Why does my pan, heating, smell like lighter fluid?
July 28, 2008 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Just started heating a newish stainless steel Alclad pan and noticed a weird smell as I was throwing onions into them (I've used it a few times before, and have never noted any strange odor). The best description I can think of for the smell is a charcoal grill, or lighter fluid. There was a whitish residue on the pan before I started cooking, which I thought was just hard water markings, but it could have been dish soap, too. Can soap smell like this when heated in a dry pan?

The carbon monoxide detectors haven't gone off (just tested them, too: they're working, and they're loud), so I'm not sure what this strong smell is.

I guess the bottom line is: should I eat these caramelized onions? Also good to know: what is this smell, is it dangerous?
posted by stance to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Can't help you with the onions, but I have a similar pan, and I use "Bar Keepers Friend" to keep it shiny and residue free.

Could there have been a piece of food stuck to the bottom of the pan or on the burner? Maybe the onions were bad. Maybe the oil you used has gone funny?
posted by gjc at 6:08 PM on July 28, 2008

Not some sort of cleaning substance on the burner or under it?
posted by fish tick at 6:08 PM on July 28, 2008

It may have had some residual oil underneath the pan, but I did smell under the pan (to smell the gas), and the odor was not apparent. The smell was most apparent when I dug my nose into the mess of onions.
posted by stance at 6:12 PM on July 28, 2008

Re: the food on the bottom, or on the burner: the smell was actually stronger _in_ the pan.

Re: the onions being bad. They seemed pretty good. And the smell came from the pan, I think, before the onions entered them.

Re: the oil being bad. I think the smell appeared before the oil hit the pan, as well.
posted by stance at 6:20 PM on July 28, 2008

FYI, carbon monoxide is odorless. However, onions are full of volatile chemicals which may be reacting to something in the metal of your pan.
posted by Jemstar at 7:22 PM on July 28, 2008

I have smelled this before with my AllClad pans and it was when I got the pan too hot with nothing in it. No advice on safety, but I have definitely smelled that smell.
posted by agentwills at 5:56 AM on July 29, 2008

I have one AllClad pan and a few other shiny stainless pans. They get that whitish residue if I so much as look at them funny, but the Barkeeper's Friend cleans it up. So I doubt it was soap, personally.
posted by cabingirl at 6:57 AM on July 29, 2008

Seconding agentwills.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2008

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