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I cook in my teflon wok pans all the time. I recently saw an answer here suggesting to preheat a pan to a high temperature and cook in small batches when preparing stir-fry food. I would like to try that, and several other things like roasting peanuts or spices. However, I know that teflon pans do not handle high heat well.

I do not want to ruin my pans and I prefer to err on the side of caution, but I think that maybe some of my dishes could taste better if I preheated the pan to a higher temperature than I do now. I'm afraid that I will overdo it though.

How do I preheat a teflon pan without having to worry about overheating it? Is there a technique that would help me find the sweet spot?

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To best check temperature, you need a thermometer, and if you can, use a non-contact thermometer (infrared thermometer).

Teflon start degrading at around 260 °C (500 °F).

So check the pan temperature, adjust the heat of your range (electric, gas...) so that the temperature stay below that.

If you want to use high temperature for some applications, then invest in a carbon steel pan or cast iron pan or a stainless steel pan

PTFE Safety

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The real solution to your problem is to switch to a carbon steel wok. You will never stop struggling as long as you're using a teflon-coated wok. You will always have to worry about overheating it.

Teflon starts to degrade, giving off toxic gasses at 392F, and degrading irretrievably at around 500F. Whereas the minimum temperature you want for a wok surface is the smoke point of peanut oil, 410F-450F, and if heating a dry wok you may want to heat it up to 600F. I think you can see the problem?

If you can't find a carbon steel wok for some reason, I suggest switching to cast iron or stainless steel pan, which you can heat to more than 400F easily. You'll get better results than you'll get from a teflon-coated wok.

If you still want to use your teflon wok, then I suggest always adding some oil with a slightly lower smoke point to it, such as Canola oil. Then just make sure you don't ever heat that oil to smoking, and you should be below the danger level for teflon.

  • The problem with non-teflon pans is that every time I tried using them, the food was sticking to them like crazy. Even the ceramic pans kinda suck. Maybe I'm doing something wrong... – JohnEye Jul 4 '18 at 0:22
  • A carbon steel wok needs to be properly seasoned, cleaned and cared for just like a cast iron skillet. If food continues to stick, it is an indication that the surface is probably not properly seasoned Sticking might also be caused by not using enough oil to cook with – Cynetta Jul 4 '18 at 8:04
  • Canola is the worst of all the oils in the kitchen IMHO. As BioDiesel it's a fantastic product though. – Fabby Jul 4 '18 at 12:53
  • @JohnEye (pre-)searing at heat and slowly sweating or sauteing food are two different techniques, even though both are done in a pan. Teflon pans are not suitable for the first one, because the teflon degrades at the temperature needed. So, you can either drop the idea, or learn the technique, and use it with the appropriate tool. It does need more precise control of temperature, timing, and fat - once you do it properly, it won't stick, but you need focused practice to learn how to do it, you shouldn't expect it to work from the first try. – rumtscho Jul 4 '18 at 13:27
  • @rumtscho Noted, that would actually be a good answer to my question as well even though it addresses another point altogether. I guess I'll have to give it another try. If you happen to recall there being a good answer somewhere on this site describing the correct technique (and with your rep I guess you might), it will gladly link it to the question as well. – JohnEye Jul 4 '18 at 13:44

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