An Oxford Rocket Scientist Has Designed A Better Saucepan

The "Flare" Pan is a saucepan designed by University of Oxford engineer Thomas Povey that borrows design aspects from jet and rocket engines to burn hotter and more quickly than a conventional pan would over the same flame. It also looks pretty space age-y, which we can obviously get behind.

The story goes that Povey, who designs cooling systems for jet engines, was on a mountaineering trip, struggling to get a pot of water to boil at altitude, when the idea for the Flare pan came to him. He and his students tinkered with the design for three years before settling on the product you see in the video above: a cast aluminum saucepan with a series of tapered fins encircling its perimeter.

An Oxford Rocket Scientist Has Designed A Better Saucepan

With a conventional pan, explains Povey, the flame from a stove rises up around the pan "and a lot of that heat is dissipated into the environment. With a Flare Pan, the fins capture a lot of heat that would otherwise be wasted." According to Povey, the pans use about a third the gas and cooks roughly 30% faster than comparable, standard cookware. That means they're cheaper and quicker to use than conventional pans, a fact that has garnered Povey's pots a 2014 Hawley Award from the Worshipful Company of Engineers for "the most outstanding engineering innovation that delivers demonstrable benefit to the environment."

We can't help but wonder if Povey's idea for the Flare Pan came to him while using something like a Jetboil, a compact cooking system commonly used by mountaineers to – you guessed it – boil water quickly at altitude [Ed. Note: We asked Povey about this and he responded, see below]. It, too, features a fin system to transfer heat more efficiently from the burner to the heating vessel, operating "like a radiator in reverse." Jetboil calls its patented fin system a "FluxRing." It looks like this:

An Oxford Rocket Scientist Has Designed A Better Saucepan

The Flare Pan went on preorder (shipping late August) Wednesday through U.K. kitchenware store Lakeland. Prices start at around $85 and go up from there.

Update: In response to our questions about the Flare Pan's similarity to the Jetboil and similar mountaineering stoves, Povey wrote:

I was actually working on this project before the Jetboil was patented, with designs very similar to the Jetboil, so that was not — as you speculate — the inspiration, but is certainly a great product which good design and function - I own one myself. More recently we started to look at household applications, where the optimisation problem is more difficult (needs to work on conventional gas stove, needs to be cleanable, look good, durable in kitchen environment). The design that resulted is the result of that rather different optimisation challenge.

More on better food and drink through science:

H/t L.A. Times