Leveraging the lid open is the easiest way, but you can also try lubricating the lid, heating the pan, or brute force if nothing else works to remove the pan.
Lids can easily get stuck onto frying pans when they are slightly smaller. The changing heat of the frying pan can mean its width changes, and the lid can fall further into the pan and form a vacuum making it difficult to remove.
It can be particularly frustrating with food stuck in the middle! If that’s why you’re here, let’s look at the most practical (and effective) ways to solve this problem.
Method 1: Leveraging It Open
Using either a knife or fork, try to insert it between the lid and the pan and leverage it open. It should let air into the vacuum and release the lid.
If you’re worried about damaging the frying pan (scratching a non-stick, ceramic, or lined copper pan will harm the cooking surface), you could use something non-metallic to try to leverage the lid open.
But do note that it would need to be thin enough to breach the gap and sturdy enough to leverage the lid open.
You can also use a wooden skewer or a plastic spatula. This method is preferred if you would ideally like to still eat what you have cooked!
Note: Be careful when trying to leverage anything under the lid. Using excessive force could backfire, and you may harm yourself or—at the very least—damage the pan and/or the lid. Be particularly careful with glass lids!
Method 2: Pour Water into the Pan
If water can enter the pan from any gap between the pan and lid, it should break the vacuum, and you should be able to remove the lid.
Of course, using this method will mean you may spoil your food! But it’s ideal for preventing any damage to the pan and lid (especially if we’re talking about a pricier piece of cookware).
Method 3: Lubricate the Rim of the Lid
Pour liquid soap around the rim of the lid and attempt to twist it back and forth. You may then be able to rotate it out.
If you do not have liquid soap—or you have tried it, and it didn’t work—you can also try using cooking oil, WD-40 spray, or any other liquid that could act as a lubricant.
Again, there is a chance this method could ruin your food if the liquid you use comes into contact with your food. Not so if you use cooking oil, but surely so if you reach for dish soap or that spray can of WD-40 in your tool shed.
Method 4: Ice and Fire
Most likely, your lid got stuck on that frying pan because of the temperature change when cooking. Heat causes metallic pans to expand. As they cool down, they shrink, which is how lids can get stuck.
In this method, we will recreate that scenario by heating the bottom of the pan with the stove and cooling the lid with ice. This should cause the pan to expand and the lid to contract, which should (hopefully) break the vacuum.
If you have limited space to place the ice on the lid, you can wrap the ice in a towel and hold it on top of the lid. Remember to keep the towel away from the hot stove to prevent a fire.
Method 5: Brute Force
If you really cannot get that lid off the pan, it may be time to get gravity on our side. Bear in mind, this method can be very messy, and you will likely not be able to salvage any of your food.
You’ll also be more likely to break either the pan or the lid—do not use this method if you have a glass lid!
For this method, we’re going to hit the pan against the floor. The best way to do this is on a carpeted floor which you will need to cover with something, like a towel that you don’t mind getting covered in food.
While you could do this on a wooden floor, you could damage it, and it’s definitely not advised at all on tile flooring!
Turn the pan upside down and start lightly hitting the pan against the protected area of the floor. Keep building up momentum until the lid comes off.
The harder you hit the floor, the more likely you will damage the floor, frying pan, and lid, and make a mess that might go beyond the covered area.
Remember, this method aims to apply just enough force for the lid to come loose. If you’re worried this method might be too reckless, give Variation B ago below.
A perhaps safer way to handle this situation is to hit the pan from the bottom with a mallet (or something similar, but definitely not a hammer!).
Again, with protective materials covering the floor, take your pan and turn it upside down, and hit it with either a mallet or something non-metallic. Start slow and build up momentum until the lid comes loose.
If you cannot hit the pan hard enough for the lid to come loose, you may have to try Variation A instead.
What’s More Important? Lid, Pan, or Food?
If the lid is more important, Method 2 and Method 3, and Variation B of Method 5 might be the safest. If the pan is more important, Method 2, Method 3, and Method 4 are your best choices.
Method 1 could damage your pan and is less likely to damage the lid, but it will be more fragile if your lid is glass, and leveraging it open could be more dangerous. Though, it’s quite likely the pan will survive the ordeal (in the worst-case scenario, you might get some scratches).
Perhaps neither the pan nor the lid are that important, and solving this issue might not be worth your time. There’s no need to make a mess for something that you could easily replace or, even worse, damage other things—like the floor!
Finally, you might also be wondering what to do with that food stuck in the middle? Again, it comes down to what is more important. If you need that food out, leveraging the lid open is the safest way or heating and cooling the pan (if you don’t burn your food!). Pouring water on top or lubricating the rim could ruin your food.
But if the pan and/or lid are more important, ruining the food might not be so bad.
How to Avoid Getting a Lid Stuck in a Frying Pan?
Ideally, only use lids and frying pans that are designed to be used together. This is the best way to avoid getting another lid stuck in a frying pan. But, of course, that doesn’t mean you have to throw away your current lid and pan—there are other ways.
If you absolutely must use a lid with a frying pan, it would perhaps be best to use a larger lid that sits comfortably on top and that you know for sure will not get stuck.
Lids with vent holes could also prevent a vacuum from forming, which could prevent them from getting stuck in pans. However, for some recipes, a vent might not be ideal.
You could also try to leave a gap between the lid and pan when cooking by leaving the lid ajar, but this will mean you will have to be careful that it won’t fall off and cause an accident, which in itself is risky because you might not pay close enough attention to other things when cooking.