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My All-Clad pan's interior isn't flat and things are getting crispy....

I saw this question posted a few months ago but there weren't many responses.... so I'll give it another shot. I have a stainless All-Clad 11" fry/saute pan and I notice that the interior is higher in the middle than the perimeter. Whatever oil I add runs to the sides leaving a dry spot in the middle where things naturally start to burn. I guess I could use more oil...I need to add over a 1/4 cup to just cover everything, and that seems like a lot. The exterior bottom is completely flat, which it oughta be, since I just got it a week ago from All-Clad as a warranty replacement (for the third and final time). Are all large fry pans like this? How do you deal with it? Should I get some other brand of pan or just resign myself to deep frying everything?

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  1. Chez, I feel your pain. I had read here and there on the Internet that some of the larger AC pans have a tendency to warp, and guess what? Mine is. I have the...hmm, I think it's 13". It's the really big round one. I keep the heat down low, and I don't put it on my most powerful burner (gas), though according to AC, I ought to be able to. Yet everytime I go to use it, I hear the metal buckle as it heats up and, yes, you guessed it--it's not flat inside and oil or liquid contents run to the sides.

    This does *not* happen with the other pans I used for some of the same things--namely, a Demeyere Atlantis saute pan; a Marcus 10" fry pan/skillet; or my big LC skillet (12", I believe); or my Lodge cast iron skillet.

    JMO, but if I were you, I would NOT resign myself to deep frying everything. Aside from the health implications (even with a healthier oil), I can tell you something as a person who was without an oven for several months until this week...even though I like braises and sautees, you get tired of too much fat after a while.

    I have two AC pans--the warped skillet and a chef's pan--and that's enough for me. They're going to Good Will.

    But I know tons of other people love their AC, so perhaps they'll be able to help you with some ideas for using yours, if you prefer to keep it. I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone...and I *know* it's not because of anything I did. I've been cooking long enough now to know to heat pans gently and not to heat them empty on high-BTU burners.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Normandie

      Farberware gave me free replacement of a 10 year old saucepot that warped. All clad should do the same. If you do not want it anymore, you can send it to me. I will gladly pay shipping.

      1. re: phantomdoc

        You know, I didn't even think of that until Chez mentioned that his/hers has been replaced before. Kind of silly, huh? I mean, I'm neurotic about nailing down the warranty before I purchase anything that's either expensive, finicky or something I intend to depend on a lot (which was the case when I bought that pan). But when something went wrong, I didn't think about it. So what do you *really* want me to do here, phantom? That was pretty nice of you to give me a head's up re calling AC, when it's obvious you covet my pan. :-D

        1. re: Normandie

          I think you should call them and tell AllClad the problem. They will probably give you return shipping instructions. Then contact me and I will tell you where to have the replacement sent. (haha). They will send you a new pan.

          Last night I saw a program called HOW ITS MADE and they had a segment on All Clad. It shows how they make a sandwich of aluminum in between two sheets of stainless steel. They press the pans with 240 tons of pressure.

          I am beginning to think that they may want a slight deviation from flat in the design of the pans that may flatten out when temperature rises. Different metals expand at different rates when exposed to heat. Oven thermometers work by the action of a bi-metal strip that uses this principle. Just a theory, have never heard this.

          1. re: phantomdoc

            19. How do I return my cookware under warranty?
            We would be happy to provide a warranty evaluation for replacement. Follow this procedure to return the item for examination as follows:

            • First, please contact us for an RA # (Return Authorization number) to be able to send your product back; you can e-mail us at info@allclad.com or call us at 1-800-255-2523 to get your number.

            • Once you receive your number, please write a brief note that explains the problem that you are experiencing with the item(s). Include in the note your name, return address, and please mention your RA #. Package the note and the item together and return them to:

            Groupe SEB USA

            All-Clad Metalcrafters

            2121 Eden Road

            Millville, NJ 08332

            Attention: RETURNS

    2. That's a defect. Get a different brand, I would.

      1. I have seen something like this in a multi-ply pan where the interior heat conducting layer did not extend all the way to the sides. At least that was my supposition. In that case it was a manufacturing 'feature' rather than warping.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Paulustrious

          All clad makes a sandwich of aluminum in between two sheets of steel before stamping out a circle. The circle is then pressed into the shape of the pan. The inside aluminum goes all the way to the rim.

        2. It appears that the cladding has delaminated, and should be replaced, but if this is the 3rd time that it has happened for you I am wondering if the situation might have other causes beside a manufacturing defect.

          What kind of stove do you have and what level of heat are you using?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kelli2006

            ^ good point; a lot of pans are not meant to be used at full heat.

            1. re: Soop

              They are not meant to heated over 300°F when empty, Full heat is fine, as long as the pan is properly sized to the burner and there is something in the pan to transfer the heat into.

              Chez Buttons, have you ever measured how much the pan is warped?

