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A stock pot is a great investment for the kitchen. It’s a versatile cooking vessel in which you can boil, braise, fry, steam, roast, and more. And when the situation calls for food in bulk, a stock pot can be a godsend.
There are hundreds of stock pots available on the consumer market, so how do you tell which is the right one? With so many kinds of options, it can be tough to sort the wheat from the chaff.
That's where we come in! At BestReviews, we pride ourselves on our honest, unbiased product reviews. We consult experts, gather consumer feedback, and test products in our lab to ensure that we’re endorsing merchandise that maximizes your dollar.
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If you’re considering a new stock pot for your kitchen or workshop, our review below has some things you may want to keep in mind while shopping. And when you’re ready to choose the stock pot that’s perfect for you, please see our product matrix, above, for our top recommendations.
Original stock pots may have been hammered out of copper or forged with cast iron, but for the most part, these materials have fallen out of favor with modern cooks. (Occasionally you might see a copper stock pot in a speciality store, but these are pricey and often just for show.)
Today’s stock pots are made of stainless steel, aluminum, or a three-ply combination of the two. These workhorse metals are durable, chef-friendly materials that help modern cooks get the job done right.
If you cook tomato soup in an untreated aluminum pan, a reaction between the tomato acid and the metal could occur, causing the pan to release an unpleasant chemical taste into the soup. You can avoid this problem by using a stainless steel pan.
A Dutch oven makes a great companion piece for a stock pot. In it, you can prepare dishes that require some finishing time in the oven.
Many stock pots can go from stovetop to oven easily, but enamel stock pot owners should consult their owner’s manual before making that kind of transfer.
Stainless steel is a great cookware material because of its non-reactive properties and overall durability. However, it’s not a great heat conductor, and foods cooked in a large stock pot require consistent heat for best results. A tri-ply stock pot of both aluminum and stainless (like the AllClad D5) offers a great solution to this problem.
Standard-grade aluminum (as opposed to anodized aluminum) is often used in lower-end stock pots, but it poses a few issues. This grade of aluminum performs poorly under high heat. It isn’t nonstick, and it has a tendency to warp over time.
A stock pot is designed to minimize the loss of liquid during the simmering process. This is why the sides of a stock pot are generally straight, not flanged outward like a Dutch oven. The bottom of a good stock pot should be heavy and feel stable when placed atop a burner.
Some stock pots have a flat, tight-fitting lid; others sport a dome-shaped glass lid for easy observation of the food. A small metal rivet in the dome allows steam to escape during long cooking sessions.
Because stock pots do much more than create stock, potential buyers should consider a product’s “ease of access” when choosing a new model. Tall stock pots can pose a challenge for shorter cooks as they try to stir the contents from the bottom to the top.
And food can burn and stick to the pot if not stirred regularly, so a long-handled wooden spoon or metal stirrer could be in order.
What’s the main difference between a stock pot and a Dutch oven? A stock pot’s design is better suited for simmering broths, soups, and seafood boils, whereas a Dutch oven is great for roasting or braising meats that finish in the oven.
When fully loaded, a stock pot is quite heavy. As such, the handles should have strong welds and reinforced rivets. While presenting a pot full of chili to 15 of your closest friends, you certainly wouldn’t want the handle to snap off unexpectedly!
For safer pouring, the lip of the stock pot should curl outward. Commercial pots used in restaurants and soup kitchens may have a spigot attached to the bottom for easier service, but these spigots can also tempt curious children. If you purchase a stock pot with a spigot, be sure to store it on a back burner between uses.
Want to tie dye a t-shirt? Consider using a stock pot as the vessel. Most pots are non-reactive to dyes, so they won't stain. However, it would be better not to use the pot to cook food afterwards.
In terms of size, stock pots lead the pack. Capacity is measured by the quart, and most home cooks rarely require anything larger than 12 quarts to prepare a family meal.
Manufacturers sell stock pots of varying capacities. For example, you can buy an AllClad D5 pot with a 4-, 8-, or 12-quart capacity. The Update International stock pot on our shortlist offers pots with capacities of 8, 12, 16, 24, 32, 40, 80, and 100 quarts.
