Buying Guide to Stockpots

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5 Things to Know Before You Buy

When it's time to cook up piping hot chili, create flavorful chicken stock or boil a big batch of pasta, you'll want to pull out your stockpot. With its large capacity and deep, straight sides, this versatile cookware performs a wide variety of culinary tasks.

Consider the following features of a high-quality stockpot before choosing one for your kitchen:

Fact #1: Size

Stockpots for home use range from 6 to 17 quarts. If you want to add two stockpots to your culinary collection, get one on the smaller end of the range and another on the bigger end, such as a 6- and 16-quart. If you want just one pot, a 12-quart will suffice.

Fact #2: Materials

Stockpots are made from a variety of materials and each has its advantages, one of which is the material's ability to conduct heat, transmitting it from the heat source to the food. A well-made stock pot conducts heat from the base of the pot up the sides so that the food cooks evenly.

*Stainless steel stockpots are durable, long-lasting and stay looking like new. They can be used to cook any food, as they don't react to acids like those in tomatoes. On its own, stainless steel does a poor job of conducting heat, so high-quality stainless steel stockpots feature an inner core made of aluminum or copper, which results in high heat conductivity. To create a nonstick coating, some stainless steel pots are coated in enamel.

*Aluminum stockpots are highly conductive, but this material can react with acidic foods such as tomato sauce and can also scratch easily. Higher quality, more durable aluminum pans are anodized, which makes them less reactive. Aluminum is also lightweight, so it's easier to take the pot off the stove.

*Cast-iron stockpots retain heat and distribute it evenly. This material also lends itself well to long periods of simmering and is nonstick if well-seasoned. Cast-iron is especially heavy in weight, however, and does react with acidic foods, although enameled cast-iron is nonreactive.

*Nonstick stockpots are lightweight and usually have an inner core of aluminum, which means they distribute heat evenly. This material tends to scratch with use, however.

Fact #3: Craftsmanship

A high-quality stockpot has a heavy bottom, which helps prevent food from sticking and scorching on the bottom of the pan. In good stainless steel pots, the inner layer of aluminum is on the bottom and runs up the sides of the pot to promote even heat distribution throughout the contents of the stockpot.

Fact #4: Handles

Considering that the food in the stock pot is heavy and potentially very hot, it's important that the handles are easy to grasp with potholders and secure. Riveted or welded handles are your safest choice. Heat resistance is also important. Hollow rolled stainless steel and silicone handles tend to stay cool.

Fact #5: Lid

Look for a stock pot with a tight-fitting lid, which cuts down on cooking time and locks in moisture and flavor. So that you can see how your food is progressing, opt for a stockpot with a shatter-resistant tempered glass lid.

Now that you've taken stock of the top qualities to look for in a stockpot, you can add the best pots possible to your cookware collection.