Why Do Fry Pans Warp And How To Fix Warped Pans?

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Why Do Fry Pans Warp And How To Fix Warped Pans?

Has your favorite pan lost its balance? Does oil pool to one side of your pan, and you eat unevenly cooked food as a result? Is your non-stick pan’s look ruined over time? If any of these situations seems familiar, you’re a victim of metal warping.

Here’s a straightforward explanation of why metal pans warp and how to fix them:

Metal pans warp due to sudden temperature fluctuations, uneven heating, and overheating. If your stove’s flame hits a pan’s center, the center will either bulge out or in, making the pan lose its balance. Metal pan warping becomes more evident with glass top and induction stoves due to their flat surfaces. You must avoid extreme heat fluctuations, small stoves, and prolonged heating to prevent metal warping. Once warped, use a hammer to straighten your pan’s bottom and enjoy even heating.

Almost all metal pans warp due to regular usage; you can fix some while others must be binned. To know whether or not your pan is fixable, stay with me, and let’s find out. Today, I’ll also debunk a myth or two about warped pans, so don’s miss out!

What Are The Main Causes Of Metal Pans Warping?

You keep everything in your kitchen immaculate, and yet there are bulges on your pan for God knows what reason? Don’t stress out; here are the main culprits that might be individually or collectively ruining your cookware:

Extreme Temperature Fluctuations

When one part of a frying pan expands or contracts faster than the rest, its shape changes with time. Picture this: You pre-heat a non-stick aluminum pan on a gas stove (which is most likely smaller than the pan); the flame directly hits the pan’s center while its walls and handle are still cold.

Now, if you quickly fry something while the entire pan’s temperature isn’t uniform and place it in water for a quick wash, it will cause a heat shock. Heat will fully expand your pan’s center by now; hence it’ll contract slowly. On the flip side, the walls that didn’t entirely expand will quickly get back to their original shape, leaving room for bulges and dents.

However, don’t be confused that only unevenly heated pans get warped; the perfectly heated ones get warped too when exposed to heat shocks.

Off the stove into the sink is a common practice for busy cooks because it saves the cleaning hassle. You soak warm food gunks in water, they come off, and you quickly rinse the pan for a clean finish.

But did you know that it’s the biggest cause of metal warping? Whether you use an oven or a stove, never soak a hot pan in cold water; it’ll immensely damage the overall structure.

Once you’re done cooking, let the frying pan cool down before soaking it to protect its shape and balance. This practice will make you wait for a while, but your favorite pan will be in your kitchen for a long haul; which option would you pick?

Non-Uniform Heating

Does your stovetop have teeny heating coils? If yes, get ready to see your metal pans warping. If the heating source is smaller than the cookware, heat distribution is always non-uniform, something metal pans hate.

Your small stove’s flame will impact the pan’s middle part more than the sides, eventually causing temperature fluctuations we discussed earlier. The flame will expand and contract a frying pan’s base faster, altering its shape for the worse.

So does that mean huge stoves will solve metal warping? Hmm, not really. With a heating coil bigger than your pan, you’ll often see undercooked and discolored food; the solution is uniform heating, not expansive heating.

If you already have a stovetop with small heating coils, find tools to improve its performance (more on this subject later).

Soft Metal Components

Even when you prevent temperature shocks and non-uniform heating, it all boils down to the metal’s strength. If it’s heat-resistant and sturdy, its shape will remain unharmed despite regular usage. Contrarily, cookware made from softer metals, i.e., aluminum, copper, etc., get warped after a few months of use.

So, to avoid metal warping in the future, get cookware that can take all the beating. Yes, we know getting a multi-ply, super-expensive cookware set isn’t feasible for everyone, but it should be on your mind if you’re a kitchen-smart person.

How To Prevent Metal Pans Warping?

Are you clear about the causes of metal warping? It’s time to discuss a few preventive measures that can prolong your metal cookware’s life. Here are some tips to keep at your fingertips:

Don’t Soak Them Right Off The Stove/Oven

Sure soaking a warm pan makes clean up easier, but it ruins its outlook just as much. Even if you’re super busy, don’t put a frying pan in the sink when extremely hot. Let it come to room temperature and then move towards the cleaning phase.

You should religiously follow this tip if your cookware is non-stick; the sudden temperature fluctuations will ruin the metal’s shape and distort the Teflon/ceramic coating (you don’t want that). If your pan is made from a sturdy metal but coated in a non-stick layer, take extra care of the temperature changes you put it through.

Optimally-Sized Stove

A stove’s size should align with the cookware in use (the reason we have different heating units on most contemporary stoves). When the heating element is smaller than the pot/pan, warping occurs. And when the stove is larger than your cookware, it distributes heat very poorly, leaving some of your food under or overcooked.

If you’re setting a new kitchen, you can easily find the exact sized stovetop and cookware. But if these changes aren’t viable for you, head on to the next tip.

Metal Heat Diffuser

A metal heat diffuser is a handy tool most home cooks don’t know about. This coil-like metal tool sits between a frying pan and heating source, ensuring even and consistent heat distribution. If your stove is small, this diffuser will keep heat from hitting a particular point as that causes warping.

But even if your stove and cookware are aligned, a metal diffuser works as a protective shield between heavy pans and fragile stovetops, i.e., glass stoves. 

