When Should You Throw Out Pans? 

Published Categorized as Cookware, Cookware Advice, Guide

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Different types of cookware vary in durability. Some pots and pans can last for years and even become family heirlooms, while others can totally fall apart in a couple of months. But how do you know when it’s time to throw away your pans? Often, we feel sorry to throw away a pan we love, hoping that we’ll fix it somehow. However, in some situations that is not really possible and it’s better to get rid of the pan immediately than having it hanging around your kitchen. 

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These are the 4 most common signs that you should throw out your pans:

1. The Bottom Of The Pan Is Warped

The bottom getting warped is one of the most common problems that happen with frying pans. This problem happens most frequently with shallow skillets, but, in fact, it can actually happen with any kind of pot or pan. 

Most pans warp when they are exposed to sudden changes in temperature. If you fried something and once you were done you placed the pan in the sink and poured water over it, this could be the reason why the bottom of the pan has warped. When metal is cooled too fast, it can warp. This can happen to any kind of pan, even cast iron. However, it is much more common with nonstick pans made of aluminum. 

How much of a shock is needed for a pan to get warp depends on how well the pan is made. If it’s thin and lightweight, you need to be more careful, cause it can get warped easily. 

It’s not hard to notice if a pan is warped. Just place it on a flat surface and see if it wobbles. If it wobbles, it’s warped. The problem with warped pans is that they don’t cook evenly anymore. Since the surface is uneven, the heat won’t be distributed evenly, leading to creation of hotspots in which food gets cooked much faster. If a pan is warped, it’s best to toss it and save yourself the trouble. 

2. The Nonstick Coating Is Scratched

Nonstick pans tend to be favorites in many kitchens. After all, there is really nothing better than a nonstick pan for cooking eggs in the morning. Some nonstick pans are more durable, and some less, but they all have some type of nonstick coating. If you notice the coating is scratched, it’s definitely time to throw out this pan. 

At the very least, the scratched coating will start chipping off eventually, and you don’t want tiny bits of that in your food. At worst, these coatings can contain dangerous chemicals such as PFOA that can end up with your food. 

It’s best to think of nonstick pans as replaceable. Some coatings are better than others and some can even be used with metal utensils, but sooner or later they all get scratched. When they do, it’s time for a replacement. 

3. The Surface Is Chipping Off

The same thing that holds true for nonstick pan is true for anything that starts chipping off. No, this won’t happen with your stainless steel pan, but it could happen with enameled cast iron pans, for example. If anything starts coming off of your cookware, you’ll definitely want to replace it as there is no stopping this process. 

4. The Handles Are Loose And/Or Falling Apart

Yes, a frying pan can work without a handle. But do you really want it to? Once the handles start coming loose, it’s very likely this will happen again and again even if you try to fix them. Having loose handles is not just annoying, it can also lead to very dangerous accidents. You don’t want your handle falling off while you are holding a pan full of hot food, don’t you? 

When Not To Throw Out Your Pans

Last but not least, let’s talk about when not to throw out your pans. If you notice any of the 4 signs mentioned above, you definitely want to throw away your pans. However, in all other cases, it’s good to give it some thought before throwing out cookware. There are many problems that can be fixed with some patience and care. 

Stainless steel pans, for example, are almost impossible to destroy. Depending on the level of quality and how much you abuse them, a stainless steel pan can warp, but this happens very rarely. On the other hand, these pans are prone to discoloration, especially on the outside. This is no reason to throw the pan away, though. It might not look pretty, but a discolored pan still works perfectly. Moreover, these pans can usually be cleaned to perfection with a bit of persistence. 

Similarly, cast iron and carbon steel pan can often show bits of rust. This is no reason to throw them away, though. You can use a brush to remove the rust, reseason the pan, and it will be just as new. 

Another thing to think about before throwing out a pan is the warranty. Many pieces of cookware come with a warranty that can last from 1 to 10 years, or even a lifetime. If you haven’t abused your pan, but it still shows signs of wear, you might be able to replace it with a new one for free if it’s under warranty. 

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, the decision to throw out a pan is just about the looks. A discolored pan looks ugly, and you certainly don’t have to keep it if it’s impossible to clean it, but the point is – it’s still usable. In some other cases, things are a bit different. A damaged nonstick pan or a pan with porcelain enamel can be a danger to your health, so throwing those out is a must. Finally, wobbly pans and pans with handles falling off are still technically usable, but using them is just not enjoyable. 

On a final note, when we talk about throwing out pans, we don’t necessarily mean throwing them into the trash. We just mean they shouldn’t be used for cooking anymore. If you can find a way to repurpose your damaged pan without using it for cooking, even better!