Vapor lock!

Sarah was making her excellent bacon leek risotto this evening, which calls for chicken broth, a homemade batch of which was waiting in the freezer. She was bringing it to a simmer, getting ready to add it by the ladlefull to the rice and leeks and stuff when she found she couldn’t get the lid off the saucepan.

saucepan_lipNor could I. Not with all my might. The risotto recipe was at a critical stage, so we had to put that on the back burner (literally) while trying to find a way to break the vapor lock between the pan and its lid.

Some quick googling and a plea for advice on Twitter brought nothing concrete, so we started trying all the ideas we found. In the end, here’s what we did:

  1. Cooled the pan by soaking it in a large bowl of cool water (go with ice water if you can, but this is Germany, y’all). If I managed to get that lid off, I sure as heck didn’t want a hot soupy spray in the face to reward me.

  2. Whacked the lid with a rubber mallet to try to budge it off-center towards one side. This created a little overhang between the lid and the pan.

  3. Took a horrible old cheapo kitchen knife (why did we keep those around? Oh well, glad we did!) and wedged the blade at the point of the overhang between the lid and the pan. I heard a faint hiss at that point.

  4. Twisted the knife; more hissing and then a slurpy sound, and it was all over with no casualties (not even the crappy knife).

Sarah even managed to get the risotto back on track, and all was well in our kitchen (and guts) once more.

Lessons here:

  • always set the lid slightly askew
  • or keep a spoon in there or something if you can
  • oh, that’s what that little hole on the similarly-shaped lid of our cheapo IKEA frying pan is for!

We were bumbling around like idiots for like twenty minutes there. We finally caved and started trying to contact our moms (and we managed to get Sarah’s dad on the phone right as I made the breakthrough). How should we have handled it?

3 thoughts on “Vapor lock!”

  1. shoreacres

    Actually, it looks like you were pretty much on track. I got interested, and found this forum thread that even has a contribution from a Calphlon rep – who wasn’t of much help. Still, you might take some comfort in knowing you’re not alone.

    I think I’d skip the propane torch, though.

  2. cliff1976

    We saw that link early in our frantic searching, too. The weird thing in our case is that the vacuum should not have been created by the contents cooling — at the point of the seal, the pan was still heating up.

    I am pretty sure I remember my grandfather’s older brother died as a child in a hot soup accident in the kitchen, so you can be sure I also wanted to perform all operations at or below room tempertature.

    I’m thinking next time, if necessary (and we’re crossing our fingers it won’t be), I’ll grab my drill and put a 3 mm hole in the lid to prevent a seal from ever forming.

    I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t opt for the glass-lidded pan. (Or maybe those have a vent in the lid — can’t quite remember.)

  3. Dad

    You could maybe just bend the lip of the top or pan minutely with a needle nose pliers to create a pressure release.

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