Stockpots

Published February 1, 2007.

Do you have to spend big money for a big pot?

Overview:

Here in the test kitchen, we have 15 stockpots of varying sizes, and we use them often. Most home kitchens, however, have room for a single stockpot, so it must handle a variety of big jobs—from steaming lobsters and cooking bushels of corn to canning and making huge batches of chili or homemade stock.

So what size is best? After substantial pretesting, we determined that a 12-quart stockpot is the most useful size—it's the "smallest" big pot, meaning it can handle most big jobs yet is small enough to store with your other pots and pans. So how much do you have to spend to get a good 12-quart stockpot? We bought nine basic stockpots (no fancy steaming or boiling inserts), ranging in price from $25 to $389.95, and headed into the test kitchen to find out.

We boiled water, cooked mounds of pasta (two pounds of pasta and eight quarts of water at a time), prepared two dozen ears of corn, and made double batches of beef chili in each pot. To evaluate the pots, our testers used digital scales, thermometers, stopwatches, gas and… read more

Here in the test kitchen, we have 15 stockpots of varying sizes, and we use them often. Most home kitchens, however, have room for a single stockpot, so it must handle a variety of big jobs—from steaming lobsters and cooking bushels of corn to canning and making huge batches of chili or homemade stock.

So what size is best? After substantial pretesting, we determined that a 12-quart stockpot is the most useful size—it's the "smallest" big pot, meaning it can handle most big jobs yet is small enough to store with your other pots and pans. So how much do you have to spend to get a good 12-quart stockpot? We bought nine basic stockpots (no fancy steaming or boiling inserts), ranging in price from $25 to $389.95, and headed into the test kitchen to find out.

We boiled water, cooked mounds of pasta (two pounds of pasta and eight quarts of water at a time), prepared two dozen ears of corn, and made double batches of beef chili in each pot. To evaluate the pots, our testers used digital scales, thermometers, stopwatches, gas and electric burners, and plenty of elbow grease. They handled each stockpot extensively to get a sense of its overall feel (both empty and full) and handle design. We washed the pots repeatedly and practiced stowing them away. We found three factors earned a recommended rating.

  • Our testers preferred wide stockpots to tall and narrow ones, as greater width allows you to see and manipulate food better and makes for easier cleaning and storage.
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  • The lighter pots did a fine job cooking corn and pasta—in fact, they heat up faster than than heavier pots. But for cooking applications where sticking and scorching are risks (such as chili), a heavier pot, especially one with a thick bottom, is a must.
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  • Handles matter—a lot. We found that the best handles extend from the pot at least 1 3/4 inches and are either flat or thick and round, for easy gripping.

 

Overall, if you use a stockpot primarily to boil corn or pasta, it makes sense to buy a good, but inexpensive model and use the savings to upgrade something else in your kitchen. But if you use your pots for more intensive cooking operations, like chili, opt for the heavier, more expensive models. Whatever your price range, opt for a pot that feels heavy for its size. And when shopping, give the handles a test-run by picking up pots with potholders.

Methodology:

 

SHAPE

The best stockpot we tested, the $389.95. All-Clad, impressed us more for what it didn't do—scorch on the bottom or feel awkward or flimsy—than for what it did do; after all, how sexy can a stockpot be, even when it's performing flawlessly? That said, our testers preferred wide stockpots (such as the All-Clad) to tall and narrow ones (such as the Vollrath), as greater width allows you to see and manipulate food better and makes for easier cleaning and storage.

WEIGHT

The heavier pots (all weighed without lids) outperformed the lighter models. The four heaviest pots in our testing were all made of stainless steel with an aluminum core. Aluminum conducts heat very well and ensures more even cooking and fewer hot spots. The aluminum core also makes the bottom of the pot thicker, which reduces scorching. The lighter pots (including those without aluminum cores) did a fine job cooking corn and pasta—in fact, they heat up faster than the more even-heating pots with aluminum cores. But for cooking applications where sticking and scorching are risks (such as chili), a heavier pot is a must.

GRIP

Handles matter—a lot. We found that the best handles extend from the pot at least 1 3/4 inches and are either flat or thick and round, for easy gripping. The All-Clad, Cuisinart, Lincoln, and Arcosteel pots had the best handles—they were easy to grip, even with potholders and a pot full of steaming chili. Pots made by Vollrath and Farberware performed well in cooking tests but were severely downgraded because testers found their thin handles to be awkward and poorly designed.

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  • Product Tested

  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    All-Clad Stainless 12-Quart Stock Pot

    This pot was lauded for being "nice and heavy," with "easy-to-grip" handles that "didn't get too hot" (although we still needed potholders). The aluminum core runs up the side of the pot—other pots have aluminum cores only in the bottom, if anywhere—which ensures more even heating than most of us will ever need.

    $389.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended - Best Buy

    Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 12-Quart Stock Pot

    Very similar to the All-Clad pot, the Cuisinart comes with handles that are "easily grippable" and "sit well in your hand." The upward tilt of the handles made it especially easy to pour out the contents. This pot was also praised for being "plenty heavy," and the bottom was pristine after cooking the chili.

    $69.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Arcosteel 12-Quart Stock Pot

    This pot heated relatively evenly-there was only a tiny patch of chili stuck after 2 1/2 hours of cooking. The handles are "sturdy" and offer "good control," but this pot was downgraded for dangerous bare spots (no silicone) on the handles.

    $49.95

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Farberware Classic Series Stainless Steel 12-Quart Stock Pot

    With better handles (these were deemed "uncomfortable" and "slippery"), this heavy aluminum-core pot would have been in the "recommended" category. It heated very evenly, and testers liked how the lip of the lid "caught a lot of condensation."

    $70.95

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Vollrath Stainless Intrigue Professional Cookware

    This tall and narrow pot "felt tippy" and "cumbersome" and was "harder to pour" and clean than squatter pots. It did, however, cook with very even heat and was the heaviest of all the pots we tested.

    $88.48

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Endurance R.S.V.P. Stainless Steel 12-Quart Stock Pot

    "Shallow," "thin," and "narrow" handles made it hard for testers to grip this pot. This pan heated fairly evenly (thanks to its aluminum core), and there was very little sticking during the chili test.

    $37.95

  • Not Recommended

    Metro 12-Quart Stock Pot

    There was serious burning/sticking at the bottom of this very light pot during the chili test. The handles taper into a point, making it "hard to get your hand in to grip it."

    $24.95

  • Not Recommended

    Metro Set of 3 Nested Stock Pots with lids: 8-, 12-, and 16-quart

    Testers said this pot, the lightest of the lot, "felt like a toy and would dent too easily." With handles that rose above the top of the pot, it was very awkward to pour because "the leverage is all wrong." There was major sticking and burnt matter on the bottom of the pot after the chili test.

    $49.99

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