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Background

Gotham Steel is a ceramic coated titanium pan. It's the brand with the commercials where they put a mixer in the pan, supposedly to show that it doesn't scratch if you use metal utensils. The coating makes the pan non-stick, slippery even.

It comes with the following instructions:

FOR BEST PERFORMANCE

Gotham Steel™ Ti-Cerama™ Cookware with Titanium Ceramic Coating is designed for cooking without oil or butter. If you choose to use oil or butter, always use it at the proper heat setting. For example, extra virgin olive oil and butter should only be used over low heat. NEVER USE NON STICK SPRAYS. No sharp objects of any type should be used on the inside or outside of Ti-Cerama™ cookware.

(Emphasis in original.)

I take the last sentence to mean that the mixer ad is exaggerated, but that's not my question.

Olive Oil and coated pans

It says to only use extra virgin olive oil with "low" heat. Since that's not exactly precise, I searched around for more information. Some reviews said that Le Creuset (which makes a similar, enamel coated iron pan) says not to use olive oil at all. So some people that had both recommended the same thing for the Gotham Steel pans. No olive oil at all.

I found this question and this question that suggest that the issue might be extra virgin olive oil's low smoke point. I.e. that the olive oil might simply be susceptible to burning. Not sure why the coating would make that worse, but it's a hypothesis.

What actually happens when using olive oil on these kinds of pans? Preferably Gotham Steel, but I'd take information on Le Creuset or similar brands of enamel/ceramic coated cookware. What's "low" heat in this context?

Example

I sometimes cook sandwich eggs in a Teflon pan with a little olive oil. This basically involves turning the Kenmore stove to 7, letting the oil heat as I scramble an egg in a cup. I turn the head down to 4 and pour the egg into the pan. I wait until the egg is almost cooked through and then flip it. I turn off the heat and wait a bit longer, then I eat it in a sandwich. My experience is that if I do it right, the egg is fully cooked without fry marks.

The stovetop is a Kenmore electric with the flat glass on top. Non-induction, a regular heating element. The heat goes Lo-2-3-4-Med-6-7-8-Hi. The obvious thing would be for "low" heat to be Lo on the stovetop. However, that's not a heat that I would normally use for anything other than simmering for a long period of time. E.g. making rice. Does 4 count as "low" heat since I don't keep it there long?

Anyway, if I did that same process with the Gotham Steel pan, what would happen? Would it ruin the pan? Burn the egg? Burn the oil?

Note that if I don't use the oil, it cooks the egg fine and it slides right out of the pan. That's satisfactory, but I would prefer to understand why I should or should not use olive oil.

Ideally someone would have a scientific answer with testing using a Gotham Steel pan. However, I would take an anecdotal answer involving a Le Creuset or other brand if it was explanatory. E.g. I tried that with a ____ and boy did it ruin the pan by ...

Other oils

What happens with other greases and oils? For example, we tried cooking a meatloaf in the dutch oven sized pan. The ceramic container that we normally use is getting old and could be bigger. So we were curious if this would work. We normally use a fatty ground beef and pour off the grease before eating. This leaves the bottom rather soft. However, with this pan, the result was that the bottom charred into a black crunchiness. Is this related to the problem with olive oil? Or something entirely different and worthy of its own question? Same thing with the passage about non stick sprays.

The instructions say that the oven is safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. We cooked at 350. That's about 175-180 in metric/Celsius.

We also tried a couple roasts in water with sliced onions underneath and they baked fine. And we tried a casserole that has lentils, rice, and Swiss cheese. That's rather greasy, but it didn't have the same behavior as the meatloaf. I.e. the edges touching the pan didn't scorch or char.

How do I know which oils will be problematic and which won't?

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    I've never seen that advice for le creuset enamel and I've got two of them. I've linked to the care advice here quite recently and re-read it then so should remember. – Chris H Feb 16 '17 at 7:59
  • I've never heard that advice about Le Creuset pans either, can you link to the source? – GdD Feb 16 '17 at 10:33
  • @GdD Here's an Amazon review saying that Le Creuset has a similar instruction. I found this by searching "Gotham Steel olive oil". – Brythan Feb 16 '17 at 17:11
  • Random person on amazon was wrong Le Creuset themselves say "Your choice of liquid, oil, fat or butter should completely cover the base before heating begins." and their instructions are quite cautious in practice (dry or minimal oil frying is perfectly possible if you're gentle). I tend to use olive oil and/or butter for the things I cook in mine. (also @GdD) – Chris H Feb 16 '17 at 17:31
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    A guess, but I would think the issue is likely with the possibility of creating an oil patina on the pan, desirable for cast iron, but not in this case. Olive oil has a low flash point so overheating can easily create this glaze. Many of the spray-ons I have seen have a similar, but worse habit of not only creating a glaze, but it being a sticky, hard to remove one. This would defeat the original non-stick nature, and since I believe the Gotham Steel may have a guarantee, if they know this will be prone to cause returns they don't want you doing it. – dlb Feb 17 '17 at 16:45
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You can fry in olive oil as long as you exercise some care. Some olive oils have smoke points of 400 F. If you know how to cook, you can even do it by eye (anyone that lets oil go past its smoke point once or twice can control it so that doesn't happen again). Anyway, I cook with olive oil in my Gotham Steel pan and dutch oven all the time, no problem.

I also have a degree in chemical engineering and I understand what happens with polymerization - yes Virginia, you can avoid the gunky mess. By the way, if it does happen, don't try to muscle away polymerized gunky oil. A little hot/steamy water and rubbing alcohol does wonders.

