How to Break a Cast-Iron Frying Pan





Introduction: How to Break a Cast-Iron Frying Pan

About: So, I joined Instructables for the 2013 Pi Day contest. There seem to be lots of interesting things here, though, and hopefully I'll have time to look at some of them!

This Instructible documents a tested method for breaking the kind of object that normally falls under the description “indestructible.”  Something like the item pictured above, which was once a twelve-inch Wagner skillet and is now scrap metal. 


One cast-iron frying pan (note: this method has not been tested on pans smaller than 12 inches)
A high kitchen ceiling (8-10 feet)
A distinct lack of foresight (or a good supply of foolish optimism – your choice)

Read on for five minutes or so of morbid amusement!

Step 1: Step One: Storage Decision

Because of a shortage of kitchen storage space for large objects, choose to keep your cast-iron frying pan on top of the kitchen cabinets, in that mostly-empty space below the ceiling.  Obviously, this won’t be practicable if your kitchen ceiling is too low, or your cabinetry is topped by soffits.  In that case, you’ll need to move to a more suitable house in order to follow these directions.

IMPORTANT:  The cabinets should be high enough so that you have to stand on tiptoe and kind of push the frying pan up into its place.  The handle will stick out, but that’s fine; nobody’s going to walk into it, and it’ll be easier to get hold of to take it down again.

On no account should you use your ingenuity to find a lower-down place to store the frying pan, such as in that handy drawer under the oven.  It’s too much of a nuisance to have to stack several pans inside each other and remove one or two just to get out the bottom one.

Click “Next” to read the thrilling conclusion!

Step 2: Step Two: the Fumble

a.  One fine day, go to put the frying pan away and miscalculate the pan’s distance from the end of the cabinet, so that instead of resting securely on the cabinet, one side of the pan’s rim (the right side, in this case) is resting on empty air.

By the time you realize your mistake, it’s too late to do anything about it – the pan is too heavy for you to catch before it falls.  (Unless you have much, much greater wrist and arm strength than I do.)

b.  Yelp and jump back.  SAFETY TIP: DO NOT INTERPOSE ANY PART OF YOUR BODY BETWEEN THE FLOOR AND FIVE POUNDS OF GRAVITY-IMPELLED CAST IRON.  That will only end in pain and more things broken than just the pan.

c.  Stare in astonishment as the pan hits the counter (missing any ceramic spoon rests, microwaves, or glass stovetops on the way, if you’re lucky) and then winds up on the floor in two pieces. 

d.  If you are so inclined, bring out some of the swear words in your vocabulary.

e.  Go shopping for a new frying pan. 

Click “Next” for a few additional notes.

Step 3: Postscript

  • DISCLAIMER: I do not REALLY recommend trying out this method for breaking a cast-iron frying pan.  This Instructible is actually a humorous warning and a way to get something out of this experience besides a shock and the expense of a new frying pan.

  • But if you do want to try it, check with your spouse first.  My husband misses the twenty-seven-year-old seasoned finish of our old frying pan and is not looking forward to breaking in the new one.   He definitely would’ve vetoed this experiment if he’d thought of it.

  • We are storing our new frying pan in the drawer under the stove, and suffering through the inconvenience of having to lift out the Dutch oven first in order to get at it.  We feel that this is much cheaper than buying new kitchen equipment.



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    I used this same method to break a crystal cake stand that I received as a wedding gift. Mine leapt out of my hands ( I think the mice that were evading the traps by running on top of the cabinets had a hand - or paw - in this ) and bounced off my shoulder, only to break into a million shards on the kitchen floor. And of course, my 2 preschool children came running in to find out what the neat crash was all about. Ah well. The replacement is now stored in it's original box, ensconced in styrofoam as nature intended.

    Cast iron pots and pans is a valuable part of the American heritage, one should not belittle that at all. A welding fitter can easily mend your ill-fated pan by means of stainless steel welding rod.
    Good luck.

    15 replies

    27 years old is too young to be part of the American heritage.
    You can find true older pans (all black / no paint) in flea markets, garage sales, etc … 
    Moreover the pan showed is made of grey cast iron. Older pans had not paint and were made of black cast iron. More solid and truly American !…

    my skillet that broke like the one above was probably grey cast. I had two, one was a lot heavier. I gave it to a neighbor. The one I kept was lighter and easier to manage after the shoulder surgery. Big mistake!

    Now, I KNOW instructables isn't for spam(unless it's a Spam instructable) but I'll do a LITTLE advertising, to make a point.
    when the COMPANY has been making the same exact product since the1800's, I consider it to be a heritage item, even if it was made yesterday.

    and PAINT on a cast iron pan? PAINT?!? Maybe a made-in-chine "antique" for wall display in a yuppy McMansion. But really, PAINT? I get a bit ill just at the thought of it.

    Ok, just re-read that line in the 'ible. it's the 27 year old SEASONING on the pan. The pan itself MAY have been much older. 27 years is a fairly long time, in the lifespan of grease and oil.

    Black cast iron? Not sure I've ever even heard of THAT. Grey and WHITE cast iron, yes. Which alloying materials are used in the black cast iron you speak of? or is it mearly a mistaken case of "Fifty Shades of Grey iron".

