I got some ground beef for burrito meat. I decided to use my biggest, straight-sided covered skillet since I'm cooking up more at a time this time. It was my first time using this pan, and it just fits on the biggest burner, so I started preheating it with the cover on. When I tested it with some splashed water the little beads just rolled all over and didn't evaporate immediately, so I let it heat some more. Again, little beads rolling around instead of evaporating. I figure maybe this burner's settings are different, so I crank he heat up some more. Still beading. A little more heat. I'm still well under 3/4 of the way up, and the water is still beading and rolling around, but I decide it's time to put some beef in. I could tell right away it was too hot, but I thought it would cool down quickly now with beef in and the lid off, so I put some more beef in, but I quickly realized trouble was on the way. It was way too damn hot and smoking. I put the lid on the pan, turned the heat off and moved the pan to a cold burner. Smoke was now billowing out from under the lid. Part of me wanted to take the lid off and let it cool faster, but at that point I was pretty sure it was just waiting to flame up on me, so I left the lid on and started heading for the doors and fans. Both smoke alarms went off at the same time, but I already had doors open and one fan on. I finally got a good flow-through going with two fans and two doors, and the smoke alarms quit after a couple of minutes.
After things cooled off a bit I set the pan on the floor of my patio and took the lid off so it will cool, and I adjusted the fans to get the smoke out of my bedroom. I'll leave the fans going for a while. The smoke was everywhere. At least it's not very hot tonight.
Okay, so I guess the beading water had something to do with this being a new, unused pan and it's fresh brushed surface. In the other, used pans the water just evaporates quickly when I toss some in.
The other thing is I've had the burner that high before with a cheap nonstick pan. These new pans of mine really transmit the heat a LOT better than my old cookware. And they hold their heat for a bit after you take it off the burner.
Close call. I'm pretty sure I was seconds away from a pretty good flame in the pan.
The good news—aside from my not burning the place down—is that I only scorched about 1/3 - 1/2 lbs of beef and still have the remainder of 2 lbs to fry up in the pan I've been using. (I expect it will take some rough scrubbing to get the burnt grease and beef out of the big skillet.)