There are two main reasons why people begin to notice cracks in their cookware. The first is thermal expansion. As your cookware gets hot, it expands slightly. This is what allows it to hold its shape, as an empty space is filled by the heat.
As your cookware cools down, that gap becomes smaller, which can cause the pan to stick or even break. Because cast iron does not easily melt, this usually happens when you bake something in the oven or fry food in the skillet.
The other reason is structural weakness. Due to how hard and durable this material is, it will slowly lose strength at the molecular level as it heats up and cools down.
This isn’t too much of an issue unless you know what temperature to use when cooking with your cookware — every individual piece has a unique softening point. Some cookies and cakes require temperatures well above those needed for most stir-fry dishes!
Luckily, there are some tricks you can do to prevent damage caused by overheating your cookware. Read on to find out more about these tips.
Heat up the skillet until it warms up
The other option is to heat up your pan like you would if you wanted to start boiling water or heating soup in the pan. This can be done by either using the burners of the stove or having the pan warm from the oven before trying to use it.
By this method, however, you must remember that skillets are not designed to get hot! Using a warmer pan will possibly damage the material of the pan. A very thin layer may even melt away completely.
If you feel like your pan has become too hot, then immediately lower the temperature of the burner or turn off the power source (stove) for the length of time needed to cool down the pan.
Use a heat-proof spatula to stir the skillet
Recent reports of skillets breaking down are very concerning as an avid cook or even novice. If you experience any cracks, chips, or fractures in your pan, try using it before calling for professional help.
Fortunately, there is a way to fix most cracked, warped, or bent pans. You can have the professionals check it, but only if you are confident that your skills are enough to use the item effectively after repairs!
Luckily, this article will tell you how to fix almost every type of broken cast iron pan.
Let it cool down slightly
One of your most important cookware pieces is clearly not working for you! If left alone, the pan will continue to get hotter until it reaches its optimal temperature.
Just make sure that it has cooled completely before storing it or putting it away. You can try washing this pan in some water if necessary, but avoid scratching it too much as this could damage the surface even more.
If possible, test your oven space to see if there’s somewhere else you can place this pan while you wait for it to reach thermal equilibrium.
Once it has, you can either wash and/or polish the pan yourself or take it to a professional who can do it for you! Luckily, there are many online resources with tips and tricks for how to treat heavy use cast iron pans.
Use a knife to check for cracks
If you are ever in need of a new skillet, there is one important thing to look out for. Is it solid? Does it feel sturdy when pressed down?
You can test this by holding it up with just your hand. If it feels like it could possibly break, then don’t get that product!
Because cast iron skillets will warp over time, but they will also form microscopic cracks as they cool. This is totally normal and does not affect how well the pan cooks food or anything!
Sadly, some pans may even crack due to repeated use.
Try sanding the skillet
While using very hot cast iron can sometimes result in warping, one of the most common ways to fix this is by rubbing the surface with abrasive material.
A small amount of diamond dust or steel powder will remove some of the iron and create a smoother finished product. You can do this yourself or have someone you know that knows how handle this step for you!
There are several sites where you can find these materials as well as tips and tricks for working with cast iron. Many people suggest trying out a few drops at a time until you get the right texture and balance of polish.
Once it’s done, let the pan cool down and try sliding a thin piece of metal across the top.
Re-season the skillet
While replacing your handle is definitely the next step, re-seasoning or bringing back some of the lost luster in your pan is also important!
Many brands offer special treatments for skillets to restore their shine. You can find dry runs at home stores where they will let you use the pan while it restores its surface layer.
Re-glaze the skillet
When glazing a new cast iron pan, make sure you use the correct amount of glaze depending on how dry the surface is. If the pan is completely dried out, then use less glaze to cover it slightly. Or if the pan is very wet, apply more glaze to achieve a thicker coating.
Some people suggest heating up the pan before applying the glaze to help create a better bond but this isn’t necessary unless the glaze has solidified first. Just make sure not to burn off too much of the old glaze layer!
After the pan is fully coated in glaze, let it sit for at least an hour until the glaze can set properly. Then you can wash and dry the pan using only distilled water! Make sure to work slowly with the handle so it does not break.
If you notice any bubbling or smoking when drying the pan, cut back the heat source or remove the pan from the stove! Letting the pan cool down will also prevent burning.
Re-paint the skillet
A warping or bending cast iron pan is not necessarily disastrous, but it should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent further damage. If you notice that your pan has become bent or warped slightly, it can easily be fixed by taking it off the cook surface and re-painting it.
This will require you to take extra care when washing and drying the pan, as there may be some dried onto food residue that could potentially burn in subsequent uses. Make sure to wash and dry thoroughly!
If the pan is very heavily stained or painted with lots of greases and oils, then prepping it using our cleaning method mentioned earlier is the best way to go.