HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Left my stove on for 15 hours!

This morning, I made a breakfast of poached eggs, and left for work without turning the stove off. The flame was on low. The pot is 5-6 inches in diameter, and had 1 - 2 inches of water. I came home 15 hours later, and, to my shock,found the stove on. I feel profoundly grateful that my house didn't burn down. I am puzzled, though, that my little pot was not even burnt on the inside. The egg white bits leftover from poaching had caramelized. The underside of the pot had a small circle of black, but it may have been there before. It seems like a miracle to me, but I don't know much about cookware. Can pots usually withstand such lengthy exposure to heat? I'd love to hear your perspectives about this. Unfortunately, I don't know the brand of the pot, but its pretty heavy.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. 1-2 inches of water - when you left, or when you came home?

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      When I left. It was dry when I got home.

    2. You lucked out in that it was on low. When I was a kid, alone at home in the afternoon, I forgot a lightweight stainless type pot of water that I'd put on to boil (don't remember for what purpose). I think it was a Revereware or Farberware pot. I nodded off, probably for a couple of hours.
      When a strange smell led me back to the kitchen, the bottom of the pan was molten red. I could see the shape of the electric coils through it. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to grab potholders and put the pot out on the paved driveway. It wasn't quite ruined - the interior bottom was blackened but we still used it as the bottom part of a double boiler.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        Wow, that was quick thinking on your part!

      2. <Can pots usually withstand such lengthy exposure to heat?>

        First of all, you left the stove on low. You are lucky that you didn't left it on medium or high heat. It is entire possible for metal cookware to withstand heat for a long period of time -- especially at low heat.

        What kind of cookware is this? Stainless steel triply? Cast iron? Nonstick teflon on aluminum?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Agree. Specifically, low heat means that the heating element is only turned on (and generating heat) for a small part of the elapsed time. What this means is that the element and the cooking pot never get to a very high temperature. Metal pots can endure modest temperatures indefinitely.

          1. re: kagemusha49

            Thank goodness for that! However I hope never to put that to test again.

          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

            @chemicalkinetics. I am lucky indeed! I'm not sure what kind of cookware it is. The brand is Tools of the Trade. It may be hard anodized aluminum. It's pretty thick.

          3. next time leave the oven on like that, (not the range) and it cleans/scrapes like nobody's business.

            even explode a potato in there - I'm not kidding.

            3 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              <next time leave the oven on like that, (not the range) and it cleans/scrapes like nobody's business.

              even explode a potato in there - I'm not kidding.>

              So why would I want to clean my oven only to explode a potato in there at the same time?

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                heh - the potato is intended to explode beforehand and assists the clean-up process, really gets the hard cooked-on gunk off the walls with no chemicals beyond maybe some basic cleanser.

                1. re: hill food

                  Ah, I got the order reversed. Thanks. :)

            2. Sorry to say, enamelware will melt if left on a higher setting. Which is why I no longer have that beautiful Romanian pot with the neon colors from the 70s.

              1. It depends on the material of the pot. An aluminum pot can be melted on a residential stove, a steel pot cannot. When it heats up, it will radiate heat to the surroundings. With a low flame, an equilibrium will be reached, which can go on indefinitely. If the equilibrium temperature doesn't damaged the pot, it doesn't matter if it is maintained for a long time.

                The greater danger with gas, I think, is that the flame can blow out, allowing the house to fill with gas.

                1. You say the flame was low? That means a gas stove, so the incredible luck is that an air current didn't blow the low flame out, leaving the gas to accumulate all day while you were at work! If there are any smokers in the family and they had come home.... Well... Let's don't go there!

                  Here's a thought for you... If you had a counter-top induction hot plate, had you left it on and gone to work, when the water boiled away, the unit would have shut itself down. I don't know if any gas burners will do that.

                  Soooooooo glad you're safe! And it sounds to me like your gas flame was low enough that the heavy pan you used just sat there toasting and not melting. Good show!

                  1. My parents gas clothes dryer once ran for 23-1/2 days continuously. My parents were Arizona snowbirds. My brother and his family came to town and spent a few days in their empty house. They washed towels and sheets and before they left, they put them in the clothes dryer. They used the automatic function not remembering that it was faulty even though they had been told. (No auto turnoff when dry.) When I brought my mother home from Arizona, I walked into the house to find the dryer going. Do you realize how much lint a bunch of terry cloth towels throw off after more than three weeks in the gas dryer? The only reason that a fire did not erupt in my opinion is becasue the exhaust vent pipes were steal and not plastic.

                    Here is a piece of advice, never put clothes into a dryer and then leave the house or go to bed. My other brother had neighbors who put clothes in the dryer and went to bed. They awoke to a fire and their house burned to the ground.