Why Frying Pans warp, and how to unwarp it

Why do Frying Pans Warp? (Plus How to Fix It)

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If you’re like many people, you probably have one or more warped frying pans annoying the heck out of you each time you cook. The oil pooling to one side, food cooking unevenly etc. So just why do frying pans warp, and how can you unwarp and salvage your beloved cookware?

The key reasons frying pans get warped are: rapid heating and cooling, pots being made of thin or soft metals, or a mismatch between the stove burner size and pan size.

The risk of frying pans warping is reduced by cooling them down properly before washing, pre-heating on low heat, cooking on medium heat, placing them on appropriate-sized burners and using thicker or tri-ply pans.

Why do Frying Pans Warp?

Some of the key reasons for a frying pan warping are:

  • Rapid Heating and Cooling
    Rapid heating and cooling changes the structure of any metal. Warping occurs due to the differing expansion and contraction rates of a metal’s structure. This means, that when heated or cooled, one part of a pan changes its shape more or less often than other parts. For example the pan base gets hotter than the pan walls. Usually there is a solid ring around the frying pan walls which helps enforce the rigidity of the pan. When heated the base of the pan cannot expand horizontally and only moves up or down. So, straight-sided pans will often “cup” downward, while slope-sided pan may “crown” upward.
  • Frying Pans With Thin Walls
    Thin pans are more likely to warp than thick ones because the thinner the walls of a pan, the more a metal can differentially expand and contract. If you have a frying pan which is thin-walled then it is advisable to use it on low to medium heat. 
  • Frying Pans Made of Soft Metals
    The type of metal the pan is made of plays an important role in determining whether it will warp or not. Soft metals such as aluminium and copper, if used enough times are likely to warp if the pan is thin walled. Harder and more resistant metals, such as carbon or stainless steel, will not warp as easily. 
  • Empty Frying Pans Placed on High Heat
    If an empty frying pan is placed on high heat it runs the risk of warping. A frying pan is better protected from warping when food is heated in it. The food acts as a heat sink, with the heat slowly and uniformly hardening the metal.
  • Mismatched Burner Sizes
    Pans also warp at the base due to not using the correct sized burner. Burners should be the same size as the pan base you’re using – neither larger or smaller than the pan.
  • Poor Quality Frying Pans
    Finally, it is important to carry out thorough research and choose a good quality frying pan. Poor quality frying pans are more likely to warp than better quality ones. Some good choices for frying pans are iron, carbon or steel and copper mix frying pans due to their good heat conductivity properties which prevents warping.

How to Unwarp a Frying Pan?

When you find your pan warped the first step to take, particularly if you have expensive cookware, is to check your frying pan warranty. If the manufacturers are able to replace the warped pan then that’s arguably better than any DIY solution.

Here is an easy step-by-step method to unwarp a warped frying pan.

How to Unwarp a Pan using a Piece of Wood

  1. Get a Piece of Wood the Same Diameter as the Pan
    The first step to repair the warped pan is to obtain a piece of wood the same diameter as the pan. Purchase a rectangular piece of wood from your local hardware store, and cut to fit the diameter of the pan. A hand saw can be used to cut the wood to the required length. Some hardware stores will agree to cut the wood to the required length. If your pan is bowed outwardly, the wood piece can be a bit longer than the length of the pan, as it will be placed outside, on the bottom of the plan. If your pan is bowed inwardly, the length of the wood piece must be shorter than the pan, as the wood will be placed inside.
  2. Heat Your Pan
    Place the pan on the stove on medium heat, wait for 15-20 minutes, allow the pan to get hot. In the meantime, take care not to burn yourself, use a pot holder to remove the pan from the stove.
  3. Place the Pan on a Strong and Level Surface.
    Set the hot pan down on a level and durable surface such as a work bench or a stair. Make sure the bowed side of the pan is facing up. If the pan is bowed outwardly, you need to rest the lip of the pan on a flat surface without allowing the handle to touch the surface. 
  4. Beat the Wood With a Mallet
    Place the wood piece on the bowed side of the pan and beat the wood with a wooden  mallet. Position the piece of wood across the center of the pan’s crown or where the pan is most bowed. When the pan has cooled stop banging the mallet on the piece of wood.
  5. Repeat Until the Pan is Flat
    Return your pan to the stove top and reheat again. Next move the pan to a strong and level surface, position the wood in the pan, and continue banging on the wood piece with a mallet. It may take 3 to 5 rounds of this reheating and banging process to see improvement in your pan. Rotate the wooden piece a few degrees each time if necessary to evenly flatten the entire surface of the pan.

