I am a fan of cooking shows and seeing the chefs using different types of cooking pan makes me wonder if it is important to follow. Between a non-stick pan to stainless steel, Dutch oven and cast iron, how would you know which to use? It is confusing enough with pans or pots made of various materials and there appears a non-reactive pot. Have you come across following a recipe which calls on using non-reactive pot? Does it matter if you follow or not? It may not be a hard rule but definitely good to know so that you can decide wisely. Read on to find out exactly what non-reactive pot is. And find out how to choose cookware that suits your needs. There are a few recommendations that you may like to look at.
Reactive vs Non-Reactive Cookware
Basically, non-reactive cookware means the type of material from which it is made does NOT react to acidic ingredients.
The most common non-reactive cookware is made of stainless steel. Glass and ceramic are non-reactive too.
Aluminium, copper and iron are all reactive.
Why use non-reactive? Acidic food cooked in a reactive pot will cause your food to have off-putting metallic taste and discolouration. Also, the chemical reactions will stain your cooking pot.
This does not mean a reactive aluminium pot is of no value. Aluminium, copper and iron cookware conduct heat very well. Therefore, they do a great job of cooking your food evenly. In this case, best used for sautéing vegetables or searing meat but remember not to deglaze the pan with any acidic liquid such as wine and lemon juice.
On the other hand, stainless steel and ceramic cookware give you the opposite. Both do NOT conduct heat very well thus giving you hot spots when cooking. But once they are hot, they stay hot for some time and can tolerate the high temperature for a long time which is good for making stew and soup.
In order to get the best of both reactive and non-reactive cookware, manufacturers found ways to combine elements.
Example #1. Adding a layer of copper to a non-reactive stainless steel pan helps to heat the pan evenly while protecting food from direct contact with the reactive copper.
Example #2. Coating a reactive iron pot with non-reactive enamel gives you the best of both.
Example #3. Reactive aluminium pot coated with a layer of non-reactive oxide does the same.
Confusing? Do not confuse yourself. All you need to understand is using non-reactive pot or pan ensures acidic ingredients do not affect the taste and colour of your food. At the same time, do not stain your cookware. Technology has helped improve the cookware, combining reactive and non-reactive materials so that you get to cook confidently – even heat distribution and, retain flavour and colour.
You may like to know,
What Food is Acidic
Common acidic ingredients in cooking are tomatoes, lemon juice, wine and vinegar where these are normally used for pasta sauce, stew or braise.
Most stone fruits and berries are acidic too and you would have used these in making jams.
So, depending on the ingredients, more or less you will know which pot to use.
When brining, a food processing technique, you may want to use a non-reactive pot if acidic ingredients are used.
The same applies if you choose to make your own broth or stock.
All said, even though you are cooking acidic food, using a reactive pan for a quick stir fry or prep ingredients is alright as the chemical reactions take time to happen. Thus, you need not worry too much about it.
I hope the above has given you the information why and when to use a non-reactive pot or the other.
Now, the next question you may ask will most probably be
How to Choose a Cookware
If you are not overwhelmed by the numerous choices of cookware, then you may be enticed by the fine-looking cookware display at retail outlets or online. Sometimes, ends up buying more than you need. Familiar with this? I am sure you can relate.
Before choosing your cookware, here are 3 things you should do.
Do an inventory. Take a look at what you have. Do you need a replacement or need to add another piece or several for your cooking needs?
If you only need to replace a scratched pan, buying individual piece is more cost-effective. But should you want to add several missing pieces to your inventory, consider cookware set. However, keep in mind what you really need as one can easily get carried away while shopping. This leads to the next point.
Your cooking style. What do you cook frequently and the method used?
If you make your own cooking stock, obviously, investing in a stock pot will not go wrong.
Love quick stir fry? A light-weight frying pan is all you need. But you may also like to have a pan that can cook on stove to oven. Do you really need two types of pans or choose one to use interchangeably. Give this more thought.