Gradual Heating

Start two minutes earlier and let your metal pan gradually heat before you add raw ingredients into it. Placing a pan on high heat will quickly expand its pores, leaving room for food to stick and bulges to appear.

But gradual heating ensures your frying pan’s metal base doesn’t quickly lose its shape. Use a low-medium flame to pre-heat your frying pan and slowly increase the heat if need be (although low-medium heat works perfectly well for most recipes).

Which Pans Do Not Warp?

Did you know that the construction and material of a frying pan determine whether or not it’ll warp? Even when you cautiously maintain a pan’s well-being, if it’s not well-made, it’ll warp.

So as a kitchen-smart person, you need to know the pans that don’t warp or their warping is unnoticeable:

Cookware With Heavy-duty Bases and Walls

Heavy-gauge aluminum and steel pans are resistant to heat changes; hence they perform well for more extended periods. If you’re getting new cookware, check its walls and base for better clarity. If the walls are thick and the base is spun or heavily hammered, the chances of metal warping will be meager.

Even when a frying pan’s base is thin, its thick walls can contain the heat changes, so don’t overlook their importance. The ideal metal cookware thickness is 8-9mm; anything below this is too thin, and anything beyond this is too heavy for daily usage, so choose wisely.

Tri-Ply Cookware

Metal patenting technique has impressively helped the cookware market with its preciseness and durability. Today we have Tri-Ply and 5-Ply cookware sets that offer excellent heat distribution without losing their balance.

Aluminum isn’t excellent at heat resistance, hence it gets warped easily. But when aluminum is sandwiched between strong stainless steel layers, its immunity to warping increases twofold. Therefore, we recommend looking for multi-ply cookware and avoiding single-layered steel/aluminum pans because they aren’t as durable.

Cookware Constructed From Sturdy Metals

Although aluminum is the most common metal used in cookware manufacturing, it’s not the ultimate best option. You can easily find sturdy cookware sets made from cast-iron, stainless steel, and copper that outdo aluminum and other soft metals in terms of resilience to heat.

My Fry Pan Is Warped, What Now?

Let’s get to the real business now; your frying pan was doing just fine, but some bulges and dents ruined its performance and look. Now what? Do you trash that pan because it’s not staying still on your stovetop, or is there a way out? Luckily, you can fix metal warping with some effort, and it’ll bring your pan to its almost original shape.

Hammer It Out

Didn’t the suggestion sound similar? I mean, when something as hard as metal gets dented, the first thing we do is flatten it out with a hammer, then why not cookware? Sure, you should follow a few instructions while hammering a frying pan; the process is the same.

Things Needed to Fix Metal Warping:

  • A Mallet (either rubber or wooden)
  • Woodblock/plank
  • Towel
  • Scale

Let’s Get To Work:

Imbalanced Structure

  • Gradually heat your frying pan at a low-medium flame for 3-4 minutes This will soften the metal, and you won’t have to exert extra energy while flattening it.
  • If your frying pan has outward bulges (this kind of pan will be imbalanced on a flat surface), put it upside down on a flat surface.
  • Place the wooden plank/block over it, and hammer it with a steady hand. Don’t put extra force, as it can further harm the pan. Consistently beat the pan for 2-3 minutes and see if the bulges are gone.
  • You can also place a towel under the wood plank to divert the direct impact of hammering.
  • Use a scale to check if the flattening trick worked; if your pan’s metal warping wasn’t extreme, it’d be gone by now.

Uneven Cooking Surface

  • When a frying pan gets inward dents, the oil and food move to its side, and you don’t enjoy even cooking. If that’s the case with your pan, pre-heat it and place it on the countertop, face up.
  • Must place a towel inside it to protect the coated/non-coated interiors as hammering can severely damage them.
  • Put the wood plank above the towel and get hammering; keep your hand steady and light; you don’t want to crack the interiors.
  • Remove the towel and use a scale to see if the pan is leveled out or not. If there are bulges on the pan’s both sides, flip it and hammer the surface even.

Hammering can easily fix slight metal warping at home, but when a pan is ruined beyond the bearable level, you should either trash it or take it to a welder for professional hammering.

Related Questions

Why does oil pool to the sides of my non-stick pan? If your stove is smaller than the non-stick pan, its heating eye/coil will focus the pan’s center. After a few minutes, the pan’s center will immensely heat up while the sides are still comparatively cooler. Quick center heating means the oil in the middle is getting less viscous and more mobile; hence it pools to the sides. This situation can leave a pan’s middle region oil-less, eventually altering the overall food color. Therefore, pre-heat your pan at a low-medium flame to keep the oil from pooling to the sides.

Why do pans bow from the middle? Metals expand when heated and contract when cooled down; the same phenomenon applies to your pans and pots. When you place your pan on a direct heating source, i.e., induction or gas burner, the heat waves hit its center first, eventually moving towards the walls (pretty harmless to the pan’s shape). But when the stove underneath targets a particular spot, i.e., the center, it expands and contracts faster than the rest. The uneven contraction/expansion rate causes different pans to bow outwards/inwards, eventually making it warped and dis-balanced.

Final Thoughts

Metal cookware undergoes several changes in our kitchen; luckily, some of these changes are reversible, i.e., metal warping. Follow our tips to protect your frying pan from distortion and enjoy its seamless performance for a considerable time. And if your pan is already warped, try the hammering technique to regain its original shape. We hope your favorite frying pan stays in your kitchen for years and cooks amazing recipes cheers.

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