the range*, nonstick pans are safe and the lining inert.

                            However, I'm not aware of ANY studies or other evidence with would justify the conclusion that PTFE when combusted is safe for humans to inhale. Quite the contrary--a slivver of PTFE inserted into a cigarette may KILL the smoker of that cigarette. See, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/68...
                            The combustion products are very nasty chemicals, including perflouroisobutene. See, http://www.fluoridealert.org/pesticid...

                            From "The Toxicology of Perflouroisobutene":

                            "Overheating of PTFE generates fumes of highly toxic PFIB and poses a serious health hazard to the human respiratory tract. PFIB is approximately ten times as toxic as phosgene. Inhalation of this gas can cause pulmonary edema, which can lead to death. PFIB is included in Schedule 2 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)... The median lethal concentration (LC50) in single exposures of rats was 0.5 ppm."

                            To me, the issue is comparable to having a gun in the house. If it's kept child-proof and used the way it's supposed to be, there's no problem. But if it's accidentally or intentionally misused, it can kill innocent people. Many accept that risk, but it's hardly "Chicken Little" for someone not to.


                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              In that study to which you linked, they heated PTFE to 495 °C, more than 1000 °F. If you are using that much heat, you might set your kitchen on fire. That's dangerous no matter what type of pan you are using.

                              As for the gun analogy, I think that statistics on accidental deaths in the home will show that the risks are not anywhere near comparable.

                              1. re: GH1618

                                Hi, GH1618:

                                Why yes, an induction hotplate is capable of 1000F, so the risk is not farfetched. The danger here is from the *fumes*, not the heat. And the material will start to decompose and off-gas at temperatures half of that--above 500F.

                                But I'm glad you brought up the subject of housefires, because PTFE-lined pans in a burning house add a hazmat dimension to the smoke inhalation danger. Like a 1000F empty pan happening accidentally, housefires can be expected to happen. IMO, choosing not to subject occupants and first responders to this added risk (PFIB being 10x more toxic than the chemical weapon phosgene gas) is a responsible thing to do.

                                It is interesting to me that no one has studied longer-term effects of PTFE combustant inhalation. The test subjects either die or live, and AFAIK there is no testing of repeated sublethal doses.

                                My analogy was simply between two things in the house which can accidentally kill innocent people. I was not equating the risk of death by PFIB inhalation with being shot to death.


                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  Actually, 500 °F is not half the heat of 1000 °F, because the zero point of the Farenheit (or Celsius) scale is arbitrary.

                                  1. re: GH1618

                                    Would you have preferred I had written: "And the [PTFE] will start to decompose and off-gas at temperatures a lot lower than that--above 500F"?

                                  2. re: kaleokahu


                                    My family joined another family in Lago di Como 4 years ago one Summer, at a house ( a Rustica in the hills ) equipped with a lightly stocked, small kitchen.

                                    Our friends decided to pan-cook or sear small steaks, while my wife and I set-up the table outside, making a salad. Walking inside, I noticed an acrid, acid smoke-odor coming from the kitchen. Our friends were inside using an aluminum pan on the gas hob, full on. Very chemical smell in the air, smoke, and distinctive. Not the Florentine steak one would want to serve to anyone.

                                    No fan, and no open window. Observable was the fact that the inside of the scratched, non-stick pan had started to discolour. A timeout was called. We shut the hob off, and searching around found an old steel pan, which was then cleaned, oiled, and used outside on a grill.

                                    The non-stick pan and two small steaks were discarded, and the house aired out. We finished dinner outside, and after then headed to Cadenabbia. When we returned, the chemical, burnt-wiring odor was still in the air. As it was hot, we slept outside on the deck.

                                    The oxides given off from combustion of the materials coating the pan ( provenance unknown, but cheap ) were clearly not a healthy experience. If anyone sees or smells anything like this, you will know what I mean and not forget it. If experienced, I would suggest cleaning the surfaces off by wiping, airing out everything, and can the pan and the food when it cools.

                                    I hope this is helpful.

                                    1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                      Hui, Robert:

                                      Yes, counter-anecdotes are very helpful. I fear that until some unlucky soul's post mortem concludes the cause of death was PFIB toxicity (as opposed to the catchall "smoke inhalation"), all we'll have is anecdotes and abstract science.

                                      I'm glad everyone was OK. Lake Como is a beautiful place to "rough it" outdoors.

                                      Warm Regards,

                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                        Just terrible, as you might imagine K.

                                        It was not one advertised as " green ", organic, or made with " crushed diamonds, " but given it was our mistake, we did buy the owner a good inox replacement pan by Spring.

                                        This thread could now segue smoothly into the one on rentals kitchenware, but I'll leave it here.

                            2. Since you can't heat an empty pan on an induction cooktop, this really shouldn't be an issue.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: pikawicca

                                There's no problem heating an empty pan on induction. When re-seasoning my CI skillets I do that regularly. Get it almost smoking hot, add oil, turn off, etc.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  If I put an empty pan on my single-burner unit, it will not heat; in fact, the manual says it won't. Your experience is totally different?

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    TOTALLY! I don't know how it would 'know' that there's nothing in the pan. It's all about the magnetism with the bottom on the pan. --------------- Just to verify, I just took an empty saucepan and put it on. Heated just fine. If I can find the manual to my single burner unit in Reno, I'll check it and see what is says. And try it also.

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      That is not what I would expect. It won't heat up the stove if you don't have a pan, but it will heat up the pan with or without the food.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        I'm confused. I thought that the induction process transferred energy to the contents of the pan, rather than to the pan itself.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          Induction cooking transfers the energy directly to the pan. If it is directly to the food, then you would have been able to use any cookware, and won't be limited to ferromagnetic cookware.

                                          Microwave (ovens) transfer energy directly to the foods.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            And just to the bottom of the pan, not the sides so less energy, less heat.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Hi, c oliver:

                                              Bingo! Reasonable minds can differ as to whether moving heat into the pan only from the bottom is a good thing...

                                              But it's not simply less energy, either.


                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      Yes, you would want to be able to preheat a pan. When you want to sear and brown something. If you put something cold in a cold pan and wait for the heat to come up to temperature you would risk over cooking the food.