Should You Avoid Using Reactive Cookware?

Non-Reactive Stainless Steel Pot for High Heat

A primary purpose of our cookware is to conduct heat efficiently without causing discoloration or strange metallic taste in our food. However, no one metal is perfect for both tasks. Reactive cookware or equipment made from aluminum, non-stainless steel, iron or copper can impart an off taste in certain food. So, if your recipe suggests using nonreactive cookware, pick a pot or pan made from glass, enamel, ceramic or stainless steel. 

Stainless steel is considered to be a non-reactive. While stainless and ceramics cookware doesn't conduct tend to have "hot spots" as they don't conduct heat very well, they won't interfere with the chemical structure of the food in a way that changes the edibility or look. Another advantage is that once they're hot, they stay hot for quite some time, which can be useful at times. You may have pots and pans made with an aluminum or copper core, but these materials are usually encased in a stainless steel shell, so they would be considered non-reactive. 

When cooking acidic foods like tomatoes or using lemon juice, or alkaline foods like scramble eggs, reactive cookware can cause your food to develop an undesirable gray color as well as pick up a metallic taste. If your food is being cooked on high heat or for a long time in a reactive pot, you can ingest small amounts of the of the copper or iron from the cookware that you used.

In summation, if you are boiling water or searing a piece of meat, using cookware made with reactive metals is a good choice. But don't plan to deglaze a reactive pan with an acid and expect good results. If you're shopping for new pots and pans, select a set of cookware with an enamel finish for the best of both worlds.


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