Good looks versus practicality
I note that from viewing chefs on TV (Al Brown, for example) that some prepare their food in large stainless steel bowls. However when they use citric acid (lemons, for example), won't there be a chemical reaction with the stainless steel bowl that will taint the food? And what about copper bowls, don't they react with food too?
Stainless steel bowls are the bowls of choice in restaurant kitchens as they're incredibly versatile - you can make a quick hollandaise over a flame (instead of over a double boiler), they don't break when dropped in a busy service, and they neither discolour, nor taint food. Citric acid has no reaction at all in them, neither does vinegar, nor alkaline ingredients like baking soda (when baking).
At home, I have a mixture of stainless (lightweight and versatile) and ceramic (looks good, but heavy and breakable) and Pyrex (lovely to show your mates what you're doing as you do it). So, choosing which bowl to buy has suddenly become more complex
Plastic bowls are great as they, like stainless, can be treated somewhat harsher than ceramic or glass, but aren't great over heat. The bowls to avoid, for flavour taint are aluminium. They're great for making cakes in, so long as you don't use a metal spoon or whisk as this will cause minute particles of the aluminium to detach from the bowl and become part of your dinner.
Copper pots and pans are gorgeous to have hanging around, but they're also very time-consuming. They discolour and darken with exposure to air and with use but can be kept clean if polished regularly. A lot of restaurants have hooks of pans on display as they look so ... country French farmhouse chic. But often the display ones are just that - never used, and kept coated with a film from the factory to keep them looking gorgeous.
However, if you suddenly find you've run out of copper polish just as the in-laws are about to arrive, you can give them a good polish by mixing 1 Tbsp fine salt and 1 Tbsp plain flour with 1 Tbsp white vinegar to a paste. Put some gloves on and rub the paste all over the outside of the pan, using a cloth or soft plastic scourer (never ever use metal scourers on the outside of copper pots as they'll leave permanent marks) and then rinse under hot water, buffing the copper with a soft cloth. As with aluminium bowls, although copper pots will be lined with tin or stainless steel, it's best not to use metal spoons in them as you can cause a reaction in them between the metals. So stick to wooden and the like.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you’re stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.