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I've tried to research my problem but for whatever reason either I'm not using the correct terms or getting results that don't match what I think I'm experiencing.

I moved into my apartment half a year ago and finally got around to learning how to cook again. I've cooked maybe 20 years ago as part of the Boy Scouts but there are things, namely pancakes, that I do remember how to do. The problem is that I have always cooked with natural gas stoves and not electric I don't know the term but it uses those coils and heats things up quickly.

I put the setting at little below medium, heated up the pan and put in my unrefined coconut oil. I wasn't aware how hot the pan was and it began to smoke to which I put it under the already running at high speed hood that I have. I lowered the temp but quickly cooked my pancakes and turned it off.

The problem I'm asking is that I ran my projector in the other room and it got hazy. The image was perfect but the amount of particles in the air was enough to show the beams of light in midair. Same with a traditional flashlight but only for a distance of about three inches. You can't see it otherwise with the naked eye (weather was cloudy). I thought it was smoke but neither of my ionizing fire alarms went off. I know it went to all corners of my apartment but it has no odor and after a few hours I checked but I can't tell it ever existed. It has no residue and no smell so everything seems to be fine.

I'm just really confused as to what it is. I decided to pop open my front door to let it air out and the living room cleared out in about fifteen or so minutes and I think because of how my apartment is circulated it took a little bit longer for the bedroom and bathroom to clear out. I'm also afraid of it damaging some keepsakes I have so not sure the best way to clean it, if it needs it.

I've cooked with it recently on low and not had the problem reoccur.

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    It sounds like smoke. I've lived in a variety of places and the smoke alarms weren't always sensitive enough to be set off by the type of smoke you're describing. Some were sensitive enough to go off to almost nothing. Have you had your alarms go off under any other conditions? – Wolfgang Aug 27 '17 at 18:36
  • I did turn on all the burners a few hours later with nothing on and it set off both my alarms, one above the stove and one next to the bathroom simultaneously and left a burnt smell that I had to fix later. I've also had the one alarm next to the stove go off by opening the oven after I finished cooking something a while back. – Matt Aug 27 '17 at 22:20
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    @Matt From your comment above, where you turned all the burners on with nothing on them, it sounds like you got something (oil would be my guess) directly on the burners. When they heated, the oil started smoking and that's what set your alarms off. Let the burners cool off and give them a good clean. – senschen Aug 28 '17 at 11:20
  • There are some tricks for measuring temperature of the pan without a thermometer -- for pancakes, see cooking.stackexchange.com/a/12292/67 – Joe Aug 28 '17 at 14:18
  • Oh, and besides the smoke, the oil ends up turning into a sort of plastic like substance ('seasoning' when dealing with cast iron or carbon steel ... but a PITA to clean on everything else) – Joe Aug 28 '17 at 14:19
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From an NIH paper about cooking fumes:

"Frying at high temperatures also produces aerosols of fat with small aerodynamic diameters of 20–500 nm which disperse in the air of the kitchen and nearby facilities."

People like me who wear glasses while cooking know all about this. Even being in the same room as someone sauteeing something undoubtedly means needing to clean the fine grease spots off of your glasses. If the air temperature outside allows it, you should run your hood/fan not only while you're cooking, but for a little while after to remove as much grease from the air as possible. Even hoods that don't vent to the outdoors have crinkly 'filters' designed to trap airborne grease droplets so they don't travel too far. Even with decent ventilation, the grease droplets will eventually accumulate on just about anything that shares airspace with your stove, including your projector lens.

As an aside, like butter, unrefined coconut oil has a very low smoke point. You should only use it at reduced temperatures, and use more refined oils for higher-temperature cooking. Though it takes a little experience to judge it precisely, putting a few droplets of water on a pan and seeing how they behave is a pretty good way to test it before you add oil. If it evaporates nearly instantly or exhibits the leidenfrost effect, it's too hot for low-smoke-point oils.

  • I do wear glasses, and there were no noticeable effects on them. I ran it before I started and let it run pretty much half an hour after I finished my cooking. I found a bit of the grease on the fan assembly when I removed the filter and cleaned it out. As far as I am aware it traveled pretty much all the way across my apartment with the A/C turned off. My concern is whether or not it damages things, but as far as I can tell everything including the notepad next to the stove seems fine. Though it's good to know, I've done tests and it seems to work fine on 'low' on that range. – Matt Aug 29 '17 at 6:45
  • @Matt With one batch of pancakes, clean glasses don't surprise me; even one proper saute would be enough though. (Alton brown recommends a brimmed hat, because the grease floats down.) Unless you fry daily with no ventilation, everything should be fine. Books without glossy coatings or exposed pages, after many exposures, can be tough to clean. I probably wouldn't saute anything in my server room, but the laptop I kept in my kitchen as a chef always worked fine. I fixed up a commercial kitchen unused for 20 years— the old accumulated cooking grease protected non-stainless steel from corrosion – ChefAndy Aug 29 '17 at 13:56
  • I suppose so. If my hood is that badly efficient it might be worth it to not cook in that kitchen. I had the hood running well before I started the pancakes (namely since opening the stove causes the fire alarm mounted above the stove to go off) and as far as I know those particles made it past closed doors. They're odorless, so if I never had the projector running I would of never thought about it to begin with. – Matt Aug 29 '17 at 16:23
  • Even high-volume commercial hoods don't get 'everything.' Home hoods much less so. As a culinary school grad, former chef, and software developer who's done a whole bunch of greasy cooking over the years in cramped apartments with a whole bunch of different kinds of electronic equipment, I can pretty confidently say that you really should be fine. I mean, it's your stuff, but I've never even heard of anybody encountering anybody who's had trouble. – ChefAndy Aug 29 '17 at 17:28
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    Very good answer! ~Do you know where can I look for the "smoke point" temps for other kinds of oil?~ That would give me a good idea about what temperature to heat my pan up to. Nevermind, I found this: thespruce.com/smoking-points-of-fats-and-oils-1328753 – Igor Soloydenko Oct 15 '17 at 20:15

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