Match cookware to your cooktop. Are you using an induction cooktop? Then, you will need cookware with magnetic properties.
Commonly used flat-bottomed cookware is for smooth top range and gas stove too. However, some of you may want to take Asian-cooking to the next level using a round-bottomed wok. In this case, you will need a vented ring placed on top of the burner. Using a smooth top, you will need to get a flat-bottomed wok.
Once you have figure out the above, time to choose the make.
Pick it up. You shop online, yes. But it may be necessary if not a must to handle the pots and pans at the retail outlet.
While a good pan should be heavy enough to conduct heat evenly and keeps food from scorching, you need to be comfortable with the weight. It will be heavier when filled with food.
Furthermore, you need to ensure the handle is easy to grasp; tight, steady and well-balanced when lifted.
Should you choose to conveniently buy online, here are a few recommendations.
Types of Cookware
Now you know what non-reactive pot is, plus what you truly need, let’s find one or a set for yourself.
This is the all-time favourite. It may not be the best when it comes to heat conductivity compared to aluminium or copper but many premium stainless steel cookware is cladded – meaning metals are bonded together to take advantage of the properties of multiple metals. I know, these are pricy, but take its durability and ease of cleaning into account. Take your time to check out the following.
#1 Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 8-Quart Stock Pot with Cover
This tri-ply stainless steel pot is designed with two layers of stainless steel surrounding a full aluminium core for excellent heat conductivity, ensuring consistent heating. Ideal for slow-cooking sauces, stocks or broths and more. It is oven safe to 450°F. During the long cooking period, you need not worry about chemical reactions as stainless steel is non-reactive.
The clear tempered-glass lid lets you see food while it is cooking and are oven safe, so you can finish covered dishes in the oven or keep them warm until ready to serve. High sides and narrow opening of this stock pot helps minimize evaporation during the slow cooking process.
Compatible with gas, electric, induction and glass top stovetops, it is dishwasher-safe and carries Full Lifetime warranty.
#2 Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Steel 8 Quart Covered Multi Pot
Crafted from two layers of stainless steel with a full aluminium core, this multi-pot can be used three different ways.
- 1. use with the pasta insert to cook and then drain pasta or potatoes
- 2. use the steaming basket for vegetables or seafood
- 3. use the generously-sized stock pot alone when preparing stocks and soup
The see-through glass lid allows you to monitor the food as it cooks.
Dishwasher, oven and broiler safe, this multi-pot is induction compatible and backed by a Full Lifetime warranty.
#3 Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless 8 Quart Stock Pot with Cover
MultiClad Pro Stainless series features 3-ply construction, a core of pure aluminium bonded to a stainless steel interior and a brushed stainless exterior. The Heat Surround Technology maintains even heating distribution along the bottom and side walls of the cookware, eliminating hotspots. Needless to emphasis, stainless steel surfaces do not react with food or alter flavours.
The tight-fitting stainless steel cover minimizes evaporation and seals in food’s natural juices.
It is much easier to handle this pot as the rim is tapered for drip-free pouring and the cast-stainless steel handle stays cool to the touch and comes riveted for strength.
This pot is oven safe to 550°F, broiler and dishwasher safe and carries a Limited Lifetime warranty.
#4 T-fal Ultimate Stainless Steel Copper Bottom 13 Piece Cookware Set
Should you need a whole set, consider this stainless steel cookware with copper bottom which helps channel heat from the centre outward. The heavy gauge base is constructed with multiple layers of copper, stainless steel and aluminium for fast, even heat. These will not react with acidic food.
Compatible with all cooktops including induction, these are oven safe up to 500°F and dishwasher safe with Limited Lifetime warranty.