Some Points to Consider About Warping

Frying pans which have been through a process of unwarping will warp more easily in the future. Frying pans tend to wear out from repeated warping and unwarping and eventually need to be replaced by new pans.

How to Maintain Cookware to Avoid Warping?

You may have heard the saying – prevention is better than cure. This saying also applies to maintaining cookware and preventing it from warping. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to reduce the chances of your frying pans warping.

  1. Invest in High Quality Cookware
    Invest in high quality cookware, as cheap and low quality pans are more likely to warp due to being poor heat conductors and uneven heat distributors. Good high quality cookware comes in the shape of carbon, iron and stainless steel and copper mix pans 
  2. Avoid Placing a Hot Pan in Cold Water
    To ensure your frying pan doesn’t warp, always allow it to cool before placing it under cold water. Although manufacturers may state that they use the most durable materials to manufacture your frying pan and the chances of warping are pretty low, placing a hot cookware under cool water could still cause warping.
  3. Heat Your Frying Pans Gradually
    Another method to help prevent warping is to heat your frying pans gradually; start by heating on low heat before adding food and turning the heat up. In addition, it is advisable not to heat the pan all the way up to high heat when empty and not to heat the pan hotter than necessary (keep the pan on low-to-medium heat).
  4. Avoid Overheating the Frying Pan
    Some people tend to heat their frying pans to high heat to cut down on the cooking time. Stainless steel is good at holding heat, so overheating the pan actually causes you to burn food. Try cooking on low-to-medium heat to prevent burning the food and warping the pan.
  5. Use Appropriate-Sized Burners
    Another way to prevent the warping of your frying pans is to make sure you’re using an appropriately-sized burner for the pan. It doesn’t help that some of the heat will conduct up the sides of the pan, keeping the outer edge warmer than the middle.
  6. Use Tri-Ply Pans
    The use of stainless steel pans with another metal attached to the base of the pan increases the risk of warping. When the two metals expand at different rates warping is bound to occur. The solution to this is using tri-ply pans,  where stainless is wrapped around both sides of the thermal core, this cuts down the chances of warping, but the tri-ply pans are quite expensive to buy.
  7. Buy Thick Walled Frying Pans
    Another way to reduce the risk of your pan warping is to make sure the thickness of your pan is 8 mm or more. Generally warping occurs in pans where the thickness is less than 5 mm thick. 

Best Choice Frying Pans That Do Not Warp

We now look at the best options in terms of frying pans which do not warp:

1. Ozeri Stone Earth Frying Pan

This frying pan has a stone-derived and scratch-resistant coating that enables food to be cooked and the pan to be cleaned easily. This pan has a magnetic base which ensures quick heat transfer and is resistant to warping. A heat-resistant handle helps to keep hands from burning during cooking.

However, some points to think when buying this pan are:

  • The non-stick coating gradually wears off.
  • Pieces of food get stuck in the handle bolts.
  • This pan comes without a helper handle.

2. TFal Anodized Anti-Warp Pan

This frying pan has a heavy gauge aluminium construction and a titanium nonstick coating. It also has riveted silicon handle which makes cooking easier and safer. Plus, it’s affordable, durable, anti-warp and long-lasting.

The points to consider for this pan are:

  • Its coating comes off fairly quickly.
  • Its heat distribution tends to be uneven.

3. Circulon Non Stick Skillet Set

This is a non-stick skillet set which has hard-anodized aluminum construction for durability and excellent cooking performance. It is PFOA-free, nonstick, non-warp, oven safe (400 degrees Fahrenheit) and dishwasher safe. Amazon customers find this skillet set working well even after 3-4 years of daily use.

However, some points you would like to consider for this skillet set are:

  • Its coating eventually wears off.
  • Avoid using in high temperatures.
  • It needs to be hand-washed.
  • Use of metal utensils should be avoided.

4. All-Clad Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan Cookware Set

This frying pan cookware with its hard-anodized aluminum construction allows fast and even heating and easy cleaning. Its stainless-steel bonded anti-warp base is great for induction cooking. It is Pfoa-free, scratch resistant, has a non-stick coating and is non-warping. It’s both oven safe (500 degrees Fahrenheit) and dishwasher safe.

The cons of this frying pan cookware set are:

  • It does not come with a lid
  • Metal utensils cannot be used for cooking.
  • The handle is not well designed.

5. Cuisinart Nonstick Hard-Anodized Open Skillet

This skillet is dense, non-porous, and highly wear-resistant and has an exterior harder than stainless steel. It has hard anodized construction which heats quickly, spreads heat evenly and protects against warping. This skillet eliminates hot spots and has a non-stick cooking surface.

The downsides to buying this particular skillet is:

  • The non-stick surface wears out after a couple of months.
  • There is no lid for the pan.

 

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