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Stockpots

Published May 2019

How we tested

A stockpot is like an umbrella: You don't use it often, but it's invaluable when you need it. My own is oft-ignored, usually hidden in a cabinet, but it becomes a star player when I start making chicken stock in colder months. A large pot like this is also handy for cooking multiple ears of corn on the cob, whole lobsters, or big batches of pasta. You can also use it when making stew or chili for a crowd.

We previously tested stockpots, but most of the models we looked at have been discontinued, so we decided to retest. We focused on finding the best 12-quart stockpot because we think it's the most useful size—big enough to accommodate most jobs yet small enough to easily store. We purchased seven widely available models, priced from about $30 to about $400, and used them to boil bulky ears of corn, cook thin strands of angel hair pasta, sauté onions, and simmer chicken wings and backs in water for 5 hours. Our efforts resulted in not only gallons of fragrant chicken stock but also a new favorite stockpot.

Pot Thickness Determined Heating Time

We conducted two tests to examine how well each of the stockpots conducted heat, timing how long it took to bring 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat and how long it took to sauté 1 cup of onions to an even golden brown over medium-low heat.

In the water test, the top-performing pot brought water to a boil more than 5 minutes faster than the bottom-performing pot. In the onion test, the top performing pot browned the onions about 2 minutes faster than the bottom-performing pot. Looking at these results for each pot, it didn't take much sleuthing to figure out the reason behind these differences: the thinness of a pot's base. The thinner a pot's base, the faster it heated the water and the onions. Our quickest-heating pot's base was 3/16 inch thick, and the base of the slowest-heating pot was twice as thick at ⅜ inch. While bringing water to a boil quickly in the pots with thin bases was a plus, we had to keep a close eye on onions we were sautéing in these pots, as they were more prone to scorching. In the end, heating time wasn't a significant factor in our choice of a favorite pot.

Stainless-Steel Interiors Were More Durable Than Enamel-Coated Steel

Another thing we learned while sautéing onions: The sole enameled pot didn't handle heat as well as pots with plain stainless-steel interiors. The light-colored enamel began turning brown immediately when placed over heat, even though the burner was set to medium-low. We much preferred the stainless-steel pots in our lineup for their ability to withstand heat without discoloring.

Lighter Weight Was Better

Stockpots are large pieces of cookware, and we often have to crouch down or reach up to retrieve them from storage. Even more important, we need to move them from stove to sink with food inside, pour food and liquid from them, and finally, clean them. With so much lifting and toting involved, a pot's weight was a big concern.

The stockpots in our lineup ranged from 4 pounds, 1¼ ounces to 6 pounds, 13⅛ ounces without their lids, which is how we most often used them. This was a big difference, with the heaviest pot being about 67 percent heavier than the lightest.

The two heaviest pots weighed more than 6 pounds. Both felt weighty when we poured water from them after boiling ears of corn; we felt the heft even more when we had to walk from the stove to the sink carrying pots full of hot liquid and chicken bones, which added roughly 11 pounds of weight. Our highly ranked pots were lightweight—our winner weighed just more than 4 pounds—and thus more comfortable to carry and pour from.

Lid Design—Again, Lighter Was Better (and a Rubber Grip Was Nice)

The designs of the pots' lids varied. Some covered the rims of the pots, while others sat just inside the rims. We found that most lids were easy to position in place and remove, but one model's lid required slightly more attention. Because that pot had a wide, flared rim, its domed lid sometimes careened about like a skateboarder on a half-pipe before landing in its appropriate spot.

Another model's lid was much heavier than the rest of the lids. Lid weights ranged from 1 pound, 7/8 ounces to 2 pounds, 1½ ounces. Testers noted that the heaviest lid was slightly more cumbersome to place on or remove from the pot, but its weight wasn't a deal breaker.

Testers preferred lids that were easy to position in place on the first try, and our favorite had one additional feature the others didn't: a rubber grip on its handle that made it even more secure and comfortable to use.

We Liked Rubber-Coated Handles, Too

The handle designs of the pots varied, too. All of them were acceptable, but one model's U-shaped handles really shone. They stuck out the farthest from the sides of the pot, which made them easy and quick to grab, even when we were wearing bulky oven mitts. They also had rubber grips, which offered added security and comfort when transporting heavy chicken broth and bones to the sink.

The Best Stockpot: Cook N Home Stainless Steel Stockpot with Lid 12 Quart

Our favorite pot, the Cook N Home Stainless Steel Stockpot with Lid 12 Quart, was the second-lightest pot in the lineup, so it was easy to maneuver around the kitchen. The lid fit neatly inside the pot's rim without fuss, and the handles were extremely comfortable to grip, thanks to a rubber coating and generous U shape. Another plus: It was the least expensive pot in the lineup.


Methodology

We purchased seven stockpots, priced from about $30 to about $400. We used each model to boil corn, cook pasta, make chicken broth, and sauté onions, stirring the contents in each pot, pouring contents from each pot, and carrying each filled pot from the stove to the sink multiple times. We also washed each pot five times according to manufacturer instructions.

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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*