Why Do Pans & Baking Sheets Warp in the Oven? (Explained!)
Have you ever noticed that your frying pans, baking pans, or cookie sheets seem to warp when heated in the oven? If so, you are not alone!
Frying pans, cookie sheets, and sheet pans are household staples when it comes to cooking. We use them daily without a second thought, plopping them in the oven to make the cookies we sell for our kid’s bake sale, to prepare a side for our neighbor’s annual potluck, finishing off a perfect med-rare streak or for holiday goodies we hand out to woo our coworkers.
While these dishes turn out great seven times out of ten, there are instances when a hot meal or tasty treat can turn into a hot mess. Those unevenly baked brownies, hard and soft cookies, and half-raw roasted vegetables you pulled out of the oven are all products of that loud metallic thud you randomly hear in the kitchen, warping.
Warping is a common issue with poor-quality cookware and improper care. Warping pans are not only ugly to look at, but they also lead to uneven cooking and can be difficult to clean. When heated in the oven or stovetop, metal expands unevenly due to differences in its thickness, creating warps on the surface of the pan.
The most important thing you can do to prevent your frying pans from warping is proper care and maintenance! In this article, we will talk about why metal sheet pans warp in the oven, what causes them to warp and how you can avoid ruining your pans. We even picked out some of the best sheet pans, cookie sheets, and frying pans that are oven-friendly and less likely to warp. Let’s get to it!
What causes frying pans and baking sheets to warp?
One word… Heat. Heat makes things expand, like a hot air balloon or popcorn. Warping happens when heat is unevenly distributed, mostly from its rapid application and deduction.
When exposed to extreme temperature changes, such as those that occur in the oven or on the stovetop, your pans will warp. When heated unevenly by hot spots, metal expands and doesn’t contract evenly when cooled down again. This is why you hear a loud metallic thud at random intervals—the pan has expanded too much for its surface area and distorted into a warped shape.
Warping pans are more common in lower-quality cookware that is not thick enough to handle the heat, such as thin aluminum baking sheets or flimsy nonstick frying pans. Higher-end sheet pans, like those made of heavy-gauge steel and durable nonstick materials, warp less often.
3 Common Reasons Your Pans Are Warping In & Out Of The Oven
Now that we know that the thing our pans are meant to withstand, heat, is the catalyst for our cookwares’ early lopsided demise let’s look at some of the things we do that can drastically reduce our frying pans, baking, and cookies sheet life, and durability.
Rinsing Hot Pans With Cold Water can cause Metal to warp
If you want to ruin your frying pans or baking sheets rinsing them while they’re still hot in cold water is a sure-fire way to do that. We only recommend doing this if you want to buy a new set (don’t worry we won’t tell your spouse if you do!).
Unlike past relationships, we shouldn’t let our cookware go from hot to cold. When you rinse a hot pan with cold water, you shock the metal and cause it to contract quickly. This is known as, Thermal Shock and it is no bueno, your frying pans, and cookie sheets do not like it!
Have you ever noticed how your ice cubes crack after pouring lukewarm liquid on them on a hot day? That’s because the sudden change in temperature makes it unevenly expand and contract.
The same thing happens with your metal cookware. As soon as one side of a pan comes into contact with the cold water, it contracts faster than the other side, making your precious pan turn lopsided. This rapid cooling causes uneven stress on the surface of your pan and can warp or deform it in the blink of an eye.
No more evenly cooked dinners for you! Horrible right? To avoid this, you must let your pan cool before rinsing. Let them chill out, blow off some steam. You do it after a hot day, so why can’t they?
Using Thin Single-Ply Pans They’re More Likely to Warp Than Multi-Ply Cookware
Look, we get it. Quality frying pans don’t come cheap, neither do cookie sheets or any other kitchen gadget for that matter. But, here’s the thing… in regards to cookware you get what you pay for.
Think about it, over time you end up spending more money on buying cheap $20 frying pans and $10 baking sheets. Why? Because you end up having to replace them every three months! When you could have just sucked it up, cringed, and shelled out $150 for a single quality pan that will last you 10 years!
Most cheap cookware, such as thinner aluminum pans and nonstick pans, are made out of single-ply metal. This means that the cookware features a single layer of metal – usually either aluminum or stainless steel. If you treat it wrong, even for only a single-use they are pretty much done for.
Multi-ply metal cookware features multiple layers of aluminum or stainless steel. This layered design makes the pan more even and less likely to warp compared with single-ply pans. You can even get Tri-ply, 5-ply, and even 7-ply cookware which only increases the durability!
Multiple layers call for better heat distribution and optimal protection. So kiss your Single-Ply pans goodbye, go for the thicker and favorable Multi-ply cookware.
Overheating a pan and even a cookie sheet can cause issues
Frying pans and sheet pans are made for heat whether from the stovetop or oven. So it’s a typical thought that they can take any amount of heat. Wrong-O!
Most people are not aware that frying pans and baking sheets all have different heat tolerances that should not be exceeded. It is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum heating, whether it is 300°F for nonstick pans or 450°F for metal baking sheets.
If you exceed these temperatures, your pan will warp more quickly than normal. Additionally, overheating any pan can cause it to wear out more quickly, so warping pans are often the first sign of an old or cheap frying pan.
Overheating can does not only lead to potentially warping your pan or baking sheets it has some other consequences. The excessive amount of heat may break down the coating and material of the items. Which does contribute to warping but also something much worse, the release of harmful particles and gases, which can then lead to potential health problems. These hazards are definitely a big no in the kitchen.
