When it comes to food, it's generally true that the less processing, the better. Countertops, not so much. Granite, despite the rock-solid rep, needs periodic resealing. Marble, even when sealed, will etch and stain—heartbreaking when you remember the cost. Synthetic countertops have come a long way from the plastic laminate and seamless acrylic surfaces that can melt beneath a hot skillet set down sans trivet. Quartz composites like Caesarstone and Silestone are functional and forgiving. They don’t scorch, stain, or etch. They’re nonporous, antimicrobial, and don’t require resealing. No specialty cleaners required; ordinary soap and water do just fine. Some patterns echo natural stone, but others flaunt their composite origins: They don’t look like any rock found on Earth—in an attractive, futuristic way. Starting prices, including installation, are moderate.