This set consists of
- • 5 Quart Covered Dutch Oven
- • 3 Quart Covered Saucepan
- • 2 Quart Covered Saucepan
- • 1 Quart Covered Saucepan
- • 12 Inch Covered Fry Pan
- • 10 Inch Fry Pan
- • 8 Inch Fry Pan
- • Steamer Insert
This is another favourite in the kitchen besides stainless steel. Non-stick coating allows food to be released effortlessly. Little or no oil is needed for cooking thus eliminates some fat from your diet. All of us like it as it is exceptionally easy to clean. Yes? But care must be taken not to scratch or gouge the surface material although some are scratch-resistant. Below are a few recommendations. If you like searing or browning your meat, non-stick cookware may not be for you.
#5 Anolon Advanced Hard-Anodized Nonstick 6 Quart Stock Pot with Straining and Lid
While the triple-layer premium non-stick surface ensures superb food release performance and durability, the hard-anodized aluminium body ensures even heat distribution. The non-stick surface acts as a barrier preventing food from contacting the aluminium which is reactive to acidic food.
The stock pot comes with a shatter-resistant glass lid that fits snuggly to pot and seal in heat and moisture. Cooking pasta, you don’t need a strainer. Simply lock the lid and drain the pot. One less item to wash. However, this pot is not dishwasher safe and not meant for induction.
Oven safe to 400°F, the Anolon SureGrip handles are designed with comfortable rubber over durable stainless steel for confident grasp even with oven mitts or potholders. This Anolon stock pot carries a Lifetime warranty.
Should you need a whole set, check out Anolon Advanced Hard Anodized Non-Stick 12 Piece Cookware Pots and Pans Set.
#6 T-fal All-in-One Hard Anodized Dishwasher Safe Non-Stick 12-Piece Cookware Set (Stackable)
This 12-piece set consists:
- • 2 Quart Covered Stew Pot
- • 2 Quart Covered Stew Pot with Fridge Lid
- • 1 Quart Stew Pot
- • 10 Inch Deep Sauté Pan
- • 12 Inch Fry Pan
- • 11 Inch Fry Pan
- • 2 Quart Fridge Lid
- • 3 x Utensils
The hard-anodized aluminium body retains perfect heat while the hard titanium reinforced non-stick surface is scratch-resistant and toxin-free.
All the pots and pans have thermos heat indicator. The ring around the spot turns solid red to indicate the pans are perfectly preheated and ready for ingredients to be added. Proper preheating is key to sealing in the flavour and cooking food evenly.
Oven safe up to 400°F, you can swiftly cook from stove to oven and serve with ease. The 2 Quart Stew Pot comes with a fridge lid thus you can keep cooked food in the refrigerator without the need to transfer into another container. Less washing.
Should you have space concern, this stackable set will be of advantage.
Suitable for all stove top except induction, these are dishwasher safe, PFOA, lead and cadmium free. Carries a Limited Lifetime warranty.
Enameled Cast Iron
Cast iron itself conducts heat relatively poor so how does it help in cooking? It heats slowly but once it does get hot, it holds onto that heat very well. This makes it great for searing and browning since the pan remains hot when the meat hits it. Also, its great heat retention makes it ideal for slow cooking, especially when placed in an oven where the cooking vessel is heated from all sides. Roasting meat, stewing and braising are most ideal. Furthermore, the durable enamel coating does not react with acidic food.
In this category, you will be looking mostly at Dutch oven.
Dutch ovens are tremendously versatile and perfect for searing, browning, roasting, broiling, deep-frying and baking. Besides cooking, you can use it for marinating, refrigeration and freezing.
Enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens do wonders in the kitchen. I am sure you will be delighted to serve on these colourful pieces on your dining table straight from stovetop or oven. Colourful choices follow…
#7 Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Price: approx. $70
The cast iron vessel has superior heat distribution and retention, evenly heating bottom sidewalls and even the lid. Its tight-fitting lid seals in moisture and with the excellent heat retention, it reduces the amount of energy needed for cooking. The surface, constructed with three layers of hard, glossy porcelain enamel are chip resistant, easy to clean and non-reactive with food.
This Dutch oven can be used on gas, electric, ceramic and induction cooktops, as well as in oven up to 500°F.