For most consumers, we recommend a stock pot with a 12-quart capacity. It’s large enough to handle the preparation of actual stock, yet it’s small enough to fit the average stovetop burner or oven.
If you ever cook for large social gatherings, you might appreciate having a high-capacity stock pot on hand. The Update International company offers pots with eight different capacity sizes, the largest of which will hold 100 quarts.
While a stock pot’s “traditional” purpose is to prepare meat and vegetable stock, many people have found alternative uses for this tall, spacious, heat-friendly container.
Here are some other potential uses you may find interesting:
Both soap and candle making require a large supply of melted ingredients. A large stock pot provides a place to combine these ingredients and keep them in a liquid state. The pot’s solid dual handles make it easier to pour the melted product into molds, and for those units with a stainless steel or nonstick coating, cleanup is much easier.
Many nonstick stock pots are made from anodized aluminum, a process which forms a virtually permanent bond between the coating and the base metal.
A cloth-dyeing craft called batik involves applying a layer of protective wax over a section of cloth, then dyeing the material various colors. The wax is removed by boiling in a clean stock pot, and the result is a beautiful, multi-color design.
Small-batch production of craft beer, wine, and spirits is much easier with the use of a commercial-size stock pot. You can make the fermented mash necessary for whiskey in a stock pot on a standard stovetop burner. You can also place a craft beer base in a non-reactive stock pot during the fermenting or aging process. Of course, the laws on home-based alcohol production vary from state to state, so be sure to do your homework before using a stock pot for this purpose.
Some entry-level stock pots use a nonstick chemical “paint” that raises safety concerns among users. If you have concerns about a particular model, research its manufacturing process. A nonstick surface is is a nice feature but not a requirement for a quality stock pot.
Some household projects require a little outside-the-box thinking. You could use a large stock pot to mix and contain your specialized paints or stains. Most pots are easy to transport, non-reactive to chemicals, and large enough to hold several gallons. An added bonus: the pot’s tight-fitting lid will protect your paint/stain from the elements and help prevent drying.
Q: Why are the sides of my stock pot straight instead of curved, like the other pots I own?
A: The answer to this question traces back to the original intended purpose of a stock pot: to create flavorful meat and vegetable stocks as bases for other dishes. This required hours of carefully monitored simmering over low heat. The straight sides of a stock pot keep the liquid and ingredients in an even vertical stack, which reduces evaporation and encourages the heated liquid to circulate inside the pot.
Q: Why does my new stock pot curve inward? I thought they were all supposed to be straight.
A: While many traditional stock pots still have tall, straight sides, some newer designs differ, and they serve a practical purpose. When liquids in a cooking vessel become heated, they move upwards in the pot. If the vessel is wider at the top (like a Dutch oven), some of that liquid flows outward and evaporates. A stock pot with a top that flares inward reduces this effect.
Q: Are nonstick stock pots safe?
A: Valid concerns exist about the possibility that a nonstick coating could flake into your food during cooking. Many companies have addressed this issue by changing the manufacturing process or switching to a safer nonstick chemical coating.
Q: What’s the difference between a stock pot and the other large cooking vessels I see at the store (Dutch ovens, pasta pots, etc.)?
A: All of these cookware pieces can hold large quantities of water or broth, and most are oven-safe. However, some noticeable differences exist between the varieties.
The sides of a true stock pot are either straight or flared slightly inward. This design allows the pot to transfer heat evenly from bottom to top while simultaneously minimizing liquid loss through evaporation.
Unlike a stock pot, a Dutch oven is designed primarily for the oven. As such, its slightly flared sides allow more liquid to escape as steam.
You might see a “stock pot” sold as part of a pasta cookware set. This large pot may be closer to a thin-walled soup pot or steamer than a true stock pot, and it may include a specially fitted colander or steamer as well. There’s nothing wrong with investing in a stock pot/pasta pot hybrid, but sometimes combination sets do not perform any one task particularly well.
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