    Sorry this may have been lost in translation ...
    What we call in french "grey" and "black" cast iron may well be "white" and "grey" in english. My usual online dictionary is no help and as I have no time to make a proper research I must leave it at that ! Sorry.
    Of course my comment was just that : a comment more than a response. I may be wrong and I am sorry if I am.
    Now about "paint". I understand that I should have used the word "lacquer". But then again I'm not so sure it is the right word either. Anyway this should be understood quite easily by everybody as the orange color on the side of the pan says it clearly.
    This shows that the pan is most probably post-war. As many pans that were cast in the 19th century are still in service (or they should, as cast iron has no lifetime, or nearly an endless lifetime, in such uses as cooking) I don't think that an orange lacquered cast iron pan can be considered as a valid heritage.
    Myself I use a cast iron grill that goes bask to the late 20's or early 30's and it is still the best grill I ever used and it clearly shows it can last 50 years more : no wear, a loss of thickness, no rust on the underside … perfect ! I also have two old iron (not cast iron) frying pans that must be at least as old as I am (65, in three days :/ ) and I still use it them almost everyday the time. These tools are endless ! So maybe few people now possess a 27 years old cast iron pan, but this is due to the whims of fashion more than to the wear of the product ! Regarding the latter 27 years old is almost nothing !…
    As for a company that belongs to the National Heritage I fully agree : it belongs to american culture if it was born as early as the late 19th century. But this cannot be said of all its products ! A vintage Bell telephone does belong to the National Heritage ; but I guess nobody would say that of the latest cell phone launched by Bell (which does not exist to my knowledge : I just made up the example to be clear).
    Anyway, our discussion misses the most important point and we all should focus on it :
    THIS INSTRUCTABLE IS EXCELLENT and we should all be thankfull to historylive

    historylive : THANK YOU, you made my day !!!!


    je vous présente mes excuses

    Your english was good enough that I presumed you were a native speaker and meant the exact words you said.

    And total agreement. Cheers to historylive for producing such a wildly successful instructable and hosting such a lively debate.

    Waell … That is a compliment.
    I don't know if I really deserve it… but it does make me happy !…

    Thank you !

    Thank you, Vincent! I'm glad you liked it.

    The word you're looking for is "enamel," by the way. It's not paint but melted glass, like pottery glazes.

    Of course ! Now that you said it !…
    What a fool I am … 

    Again I really had a good time reading your inst' and although people here are quite open to humor I wish we could read more of your kind !
    Thanks again.

    The new pan's a Lodge, as Wagner seems to have gone out of business, alas.

    PS. Cast iron cannot be welded, no matter what they say : the weld is merely a glue whereas true weldind makes one piece out of two.

    wrong I haveone that was dropped and welded and I have watched my dad weld cast many times its all in knowing what you are doing and having the right equipement

    ok, so funny story.
    This one time at weld camp....

    Seriously though, There is a LOT of confusion surrounding welders repairing cast iron.
    Now, if you talk to a BLACKSMITH, that confusion should go away quickly.
    And here's why.
    The NICKLE rod(not stainless) that most cast iron "weld" repairs are done with actually created a BRAZE. just about any blacksmith should immediately tell you they would bronze braze your pot back together.
    It's not really "GLUE though, as you stated. Consider the practice more of a very high strength solder.for a cast iron pan like this, a proper braze would be as good, or better than the parent material. You could smash the repaired pan into tiny scrap pieces with a sledge hammer, and while the rest of the pan is turned to dust and chips, you'd still have a solid braze holding onto cast iron chips.

    I think the confusion usually comes from the fact that welders will use welding torches(electric and/or gas) to deposit the repair material.
    "If a welder is using welding rod in a mig welding machine, he MUST be welding, right?"
    Wrong. The repair LOOKS like a weld, the repair ACTS like a weld, but as vincent7520 says, it is not TECHNICALLY a weld.

    I stand corrected.

    After consulting with my welding gurus... cast iron CAN indeed be welded.
    At least SOME cast iron can be.

    As it was explained, here's the issue. The nickel rod welding IS fusion welding, but it' a weak join(as far as welding goes). Then again, as we have seen, cast iron isn't the strongest stuff around to begin with. You have a weak brittle join between two pieces of weak brittle metal.

    Grey iron is the category of stuff that's almost impossible to weld. The graphite is the issue. Apparently, that also makes brazing fairly difficult. Stuff doesn't like sticking to carbon.

    White cast iron, is often the same as grey, except it cools much quicker after casting(like thin frying pans). This freezes the carbon in the iron, without letting it form graphite flakes. White iron is eminently weldable. also easily brazed. Then there's the third catagory, malleable(white iron that has been specially heat treated) and ductile cast iron(additional alloying elements to prevent graphite formation chemically).

    Unfortunately, almost all cookware is GREY iron, and therefore virtually unrepairable :-(

    So, I guess the best thing to do is, use the broken pan for something else, or bring it to your local art college, and have them re-cast it into something useful(provided you are near a school where they do iron pours).

    I think you should hang the pot up in the kitchen AS IS.
    Tell anyone that asks "That's a reminder of what happened to the last person to complain about the cooking"

    As a last resort, grab some JBWeld, stick it back together, and out into the garden, like was initially suggested.

    Huh, that's really interesting metallurgy info, ironsmiter! It's funny that graphite behaves like that, when you consider how chummy with other elements carbon tends to get down at the atomic level. But I guess that's also what makes graphite so useful for writing. :-)

    ... All of which means that it was probably cheaper for me to buy a new pan, at least until I get around to learning blacksmithing myself.

    Thanks for the info about the repair terms! :-)

    My cast iron skillet looks exactly like the one above. I had it on the dish drainer and accidently bumped the drainer. If fell to the floor and just snapped. I have to buy another one. I got that skillet in a wedding shower 46 years ago. It's my go to skillet for everything.

    My mother liked to tell the story of when she and my dad were being restationed back to the US in 1952 from Japan. Unbeknownst to them the packers packed a packing barrel with their Noritake china and placed her 10" cast iron fry pan on top of the dishes. When they unpacked at their new post in Virginia, the fry pan was in two pieces and not one piece of china was broken.

    1 reply

    That's a really astounding story! Love it. :)