Cookware is kind of inherently non-green. Since pots and pans are typically made of metal, creating them is messy business, involving smelting and forging and all sorts of non-stick polymer coatings. Xtrema cookware is different. Since it's made of ceramic, it's fired in kilns that burn natural gas in a process that's said to have no pollutants. Of course, there's a non-stick "Nano Glaze" surface, but that's ceramic, too, which means it's non-reactive even up to 2,500°F — safe even for Tholians.
That's all well and good for Gaia, but how is it with actually cooking things? After a rep from Ceramcor, the manufacturer, boasted to me that you can "taste the difference" between an egg cooked on an Xtrema pan and a metal one, I decided to put that claim to the test. I've been using Xtrema's 10-inch skillet ($100) to cook meat, eggs, stir-fries and the like the past couple of weeks. After my kiln-fired assessment, I came up with three reasons you may want to switch to ceramic cookware. Follow the jump to read 'em.
1. Meat Tastes Juicier: Ceramcor claims that food cooks faster in Xtrema pans, but I found the opposite. It typically took about 20% longer to do things like pan-sear a steak or pork chops in the Xtrema. Not that I'm complaining -- for whatever reason, the meat almost always turned out juicier and better tasting.
I suspect this happens because ceramic doesn't conduct heat as well as metal, so I was able to better guard against overcooking. But there also may be something to what the rep told me: That because of its heat capacity and porous nature, ceramic pans cook via conduction and convection, cooking the entire meat surface quickly and locking in juices better. There also may be something to Ceramcor's claim of "far-infrared" heating.
2. It's Scratchproof: Trying everything from a the rough side of sponge to steel wool, I couldn't scratch my Xtrema skillet. It still looks the same as when I first got it. If you've ever replaced a pan because the coating's worn off, you'll see the benefit of this.
3. Good Looks: The glossy black surface of Xtrema cookware is actually pretty sleek, and you never have to polish it. Put out a trivet on the dining table, plop your Xtrema pot on it, and you're done. Plus you have something to brag about to dinner guests!
Compromises: Because Xtrema doesn't conduct heat well, sometimes your food won't cook as evenly as on a metal pan, particularly for lower-temperature cooking. Which is what happened to me when I tried to scramble some eggs (sorry, rep guy). Also, ceramic material simply isn't anywhere near as impact-resistant as metal. If you ever drop it, you'll be shattering more than cooking paradigms.
To me, though, those juicy steaks are well worth the risk. Is it well worth the cost, though? $100 is a lot for a skillet, and the Xtrema 12-piece cooking set Crate & Barrel shows that's pretty typical. Why not try it?