Given the advances in technology regarding non-stick pans, do they still give off fumes if they are heated with nothing in them?

I never pre-heat my non-sticks with more than low to medium-low heat, and have never had any issues. I have read various answers to this question, so I will defer to the knowledge of this group.

  • Careful if it does get overheated, as fumes from this stuff are toxic and have been known to kill birds. It's also found in electric heaters and blankets.
    – JAL
    Dec 24, 2013 at 18:58
  • There are multiple nonstick coatings. I assume you're talking about PTFE, but the answer will be different for ceramic, silicone, etc.
    – SourDoh
    Dec 24, 2013 at 18:58
  • Geo, I edited your question to specify PTFE. Otherwise the answers (and dangers) will vary considerably. If I assumed wrong, please correct the information. Thanks. Dec 30, 2013 at 17:07

1 Answer 1


PTFE (Also known by Dupont's trade name, teflon) can decompose. For this reason PTFE pans are not recommended for broiler use. Per the Dupont Key Safety Questions:

At high temperatures, the quality of the coating may begin to deteriorate — it may discolor or lose its nonstick quality. This can begin to occur at temperatures above 500°F (260°C). If heated to an extremely high temperature, the coating may begin to decompose and give off fumes. Fats, butter, or cooking oil will begin to scorch and smoke at about 400°F (204°C). DuPont nonstick coatings will not begin to significantly decompose until temperatures exceed about 660°F (349°C) — well above the smoke point for cooking oil, fats or butter. It is therefore unlikely that decomposition temperatures for nonstick cookware would be reached while cooking without burning food to an inedible state.

Note that even heating a pan completely empty on a high flame will take some time to achieve these temperatures, so if you exercise even a reasonable level of care, you are extremely unlikely to have this occur.

  • 1
    Dupont also sells other fluoropolymers under the teflon name with similar (but not identical) properties. Having sold nonstick coatings to industrial customers our recommendation was always max working temperature of 500 deg F. unless you double check with the manufacturer for the latest update to the data sheet. You can keep the coating at 500 deg for as long as you like (some customers used it in continuous processes.
    – hildred
    Dec 24, 2013 at 17:48

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