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I left my stainless steel frying pan on the hob empty for a while by mistake. It got very hot indeed, I ran it carefully under the tap to cool it down, which took a while - lots of steam. Now, there's a kind of black residue inside, that wasn't there before (it was clean while it was on the hob). I can't remove it even with the toughest of detergents and pan scourers, is it safe to cook with this pan any more?

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What kind of pan do you have? It makes a big difference it it's teflon-coated or just stainless steel or cast iron. –  tim Mar 27 '11 at 19:58
    
Stainless steel, question updated. –  fredley Mar 27 '11 at 20:04
    
Well, first off, you probably should have let it cool off in air. As for the darkening, stainless can do that when overheated. Barkeeper's friend may be able to remove that. Was this an aluminum-core pan? If so, you may have melted the core... See also cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/11916/… –  derobert Mar 29 '11 at 18:56
    
No idea, is it bad if it is? –  fredley Mar 29 '11 at 18:58
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The good news is that when you have something that's near impossible to clean off (including scrubbing, heat, acids, bases, other cleansers), it's very unlikely to come off when cooking, even if the pan doesn't look all that pretty. –  Joe Apr 1 '11 at 15:15
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

What you are seeing is almost certainly a form of firescale, and it should be completely harmless. If the discoloration bothers you, you can try to remove it using the aforementioned Barkeeper's friend or a mixture of boric acid and denatured alcohol (which are non-toxic).

With regard to cooling off the pan, you should never put a hot, empty pan into a cold, wet sink: The temperature change can cause the pan to warp.

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Stainless steel pans tend to get brown/black around where the flames are if you heat them empty. I wouldn't worry about it and you should be able to scrub it off eventually.

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