What is a non-reactive pot or bowl

Reactive and non-reactive materials in your kitchen

10 Oct What is a non-reactive pot or bowl

Reactive and non-reactive materials in your kitchen

A lot of recipes, especially for jams and sauces, call for a non-reactive pot or bowl. When a recipe writer specifies a non-reactive vessel, we’re not trying to be confusing or cryptic or sound like a know-it-all — even if that’s how we come off. We’re actually trying to help you. However, based on how often I’m asked to explain what non-reactive means, it seems this kind of “help” is confusing and makes you want to run away from the recipe. Kind of like how I feel when I’m sent to the hardware store to pick up an escutcheon and gasket.

So, I thought I’d explain about non-reactive materials since I’m going to use the term again in tomorrow’s post and want to save myself some time answering emails. Selfish? Totally. Helpful? Let me know.

What does non-reactive mean?

Non-reactive means the material the pot, pan, bowl or utensil is made of or coated with will not react with acids. Yup. That’s it.

But I’m guessing that’s still not clear enough. You’re likely now tapping your foot with irritation and moving onto more questions.

What food is acidic?

Lots. But usually a recipe calls for a non-reactive pot or bowl if it contains significant quantities of the one or more of the following ingredients:

  • lemon juice
  • tomatoes
  • vinegar
  • most stone fruit and berries (bananas and melons are the most common exception)

What materials are non-reactive?

The most common non-reactive materials in your kitchen are:

  • stainless steel
  • ceramic
  • glass
  • enamel
  • wood
  • plastic

So, what materials are NOT non-reactive?

Oh, the dreaded double-negative. At the risk of sounding dramatic, let’s call them “reactive.” As the name indicates, reactive materials react with acids. The list of reactive materials includes:

  • aluminum
  • copper
  • cast-iron

Technically, there are others, but you’re not likely to cook with them.

What will happen if I use a reactive pan when a recipe calls for a non-reactive one?

Gordon Ramsay will show up at your door and hurl insults at you, your children, your ancestors, your pets and your house plants.

Well, not really. A couple of things will happen. You might find:

  • The dish you are making has a harsh, off-putting metallic taste.
  • Your reactive pot might stain.

That’s it. That’s all. Chances are you have a variety of non-reactive pots, pans, bowls and spoons in your culnary aresenal already, and don’t need to rush out and buy new saucepans — unless, of course, you want to.

Got any more pressing kitchen questions? Leave them in a comment or email me.


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  • pat crocker
    Posted at 17:38h, 15 November Reply

    Hey Charmian, thanks for this- it’s one of those things that can really mess up (no pun intended) a recipe , pat

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 17:40h, 15 November Reply

      I wish someone had explained this to me earlier in my career. Like with most things, I learned this lesson the hard way. If it saves one person’s supper (or dessert) it’s definitely worth it!

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