#8 Bruntmur 2 in 1 Enameled Cast Iron 5 Quart Double Dutch Oven & Skillet Lid
Price: approx. $60
This 5 Quart Enameled Dutch oven and dome lid is a dual cooker in one convenient piece. Flip over the lid to convert into a 10-inch skillet. It provides the ideal surface for sautéing and searing. Perfect for stove or oven to table serving soup, stews, beans or your favourite dish.
The sturdy side handles on both the base and lid ensures secured handling and transition from cooktop to oven and table.
Compatible with all stove types, including induction.
Both Lodge and Bruntmur are entry-level Dutch ovens. If you have not used one before, it is best to give one of these a try before going for the more expensive version. No doubt, quality comes with a premium price. When I say expensive, I really mean expensive. Take a look at Le Creuset.
#9 Le Creuset Signature 5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Oval Dutch Oven
Le Creuset is a premium French cookware manufacturer best known for its colourful enameled cast iron cookware. Its Dutch ovens are iconic and for a good reason. They employ enduring casting techniques and rigorous hand polishing and finishing to produce gorgeous Dutch ovens which come in a range of colours, shapes and sizes. The enameled cast iron is fired twice for a durable and visually stunning finish while offering even heat distribution and superior heat-retention, and is suitable for use with a variety of heat sources including induction, electric and gas.
This Le Creuset OVAL Dutch oven is the perfect size for most roast and poultry, an ideal piece to have at holiday time and any time of the year preparing classics like coq au vin.
The interior enamel is engineered to resist staining and dulling. With oversized handles, they provide even weight distribution and a secure grip. Its ergonomic composite knobs are heat resistant to 500°F. The built-in lid stabilizers provide a secure, no-slide fit.
What do you think of this premium Dutch oven? If budget permits, you may want to invest in this remarkably long-lasting, high-quality pot. Although it may not cook much better than the entry-level Dutch ovens, Le Creuset’s Dutch oven is one cookware you pass down to your kids.
Like to have an oval Dutch oven but less expensive? Here you go…
You Have a Choice to Buy Direct
Made In Cookware
Made In was formed in 2016. Although fairly new in the cookware retail industry, they come from a family with over 100 years of kitchen experience providing top-end cookware to restaurants and hotels. Bringing consumers closer to their products, their critically-acclaimed stainless steel cookware set and American made frying pans are shipped directly to your door. Hence, cutting out the high retail markups found with traditional cookware brands and pass those savings on to you.
Take a few minutes to explore Made In website and understand their business philosophy.
Made In Cookware strived to be different. Their stock pots and made in the USA non-stick frying pan are designed from the bottom up, with every detail carefully crafted. From Stainless Clad to Carbon Steel cookware and knives, you may find one or two pieces that you truly need.
All in All
As you know now, non-reactive pot does not react with acidic food. But the chemical reactions that cause food to go off-taste and discolour take a little while to happen. So, if you are slow-cooking stews or preparing something very delicate flavours, use a non-reactive pot. These are the reasons why recipes or cooking show hosts tell you to use a non-reactive pot or pan.
With the understanding of what a non-reactive pot is, I am sure you can cook more confidently. Reactive or Non, it depends on what and how you cook. Do not stress yourself out over-thinking the topic, learning to cook is an ongoing process.
Should you like to improve your cooking skills and knowledge, check out Rouxbe Online Culinary School. They conduct online cooking classes for all levels. Learn to cook like a pro!
Do you need to buy a non-stick pot replacing the worn-out? Or want missing pieces for your cooking needs? Refer to the tips above so that you will not end up buying more than you need or ones that you don’t actually need.
Cookware sets may give you some cost-savings but you might not need them all. Look carefully at what is included in the set and check your inventory. Sometimes, it is better to buy individual pieces.
With many makes of cookware, there are various combinations of metals to get the best of both non-reactive materials with good heat conductivity for you to choose from. Check out the recommended cookware above.
Pretty sure you have some experience shopping for cookware. How did it end up? Share with us in the comments section below. It may help us buy wisely.
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