          2. Isn't it normal? Every single cookware I have, let it be cast iron dutch oven, stainless steel sauce pan, carbon-steel wok...., a touch higher in the middle of the cooking surface. It is not super obvious in my wok, but if I run my finger over the surface, I can feel it. In fact, I am 100% sure that my lodge cast iron dutch oven came in with the edge of the cooking surface lower than the center. I know because I reseasoned the dutch oven with lard and I noticed it from day one when I was scratching it with a stainless steel brush.

            This is a random AC pan picture I found on the internet. I think the edge of the cooking surface is lower just by looking at this picture and this is definifely a new pan.


            If you are talking about major curvature, then I think you have wrapped your AC pan due to overheating (probably). I would say the foremost issue is not getting a new pan, but rather finding out how to avoid wrapping your pan in the future. Spending more money on high quality cookware only gives you a better starting point, but not the end point. In other words, an expensive All-Clad is a better performing cookware on Day one when compared to a cheaper pan, but how they will fare on Day 1657 will depend on the user.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              One of the posts in Harold McGee's Curious Cook blog explains that oil naturally migrates away from the center of a hot pan. It is called Benard-Marangoni convection: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/din...

              In addition to McGee's suggestions for mitigating the problem, Paul Prudhomme's technique is to coat/mix his ingredients with a small amount of oil rather than oiling the pan. This also minimizes the amount of oil needed.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Thank you for posting that. After all these years it was proof that are none so blind as those that do not see. And that this included me.

                    Even more inexcusable is that I read Chandrasekhar's mathematical explanation of Benard cells in fluid dynamics. Didn't really understand it though.

                1. Fascinating article on the Benard-Marangoni effect! Kelli2006, I started to measure the height difference and noticed that there's actually a small "moat" around the pan edge. (And this is the straight-sided saute pan, not the fry pan - I misspoke). My All-Clad slope-sided 10" fry pan doesn't have this problem.

                  Which got me thinking. I used this saute pan on a glass cooktop with a 9" burner, its largest. The pan base is about 10.5" wide. Is it possible that the heat raised the middle of the pan leaving behind the moat? Maybe. The sad part is that I've used this pan once to brown chicken since I got it, and ONLY on medium heat. Getting gas to this house is not an option (wah!), and so replacing this cooktop isn't a solution. Do I give in and get cast iron (although the one the NYT article had a bad hot spot, so...) Maybe these All-Clad pans are quite delicate or not suited to this cooktop. Or maybe moats are normal. I'll try Prudhomme's technique and maybe the lecthin, too. Mad scientist in the kitchen!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: ChezButtons

                    I used All-Clad in a professional environment and we did unspeakable things to them and they survived quite well but the looked less then pristine on the exterior. I doubt that you overheated an AC pan on an electric stove, unless you preheated it empty for 10 minutes.

                    Did you happen to immerse it in water while it was still hot? Can you measure what the surface difference is between the low and high spots with a straight edge.

                    1. re: Kelli2006


                      Since you have All-Clad in your work, you probably know this. Is the cookware surface completely flat in All-Clad cookware? I always think it is normal to have a tiny curvature, especially near the edge.

                    2. re: ChezButtons


                      Are we talking about a very tiny bump in your pan? Many pans are made with a moat around the pan edge. For a saute pan, you are going to saute anyway, so you will constantly moving the foods and the oil. I really don't think this is a real problem. If I am you, I will go to a cookware shop this weekend and check out a display All-Clad pan, and it probably has that shallow grove along the edge. I think having oil concentrates on a small area is not a bad thing, especially if you know how to work with it. Think of a Chinese wok. The wok is designed to have oil concentration in a very small area. Granted that in a wok, the oil is concentrated in the center.

                      I like my cast iron skillet, but I don't think you should replace your All-Clad saute pan with a cast iron skillet. They are completely different beasts. Forget about that NYTimes article for a moment. In a saute pan, you saute. You will toss your food around. You cannot do that with a heavy cast iron pan without hurting your waist.

                      The Lodge 12" cast iron skillet/pan is 7-8 pounds. You will be like holding the edge of a 7-pound dumbell by one hand and try to wiggle it up and down. Bad for your waist.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Good thoughts, Chemicalkinetics. I'm probably using the wrong tool for the job. I should just buy a bigger slope-sided fry pan than my current one and leave the saute pan for saute-ing. Eureka! And to Kelli, I always let the pans cool before I clean them and am very careful about adding liquid to deglaze. I'm so paranoid about the bottoms warping with this flat cooktop.

                        For the incurably curious, I attach a photo of the saute pan in question with diluted bitters in it. You can see the convexity of the pan as well as the moat ring on the edge. Liquid gathers a bit to one side of the pan, also. I checked the cooktop with a spirit level, and it's dead level, so I guess this is a pan "feature." But as CK says, I should be using it for saute, where it really doesn't make a difference. Looks like I'm going shopping! But do I stick with All-Clad?? A question for a different post :)

                        1. re: ChezButtons


                          I checked out your photo and, as you said, the outer rim of the pan is lower, but I see that in a lot of pans. Here is another photo and again this pan also looks like it has a lower rim: http://www.kitchenaria.com/images/upl...

