If you’ve ever been frying eggs or cooking pancakes and noticed that they tend to run toward one edge of the pan, cooking unevenly, chances are you have a warped pan.
Why do pans warp? Nearly any kind of pan can and will warp over time, mainly due to severe temperature fluctuations. Some pans will bow outwards, creating a wobbly bottom, and others will bow inwards, making it difficult to cook evenly in the center of your pan.
This article explains why pans warp, how to fix them, and how to prevent warping from ruining your future pans.
Why Do Frying Pans Warp?
Most pans are made from multiple materials. Some have multiple layers of metal in the base, or a combination of the base, handles, rivets, and enamel or non-stick coating all being made of a slightly different material.
Different materials expand and contract at different rates as they’re heated and cooled. If temperature changes happen gradually, your pans will be fine.
However, if there’s a dramatic temperature change, such as putting a cold pan into a hot oven or a hot pan into cold water, you may start to see thermal breakage.
Even something as seemingly minor as a difference between the size of your pan and the size of the burner you are using to cook on can lead to warping over time.
Thermal breakage is when the different materials in the pan pull against themselves and damage your pan. You may notice cracking or chipping within the coating, wiggly handles, and, of course, warping.
Why Do Pans Warp in the Oven?
Frying pans and skillets aren’t the only cookware that warps. Baking sheets are even more likely to bend out of shape.
If you’ve ever put dinner or dessert in the oven to start baking and then, seconds later, heard a clang or a bang, that was your baking sheet warping.
The same often happens when you take it out of your oven to let it cool on your stovetop or counter.
Just like your stovetop pans, the warping of baking sheets is usually caused by significant temperature fluctuation.
The metal baking pans are typically very large and thin and often made of light metal which is more susceptible to warping.
Rimless baking sheets warp very easily because they don’t have any side support to help keep them flat.
How to Fix Warping
If you’re dealing with a warped pan that you’d prefer to fix, rather than replace, there are a few fixes that can work, depending on the condition of your pan and the material it’s made out of.
How to Unwarp Pans
It is relatively easy to fix a warped stainless steel or non-stick pan, but you will need a few pieces of equipment to make sure the end result is level.
Here’s what you need:
- A light mallet (wood or rubber)
- Piece of wood the same diameter as your pan
- If your pan is bowed inwards, the wood will need to fit inside your pan
- If your pan is bowed outwards, the wood should be slightly larger than your pan
- A level
Here’s how to unwarp your pan:
- Warm your pan on low heat for 5–10 minutes.
- Place the warm pan on a stable, level, and flat heat-resistant surface; if your pan is bowed outwards, place it upside-down.
- Place the wood along the bowed side of the pan, being careful not to touch the hot pan.
- Use your mallet to tap the wood where the pan is warped.
- Continue to tap the mallet until the wood is flat against the surface of the pan.
- Use a level to make sure the pan sits flat on a surface.
Reheat and repeat as necessary until you have worked the bowing out of the pan.
How to Unwarp Baking Pans
Baking pans and cooking sheets can be re-flattened using the same technique as fixing a warped frying pan as detailed above.
Because baking sheets tend to be larger than skillets, you may find it easier to have the pan upside down on a flat surface, with the strip of wood running across the short length of the pan.
You will have to move the wood across the pan, tapping with your mallet, until you have flattened the entire sheet.
How to Prevent Warping
In a perfect world, we’d avoid warping our pans in the first place so there’s no need to fix them. For your future pans, try to follow these few simple recommendations.
- Moisture is one of the biggest causes of rapid temperature change. If you place a hot pan in a sink that has any water in it, even just a few drops, it can sizzle and cause damage to your pan. This is true not only for metal pans but also glass and stoneware cookware. You’ll also want to be cautious about pouring water or cold liquids into a hot pan, even as you’re cooking.
- Once you’re finished cooking, allow your pan or cookware to cool down gradually. Let is sit on the stove or a heat-proof trivet until it’s cool enough to touch and then wash it.
- For pans or baking sheets that go in the oven, try not to put cold pans into a pre-heated oven. Either allow them to warm up with the oven, or make sure they’re at least room temperature before placing them in the oven.
Following these tips will help you to extend the life of your cookware and save you time and money trying to fix it or buying a new one.
Warp-Resistant Frying Pans
An even easier way to prevent pans from warping is to buy one that isn’t susceptible to warping in the first place. But are there any frying pans that don’t warp?
Carbon steel and cast iron pans are more durable than pans made from other materials like aluminum and are much more resistant to warping.
If you’re tired of replacing pans due to warping, investing in a pan made from one of these two materials is your best bet. This pre-seasoned 10.5” cast iron skillet from Lodge can tackle just about any cooking task with ease.
Just remember that you will have to properly season a cast iron pan to keep it protected and working up to its full potential.
Fully-clad pans are made by stamping multiple layers of metal together, making them resistant to warping because nothing is glued.
In contrast, disc bottom pans have the bottom of the pan glued to the body, making them more susceptible to warping and other types of thermal damage.
Finally, if you’re shopping for non-stick pans, try to find one that is coated with PTFE, which is more resistant to thermal damage and warping than the non-PTFE pans, and will need to be replaced less frequently.
The softer the material that your pan is made from, the quicker it is likely to warp.
If wobbly pans are the bane of your existence, stay away from light metals such as aluminum or copper, or at least find a pan that is made from hard-anodized aluminum.
Warp-Resistant Baking Sheets
Most baking sheets are made from light metal, usually aluminum, which is easy to warp. Investing in a pan that is “double-thick” or “commercial” strengthens the metal to help it resist warping.
Finding a baking sheet that provides support for the pan through a rolled-edge can help keep your pan flat, heating evenly to reduce major temperature fluctuations. Stainless steel rims are even more effective.
What Is All-Clad Cookware?
All-Clad is a brand of premium cookware. Their pots and pans are made using extremely high-quality bonding processes and materials, guaranteed to last a lifetime.
The stainless steel cookware is highly resistant to warping because there is a heat-conducting core that is not just in the bottom disc of the pan but running along the thick side walls as well.
This provides more even heating, better for cooking with and regulating temperature, as well as protecting the cookware.
Do Carbon Steel Pans Warp?
Yes, carbon steel pans can warp like any other type of pan, but because they are made of heavy, durable metal, they are less likely to warp easily.
If you invest in a carbon steel pan, you will want to take care of it to prevent warping because they are much more difficult to re-flatten than thinner pans.
The same is true for cast iron.
Do Warped Pans Work on Induction?
Induction cookers will work on warped pans, yes, as long as they are made of the proper metal.
It is best to use a flat pan, but the cooktop will recognize the magnetic bottom even if it is a bit wobbly.
Induction cookers may also help reduce warping because they help heat the pan more evenly, even if it’s not touching the surface perfectly.