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Apr 2, 2008 08:55 AM

My frying pan does not have a flat bottom

Is there a way to level a frying pan on the burner when the pan is not exactly flat? A couple of my pans have a convex (bumps out at the middle) bottom. Is there a device that I can put on the burner to help stabilize the pan? I vaguely remember a wire thing that used to be put on electric burners to keep glass coffee pots slightly off the burner, and I thought something like that might help, but I have no idea where to find one.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Get a new pan.

    Those "pot savers" were only marginally effective in preventing the super hot calrod from shattering a glass percolator or teapot, and now you won't find any company suggesting that you put glass in direct contact with such an element.

    It is not safe to put some thing like that on a smooth top stove -- you could minimally splash hot oil/food on yourself on someone else in the kitchen and possibly shatter the cooktop.

    If you have a gas range with pan that is slightly out-of-true you may be able to position the pan so it doesn't rock on the grate, so it is not so unsafe. Still, get some new pans. This time get pans that are built better and be sure not to overheat them or suddenly cool them -- that is real killer. Plunging even a top quality pan into cold water right off the heat is putting a tremendous stress on them...

    6 Replies
    1. re: renov8r

      Thanks for the info. I will probably get new pans. The ones that I have are low budget aluminum pans, and I'm sure they were 'untrue' when I bought them.

      I used a straight edge ruler to determine if it was the pans or the stove element that was untrue. I'll bring that same ruler to the store when I shop for new ones!


      1. re: Reston

        I've noticed that older aluminum and stainless pots get warped bottoms over time. My mom had a horribly warped Wearever aluminum skillet. My theory is that layers of metal on the bottom resist warping, but I have no way of knowing if it is true.

        I agree with others. Buy better quality pans, even if you have to buy them one at a time.

      2. re: renov8r

        I've had even well cared for Calphalon sautes get warped...At least with that brand, as you get into larger sizes, they seem to get unstable over time--smaller sizes do fine...must have something to do with the diameter vs. thickness of the material ratio. The good news is that if you send them back, they replace them. The bad news is you are without the pan for a number of weeks, and if it is your most heavily used pan, its a problem. After doing that few times, I gave up. In desperation, one night I tried tapping on the bottom of the pan lightly wit a hammer while holding it by the handle, sort of bouncing them together a bit (the center was lower than the sides). Surprisingly, it popped back into perfect shape, though it left a few dents on the pan bottom. It has since happened again, and I've tapped it again, and it's gone back, but it's a pain, seems to happen more and more frequently, and I won't buy another one. BTW, if the bottom "crowns" (higher in the middle than the edges), don't tap it directly on the inside, since you might damage the cooking surface. Place it on a concrete floor, and tap the inside surface through a piece of wood held against the high spot.

        1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

          Yup. My Calphalon (the original Commercial Aluminum Calphalon) frying pan is badly warped on the bottom. I hate that pan -- I'm not sure why I haven't thrown it out, except that it's pretty well seasoned and still works well for some things.

          1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

            Funny, I just purchased the set that has been on sale in the stores -- a ten inch and a twelve inch Calphalon non-stick, and the small one rocks on my smooth cooktop, while the large one is stable. Right out of the box. Maybe these are just not good pans for this type of cooktop, as a perfectly flat surface is essential. If the large one warps, I'll probably swear off this brand for non-stick skillets.

          2. re: renov8r

            "Plunging even a top quality pan into cold water right off the heat is putting a tremendous stress on them."

            Totally agreed. Even cast iron can warp. If you absolutely have to run water over a pan fresh off the stove, do so with steaming hot water from the faucet... As hot as it will go. We have our hot water heater at max, so no worries there.

            Even cast iron can warp on the stove too, especially with electric coils. There is not one thing that I can think of that needs anything over medium heat... Not even a smoking hot sear on a steak.

            For testing warped pans, there's two methods. One is the "spinner" test. If the pan spins easily on a flat surface, it's warped and ultimately ruined. The other test is using something like a credit card to judge flatness on both inside and outside of pan -- If you see a significant amount of light, the pan is ruined, in my opinion.

            Stay away from that high setting on the stove! The only time I use high is to fast forward heating up a pan for 30 seconds to a minute.

          3. That happens with lots of pans... copper, aluminum... but NEVER with cast iron! Sooo... You can go over to cast iron frying pans only, or... Sometimes you can find a blacksmith or farrier who will hammer the bottom flat again. Don't know whether it will "re-warp" faster after having it flattened though.

            For something to stabilize it, take an old wire coat hanger, cut off the hook and twisted part, form it into a ring large enough to stabilize your pan, burn the paint off it outside on the barbecue, and use that.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Caroline1

              i managed to warp my cast iron skillet on a very hot coil electric burner. i suspect deglazing made the convex bump. most obvious now i use a glasstop stove.

            2. You could make an aluminum foil ring that sits on the burner to nest the pan. I seem to recall seeing someone do this before, but I imagine it would lower the heat transfer efficiency from the burner to pan.

              1. cooking on a burner with too high heat causes metal pans to warp. If you purchase new ones turn the heat lower than you normally cook with. It may take a few minutes longer but no more warped pans.

                1. The bottoms of your pans are warped, and you should replace them. Aluminum pans used to warp, I recall. If you are using a glass top electric cooktop, you should only use flat bottomed pans on the burners. Even if you are not, it is a whole lot easier to cook in a flat bottomed pot or skillet.