So, next time you purchase a new frying pan or cookie sheet be sure to actually read the pamphlet that it comes with! It will tell you whether your frying pan is oven-safe and what temperatures not to exceed to keep it in tip-top shape.
How to Maintain Your Cookware & stop your pans from Warping
If you want to keep your pans in top condition and stop them from warping, you need to do a couple of things.
When it comes to frying pans, skillets, whatever you want to call them it is imperative that you heat the pan properly. This means allowing your pans time to heat up before adding food and cooking at the proper temperature for the material as stated on the instructions that you most likely threw away.
For both sheet pans and frying pans, you need to make sure you are cleaning them properly. It can be tempting to throw your nonstick frying pan and sheet pans in the dishwasher and scrape it with a steel wool pad so your metal baking sheets sparkle, but this is one of the worst things that you can do for them. Instead, hand wash all types of cookware as recommended by their manufacturer.
Do not exceed the recommended oven temperature for your sheet pans or cookie sheets. Always check and make sure your frying pans are actually oven-safe. Many of them aren’t so you don’t want to go and finish off a steak and then release a whole slew of chemicals into it because it wasn’t meant to be thrown into a 400-degree oven.
Best non-warping frying pans
TFal Anodized Anti-Warp Pan
The TFal Anodized Anti-Warp Pan is a great pick because it features a hard Titanium nonstick interior with a hot spot indicator that lets you heat your pan properly, which helps avoid warping! The pan also uses an aluminum core to provide even heat distribution and fast cooking times, so your food won’t burn due to hot spots.
This frying pan has a lifetime warranty. It is also dishwasher-safe (though we recommend hand washing) it is oven safe up to 400 degrees, the lid can only withstand 350 degrees.
This is a budget-friendly frying pan coming in under $45 bucks for a 12in skillet.
Circulon Radiance Hard-Anodized Nonstick Frying Pan Set
Circulon’s Radiance Hard-Anodized Nonstick Frying Pan Set is a top pick if you want several pieces of quality cookware. The set includes three frying pans an 8.5-Inch Frying Pan, 10-Inch Frying Pan, 12.25-Inch Frying Pan for under $80.
Circulon boosts that their “Hard-anodized pan bodies are as hard as Sapphire and 2x as hard as stainless steel for durability and warp-resistance.”
The frying pan is also oven-safe up to 350°F, so you can use it for most of your cooking needs! This set comes with a limited lifetime warranty and is dishwasher safe (again run away from the dishwasher!)
HexClad 12 Inch Hybrid Stainless Steel Frying Pan
Here we are going to get into the more pricey option at just under $140. HexClad is Gordon Ramsey’s approved and it is an excellent choice in non-warping frying pans.
The HexClad 12 Inch Hybrid Stainless Steel Frying Pan features a Tri-ply construction, so you can expect great heat distribution and durability from this pan. They use high-grade stainless steel to sandwich in an even higher grade aluminum for top-notch cooking.
It is also non-stick, but get this you can actually use metal in it! What makes HexClad so unique is its patent-pending laser-etched hexagon design. HexClad is also PFOA-free, oven safe up to 500 degrees, and works on gas, electric, and induction surfaces. This is a pan that will last you 10 years!
Legend 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet
Cast Iron is the mother of all pans. It is solid, oven-friendly, and a beast in the kitchen. With proper care cast iron skillets can last 50+ years.
You have to really do some damage to cast iron to make it warp. Most people shy away because they think seasoning and maintaining is too much work, and while it does require a tad more upkeep than a traditional non-stick skillet it is well worth it.
Legend Cast Iron Skillet is a Large 12” Frying Pan with Glass Lid & Silicone Handle for Oven for easy transitioning! You don’t have to worry about non-stick coating coming off, if you’re anemic it helps add more iron to your diet and it can handle temperatures up to 600 degrees (some even 700!). If you’re tired of dealing with aluminum/steel pans cast iron is the way to go.
Best Baking Sheets/Sheet Pans that do not warp in the oven
Full transparency, we had every intention of giving you a list of sheet pans to choose from, because who doesn’t like options? But, here’s the thing after extensive research there is one brand and one brand only that really just takes the cookie when it comes to quality baking sheets and that is Nordic Ware’s aluminum commercial baker’s set.
You won’t find an article that does not have this sheet pan as their number one pick. Nordic Ware’s Commercial set is THE baking sheet for commercial and home kitchens so, just get it and be done with it!
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half & Quarter Sheets
Nordic Ware baker’s sheets are made from high-quality aluminum in the USA and are designed to heat quickly and evenly. They are heavy, long-lasting, and will not rust!
Because these sheet pans are made from aluminum you can not use metal utensils on them or anything abrasive to clean them. They are also handwash only.
You can get two half sheets and two quarter sheets for under $60 and they will last you forever, with proper care of course.
With over 30,000 reviews on Amazon alone and major publication like the NYTimes, Food and Wine, and Southern Living singing its praises it is the undisputed King of baking sheets!
If you take care of your Pans & Baking Sheets by following the manufacturer instructions they are less likely to warp
The best way to prevent warping is by investing in quality cookware and taking proper care of said investment. Low-quality cookware is more likely to warp when heated than higher-quality products. This means that the flimsy aluminum frying pan your grandma gave you for Christmas last year will be warped before long if not taken care of properly! Remember to avoid submerging a hot frying pan in cold water, and to follow the manufactures max heat guidelines. Keep your baking sheets, pans, and good cookware out of the dishwasher to prolong its life. Will you be replacing your warped pans? Let us know in the comments!