                          Did you said liquid gathers on one side of the pan? That, I know, is not normal. Aside from using a leveler, try rotating your pan. Let's say the pan handle is directly facing you and the liquid gathers to your left. When you rotate the pan 180 degree with the handle away from you, the liquid will remain gathers to your left (same direction relative to the stovetop) if it is your cooktop tilted. If the liquid gather to your right (same direction relative to the pan), then it is your pan that is tilted.

                          Sound like you want an absolutely flat bottom fry pan. This is a pretty general rule of thumb, but it is generally true. The thinner the metal, the higher the chance it will warp, which is why thick cookie sheets do not warp as easily as thin cookie sheets.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            The cooktop is level on both axes, and the liquid always gathers on the same side of the pan. It shouldn't matter for saute-ing, though. I just need a flat bottom pan on both sides for frying, as you said.

                      2. re: ChezButtons

                        I also live in a place where there are no gas lines to private homes. My glass cooktop says not to use cast iron,but I have been using it for 9 years with out a problem. I will also accept your unwanted All Clad.

                        1. re: phantomdoc

                          My Amana corningware cooktop electric stove will be 30 years old in a few weeks - I have used cast iron all along. It is more likely to scrape the surface than other metals but the cooktop lost its claim on "pristine" back when Reagan was president!

                      3. Just curious - is it the 11" French saute/fry pan? I have the same one and it is raised in the middle too. I have many All-Clad SS pieces and they aren't like this. I went to Williams-Sonoma (where I bought it) to see if it was a defect and they are all like that. I figured they were supposed to be that way. It is slightly annoying but it isn't my "go to" pan so I just deal when I have to.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: meggie t

                          meggie t, this is the 11" saute pan with vertical sides and a second handle. I think what I need is a what AC calls a fry pan (with the slanted sides). Good to know about yours -- mine's not a mutant.

                          1. re: ChezButtons

                            Chez, I have the allclad saute pan. Its a 3 qt and is about the size of a 12 inch skillet.

                            Its probably the same pan that you have.

                            Mine seems to be raised in the center where you can see the spin marks from production.
                            and then it seems to have a slight dip as it reaches the edge. Its flared like this on purpose.

                            When I put liquids in the pan I notice that it seems to migrate away from the center when there is heat and usually follows the same pattern. Thats normal.

                            The pan is designed for liquids so its designed to have the ability to collect liquids away from the center so you can cook the protein with less liquid.

                            I use this pan in place of a 12 inch skillet and in fact you don't need that much oil. I just coat it and swirl and I will rub the protein in the oil and place. At this point it doesn't really matter where the oil goes.

                            I prefer this pan over a regular frying pan as I like to make pan sauces and usually include a healthy amount of onions and garlic and mushrooms and spinach and I just couldn't pull that off with liquid in a skillet.

                            I also have the all clad 11 inch french skillet with lid. I just bought it at macys. Its a macys exclusive and they sell it for $79.99 and then I got 20% off with their coupons. They always have coupons. Basically I paid $58 including tax for an 11 inch all clad skillet with a dome lid. Compare that to a 12 inch all clad skillet with no lid that was $139.99. The 11 inch french is essentially as big as the 12 inch anyway and its more pan, there is much more meat to it as it has higher sides. Plus dome lid. Killer deal I would go for one of these personally over the 12 inch.

                            The french skillet is similar to a saute pan in that it has the ability to hold more liquid. Also the french like to flip so they like high sides. This pan has a slightly less defined moat but its still there. Liquid still migrates away from the center and collects near the edge but its much less than the saute.

                            Looking at the pans you can see they are designed this way. I too was worried in thinking I had warped something but its all part of the style of pan. My 8 inch all clad has even less of a moat. Liquid is generally quite even, but again still migrates away from the center with heat. But even still there is a slight moat that happens where the sides start to flare up. Its barely noticeable on the 8 inch, as the size of the pan increases I notice more of a moat.

                            I live about 20 minutes away from all clad. The stuff is killer. Have no worries your doing fine.

                            1. re: mmdad

                              It is interesting that you say the French skillet moat is less defined. My 3-qt saute (the one you refer to and that Chez Buttons is referring to) is my go-to pan. We use it several times a week. I think that the moat on it is less defined than the French skillet, enough for me to question whether there was something wrong. Either way, they are all great pans!

                              1. re: meggie t

                                I hear what your saying, by looking at them I agree with the way they look but not when in use. I went to william sonoma today and noticed every saute and french skillet had the same identical shape as mine. I think its definitely part of the design. I love it personally.

                        2. ChezButtons,

                          I just want to say I went and checked out an All-Clad try pan in a store. It is definitely absolutely flat. The center is somewhat flat, but as surface curves down when it get to the rim/edge. I have also looked a Calphalon and few other pans. They are all like that.

                          I think your pan is just curve the day you brought it. You didn't do anything wrong to it.