Is Your Pan Non-Reactive? It Should Be

A brief chemistry lesson that will help you in the kitchen.

Izzy Johnson|Jul 21, 2022
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If you’re making a reduction or

red sauce

, you may see that a recipe calls for a non-reactive pan. Whether a pan is considered reactive or not comes down to what material it’s made out of. If said material is reactive, cooking with certain ingredients can impart metallic flavors or damage the surface of your cookware. Below, we break down which pans are reactive and what ingredients to avoid when using them.

What Is a Nonreactive Pan?

A non-reactive pan refers to a piece of cookware that will not react to acidic ingredients. Common acidic ingredients include vinegar, citrus, tomatoes, pineapple, and alcohol. Stainless steel is the most widely used non-reactive material, which means that our ever-versatile

Stainless Clad Collection

is your go-to when cooking all things acidic.

Other non-reactive materials include glass, ceramic, and

Enameled Cast Iron

. Our

Non Stick Collection

is non-reactive as well.

What Is a Reactive Pan?

Reactive pans on the other hand, do not provide a neutral cooking surface. If you use this type of cookware to cook acidic ingredients, a chemical reaction will occur over time. For example, if you use a reactive pan to slow-simmer a tomato sauce, you may notice a tinny or metallic taste. Alternatively, more alkaline foods like egg whites may become discolored when they come into contact with a reactive surface.

Aluminum, cast iron, Copper, and Carbon Steel are all reactive materials. Our

Carbon Steel Cookware

is particularly sensitive to acidic ingredients, as it will strip away all of your hard-earned seasoning and you will need to

re-season

your pan.

So Why Does it Matter?

So does this mean that you should banish reactive cookware from your kitchen? Not at all. Carbon Steel and Copper are two of our favorite materials. Knowing the difference between reactive and non-reactive cookware simply helps you be more aware of what materials you’re using and how that will affect your cooking.

The reactivity of certain materials has influenced the types of cookware we offer. For example, our copper

Saucier

is a favorite amongst pastry chefs for its superior heat conduction, but if you’re making lemon curd, reach for the

Stainless Clad

version instead. Similarly, while our

Carbon Steel Frying Pan

is great for achieving a

Maillard reaction

for a perfectly seared steak, if you want to make a

pan sauce

to serve alongside it, make sure you’re deglazing with a non acidic liquid or cook your meat in

Stainless Clad

.

As always, it’s best to have a variety of types of cookware so you can accomplish all that you want in the kitchen. Reactive pans can still be very versatile but if you’re making lemon curd or a big batch of

spaghetti bolognese

for a crowd, make sure you’re using your non-reactive pans.