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What is a Non-Reactive Bowl?

Mixing bowls made of glass is a good choice for a non-reactive material.
The bowls that come with stand mixers are made with stainless steel, a non-reactive metal.
Glass or ceramic bowls should be used for fruit salad.
Ceramic bowls are considered non-reactive.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2014
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A non-reactive bowl is a bowl made of a substance that won’t react chemically with the foods that are placed in it. Reactive bowls are often made of metal, like copper, cast iron, or aluminum, or plastics that stain easily. When a cook adds any high acid foods to these bowls — like lemon juice, most citrus fruits, or tomato sauce — they may actually react with the metal in the bowls and impart a metallic taste to the foods. If a cook needs a metal bowl that will not react, he or she will always want to look for stainless steel, since it tends to resist reaction with high acid foods.

People may note that the bowl that comes with a stand mixer is usually a non-reactive metal bowl, made of stainless steel. Consumers shouldn't bother with a stand mixer that has a more cheaply made aluminum bowl, since this will limit what they can make with it. Those who prefer plastic bowls should look for the type that boasts “non-staining” abilities, or try silicone bowls, since they won’t react. Virtually any glass or ceramic bowl is non-reactive and won’t stain or give a metallic taste to acidic ingredients. Cooks should consider glass or ceramic bowls for fruit salad, anything containing lemon juice, and anything containing tomato sauce.

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Under some circumstances, a non-reactive bowl will not serve you as well as a reactive bowl — for instance, many chefs prefer to use copper bowls to whip egg whites. The egg whites react with copper and not only whip faster but are also more firm and stable. Note that if a copper bowl is advertised as non-reactive, it usually has a stainless steel or other coating that will prevent this reaction.

In general, cooks can use any type of bowl to make most cakes and cookies. The time that the ingredients spend in the bowl is generally so short that they won’t have time to react with metals. Glass, ceramic, stainless steel, or any non-reactive plastic bowl is still a better choice, however, especially if the ingredients will sit for any length of time. Cooks should always choose a non-reactive bowl for high acid ingredients, and never mix something like a vinaigrette in an aluminum bowl.

Many recipes call for this type of bowl, but that doesn't mean that home cooks need to buy expensive new bowls or ones that are heavily advertised as non-reactive. Any glass or ceramic bowl tends to work just fine, and many inexpensive bowls made of these materials are available. Shoppers who are looking for new cookware that is non-reactive should choose stainless steel over cast iron, copper, or aluminum if they plan to cook acidic recipes. Furthermore, cooks shouldn't forget to keep a reactive copper bowl on hand if they like to make souffles, mousses, angel food cake, or lemon meringue pie.

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orangey03
Post 9

Silicone bowls are great. I've never had any of my food's flavors altered from being in a silicone mixing bowl.

The best thing about them is that they are so flexible. Instead of having to spoon out cake batter while holding the bowl in the air, I can just squeeze it to make a narrow spout and pour the batter into the pan without making a mess.

They are also heat resistant. I can put them in the microwave and the dishwasher.

wavy58
Post 8

Ceramic bowls are my favorite. Glass bowls are too breakable for a clumsy person like me to have around, but ceramic ones are pretty sturdy.

I have some glazed green ceramic bowls that I use for soups, salads, and ice cream. I use acidic salad dressing on my spinach, so I need a non-reactive bowl to eat it out of, and these bowls are perfect.

giddion
Post 7

@anon32131 – Aluminum can affect the flavor of some foods that aren't even acidic. I'm not sure why, but I know that it is possible.

I used to make fudge and pour it into an aluminum pan to solidify. I noticed that after a few hours in the refrigerator, the fudge tasted metallic.

Next time, I put a sheet of wax paper down before pouring the fudge into the pan, and it didn't taste metallic at all. I don't like for aluminum to come in contact with any of my food.

Oceana
Post 6

I've heard of certain plastic bowls leaching chemicals into food when heated in the microwave, but I didn't know that some bowls could actually affect the flavor of food. I will keep that in mind when making fruit salad.

anon255155
Post 5

Many bread recipes recommend a non-reactive bowl. Not sure why, but it must have to do with yeast.

anon213176
Post 4

What about yeast in a reactive bowl?

anon53647
Post 3

That's because mayonnaise is an emulsion that has a major acidic component: vinegar.

anon42482
Post 2

is it okay to put potato salad in an aluminum pan?

anon32131
Post 1

I gave my mother-in-law an aluminum mixing bowl to make potato salad in, and she (after a few minutes of being done) requested that I remove her potato salad from that bowl and put it into a glass or ceramic bowl....I did not question her, but I knew about acidic and aluminum, but not potato salad and it's ingredients too?? Why should one put a potato salad in any other bowl except aluminum??

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