What Causes a Pan to Warp—and How Do I Fix It?

Have a warped pan at home? It's easy to fix—and prevent the problem from happening again.

From scratches to dents to burnt-on stains, pots and pans go through the wringer. While these battle scars are more annoyances than they are actual issues, damaged cookware can become a problem when it’s hard to use. If you have a warped pan or two in your collection, the uneven surface may affect how your food cooks.

Here’s a closer look at what causes warped pans, trays and pots, along with several ways to un-warp them.

What Causes a Pan to Warp?

My parents have had the same set of cookie sheets in their kitchen since I was little. And ever since I can remember, one of them has been slightly bent upward and uneven. It doesn’t lie flat on an oven rack, so half of the cookies we bake using the sheet always come out a little underdone. Not really what you want when prepping batch after batch of cookies.

Sound familiar? Here are a few of the reasons why your cookware might be warped. And if your cookware collection is growing, we have some storage solutions for your kitchen.

Rapid Changes in Temperature

Have you ever removed a pan from the oven, scooped its contents on a cooling rack and immediately doused it with cold water in the sink? We’ve all done it at least once. The sizzling and the steam is unpleasant, of course, but you’re actually damaging your cookware by exposing it to contrasting temperatures so quickly. The pan is still extremely hot, and splashing it with cold water puts it under stress, causing the temperature change to distribute unevenly and warp the metal. Give your pots and pans a few minutes to cool down on their own before heading over to the sink!

Overheating

You can also warp a pot or pan by heating it up too quickly. Even taking a room temperature pan and heating up to a high temperature quickly (versus over a longer period of time) causes stress, and the unevenly distributed heat can misshape your metal cookware.

Weak Material

It’s always a good idea to invest in quality cookware, since we constantly expose it to high temps and messes. In general, stainless steel is considered to be a more heavy-duty metal than aluminum. It’s denser, more durable and less likely to bend under heat and weight. Look for cooking products that are multi-ply versus single-ply; they’re even more durable.

See what sheet pans our Test Kitchen recommends.

Thickness of Pan

Thicker pans also conduct heat better than thinner pans. Because they have less material, thin pans warp more easily when exposed to extreme temperatures. Thicker pans hold up better and generally do a better job absorbing heat.

Burner Size

If the stovetop is the culprit behind your warped pots and pans, it might be because your burner is too small for the cookware you’re using. Large pots can warp on the stove due to concentrated heat from the burner, which may only hit the center of your cookware’s base and neglect to heat the edges.

How to Fix a Warped Pan

Yes, there are steps you can take to fix the damage! Here are two simple methods to test in your kitchen.

Pound Flat with a Hammer

You’ll need two towels, some heat and a hammer to try and rejuvenate a warped pan. Start by heating the pan on low for several minutes, to get things warmed up. Then, carefully transport your pot or pan to a flat, durable surface like a concrete floor or workbench. Place a towel down between the pot or tray and the flat surface to act as a cushion, plus another towel directly on top of the warped metal. Then start pounding the metal flat with a hammer.

This method works best for cooking products that aren’t yet severely warped.

Use a Wood Block

For heavily warped cookware, try the wood block method. Follow the same steps as the towel and hammer method above (heat, place on a flat surface with a towel as a buffer), but place a wooden block on the metal and hammer that. You can hammer a little harder, and the wood will help distribute the blows to the metal.

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Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.