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Stockpots

Published February 2007

How we tested

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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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*