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The instructions aren't telling you that there's something about their pans that makes them especially incompatible with butter or olive oil. They're saying that, since they are made to be non-stick specifically so people don't need to use ANY oil, they don't generally recommend using it, at all.

Their warning to use lower heats for butter and olive oil also isn't specific to their products, but is more a general guideline. It's pointless to use extra virgin olive oil, because the heat destroys all the distinctive flavor profiles that sets extra-virgin apart from regular olive oil.

It's more a general warning that olive oils and other low-smoke/flash temperature oils aren't really made for frying or stir frying purposes.

Those warnings would be true with any cookware.

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    Extra virgin, yes. Refined olive oils are considered quite good for high temp apps! – rackandboneman Apr 25 '17 at 10:48
  • It's also a typical confusion between virgin vs. unfiltered. Typical virgin olive oil in the use is filtered and refined, and has a fine high smoke point, although (as PHS says) you will destroy any distinctive flavor it has. Unfiltered olive oil, like other unfiltered oils, has a lot smoke point. – FuzzyChef Nov 23 '17 at 6:12
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I did some research a few months ago. Any oil and particularly non-stick sprays when heated to extreme temperatures polymerize into a nasty stick mess that is near impossible to remove (steel wool and sand paper didn't work. This has ruined several cookie sheets, andthe cheaper non-stick sprays are the worst. I have had to throw out those effected cookie sheets.

  • The problem is with having a slight amount of oil, and high heat. (this is why the sprays are so bad). I have a few cookie sheets that are used for savory items these days ... roasting vegetables and the like, as there are orange splotches (which later darken) because of oil polymerizing. – Joe Sep 5 '17 at 3:09
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    "Any oil and particularly non-stick sprays when heated to extreme temperatures polymerize into a nasty stick mess that is near impossible to remove." Of course, if you're using cast iron cookware, that's exactly what you want for seasoning. You just have to "cook" the oil enough to make it not sticky. – JAB Sep 5 '17 at 16:55
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The issue is less about the oil being incompatible with the cookware and more about using oil that will not exceed its flashpoint and thus turn into a mess that may not be easily cleaned or will not result in optimum food flavor and results.

Low flashpoint oils like olive oil are OK for lower temperatures, but higher flashpoint oils such as peanut oil, have more utilitarian uses and are more suitable for frying applications.

  • This does not add anything to what's already said on other answers. Please do not repeat answers. – Jan Doggen Sep 7 '17 at 6:19
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Olive oil has a very low flash point, and should never by used for cooking. When an oil is exposed to a temperature at which it flashes, it begins to undergo a chemical change, called polymerization. This property is what you need for seasoning a pan. But if the temperature goes higher, the seasoning burns off, and becomes a dangerous cancerous substance.

The problem with olive oil is that it has such a low flash point that typical cooking uses would ruin it's seasoning properties. That's why olive oil is best consumed raw, as in salad oil. You can certainly cook with it in sauces, or add it to how water for cooking pasta to prevent sticking, if you don't mind the flavor. But using it for searing a steak, or pancakes or french toast, or for seasoning a pan? Don't do it.

Peanut oil has a very high flash point, and is suitable for deep frying and for seasoning cast iron pans (although, I prefer to use flax seed oil for seasoning).

Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To

In any kind of cooking, it is always desireable to balance flavor and temperatures used to determine the kind of oil to use. Avoid peanut oil if you allergy issues; avoid sesame oil if you don't like its strong nutty flavor. Avocado oil has an extremely high flash point, but is very expensive.

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    What about the countless mediterranean cultures that have used olive for cooking for hundreds of years? – canardgras Feb 20 '17 at 14:10
  • Surely you're not referring to the same cultures who for centuries believed in geocentricity? And the same ones who believed in humorism? And the same ones who believed in vitalism? What about the cultures who for centuries believed the world was flat? I don't know how to answer "What about them", since I don't know whom you ask of; so I don't even know their cooking methods. But I can say this: modern science has delved in to many practices we once held dear, only to show them as wrong, misguided, or even dangerous. – Andrew Jennings Feb 20 '17 at 14:58
  • ...geocentricity/flat earth etc. is not something easily proved without a (relatively) advanced understanding of science. Polymerisation of oil in a pan is visible and obvious to the naked eye. Spanish, French, Italian, Balkan, Turkish, North African and middle eastern cuisine frequently uses olive oil for cooking, with no adverse affects whatsoever. If your answer said it shouldn't be used for frying or high temperature cooking, that would be different. In it's current wording, I think you could easily find tens of millions of people who would disagree – canardgras Feb 20 '17 at 15:25
  • I'm not sure I agree: That millions would disagree is example of a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument. Just because they live happily doesn't mean then won't get cancer. That they died, we don't know the manner of death. That they lived well beyond their life expectancy doesn't mean the discovery of free radicals released into their food wasn't harmful. Does their overall lifestyle inhibit the dangers of free radicals in their food? Maybe - I don't know. What I do know is what science tells me, which currently states that cooking with low-smoke oils at high temps is generally a bad idea. – Andrew Jennings Feb 20 '17 at 16:18
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    'cooking with low-smoke oils at high temps is generally a bad idea' is what should have gone in your answer, IMO, rather than the blanket 'should never by used for cooking'. On your other points, lets agree to disagree... – canardgras Feb 20 '17 at 16:22

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