Q: How do I know if my nonstick pans are safe? I have a nonstick skillet and a grillpan that I use for eggs and fish. Can these pans withstand the normal heat of a cooktop without toxins leaching out?

A: Despite concerns and conflicting reports about the danger of toxic emissions from nonstick pans, most sources consider them safe if you take some precautions.

Don’t overheat the pans, which can cause the nonstick coatings to break down. Most manufacturers direct you to keep the pans below 500 degrees, or use them only up to the medium setting on the stove. So you wouldn’t want to use one to sear a steak, but gentle cooking something like eggs or fish should be fine. You also shouldn’t preheat the pans, particularly an empty pan, and it’s a good idea to use the exhaust fan while cooking, to dissipate any fumes.

When you buy a nonstick pan, it’s worth paying a little more to get a heavy pan that will hold up longer. Lighter pans will overheat more easily. And if your pan shows any sign that the nonstick coating is flaking or scratching off, stop using the pan.