What Is A Nonreactive Saucepan?

A nonreactive saucepan is where the pans material doesn’t react to foods, specifically acidic foods. When pans react to foods, the material of the pan leaches into the food. For example if you cook tomatoes in cast iron, iron will leach into the tomatoes affecting the flavor.

Keep reading to find out why you should use a reactive saucepan, and which saucepans are nonreactive.

Which saucepans are nonreactive?

There are quite a few nonreactive saucepans, these include:

  • Stainless steel
  • Ceramic
  • Glass

Metal cookware that’s coated with an enamel will also be non reactive, even though the metal underneath is reactive, the enamel acts as a barrier between it. A prime example of this would be enamelled cast iron.

Which saucepans are reactive?

The only three saucepans that are reactive are,

  • Aluminum
  • Cast iron
  • Copper

Cast iron is probably the most common reactive saucepan you will see, especially within commercial environments, however copper and aluminum are still somewhat popular amongst the home chefs for their heat conductivity and looks.

What happens if you use reactive saucepans?

Highly acidic and alkaline foods will cause a chemical reaction between the reactive metal of the pan and the food.

If you use reactive saucepans, you can end up with foods that turn a different color or have their flavor affected, this has a stronger effect the longer you cook the food for, for example if you have a slow simmer going on in a reactive pan, you’ll most likely ruin the recipe.

Some examples of food that’s highly acidic or alkaline include:

  • Cheese
  • Seafood
  • High-sodium process foods
  • Fresh meats
  • Lemon or lime in recipes
  • Potatoes

Why would you use reactive saucepans?

Typically speaking, you wouldn’t use reactive saucepans because of their reactiveness, this is more of a trait that comes with the saucepans themselves.

You would primarily buy reactive saucepans for their other traits, for example you would buy cast iron saucepans for the heat retention and it’s ability to reach high heats without warping. This allows you to create perfect sears on meats. Another example would be copper, you would typically buy copper for it’s fantastic heat conductivity, allowing you to cook food extremely quickly, not only that but it gives your kitchen a rustic look.

Reactiveness is just a downside that comes with these saucepans.

However, some foods can actually be enhanced by the chemical reaction, a prime example of this is meat and iron.

You’ll often see chefs searing steak and burgers in cast iron as opposed to stainless steel, even though they can both reach high temperatures, this is because when the meats react to the cast iron, the saucepans leach iron into the meats which enhance it’s flavor.

The general rule of thumb is, if the recipe calls for a reactive saucepan, it’s more than likely going to enhance the flavor.