An Expert Guide to Stock Pots
A stock pot is an important staple in any kitchen! Kitchen Expert Jacob Cummings details the different types, features, and uses for stock pots!
Table of Contents
Whether you’re starting to cook or are a seasoned chef, a good stock pot is an essential piece of cookware for making delicious soups and stews.
For years, I cooked soups and chili in a lightweight single-wall stainless stock pot and always found myself struggling to get evenly distributed heat throughout the vessel. I all but accepted this as the trick of cooking in a stock pot. Well, it turns out there are affordable options available that perform far better than the thin piece of steel I’d always been using. In this article, we’ll cover the different materials and take a look at a few options that fit different budgets.
What Is a Stock Pot?
When shopping for a stock pot, it is important to consider the size of the pot, the material it is made from, its shape, whether it comes with a lid and steamer basket, the durability and stability of its handles, its compatibility with your cooktops, and the price. Stock pots can be made from materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, and copper and can have a round or rectangular shape.
A fitted lid is essential for keeping heat and moisture inside the pot, and a strainer can be useful for draining liquids or solids. The handles should be securely attached and able to support the weight of the pot when it is full. The most common are riveted or welded handles. It is also important to consider whether the stock pot is compatible with your cooking surface and to choose a pot that fits your budget.
What to Look for in a Stock Pot
There are a few key factors to consider when shopping for a stock pot:
A large pot should hold the amount of food you want to prepare, with enough room for the food to move around and cook with even heat distribution.
Stock pots can be made from various materials, including stainless steel, cladded aluminum cores, and copper. A stainless-steel stock pot is popular because it is durable and resistant to corrosion but can be more expensive. Uncoated aluminum is a good conductor but may react with acidic foods. Copper is an excellent heat conductor but is also expensive and requires more maintenance to keep it looking shiny.
Stock pots can have either a round or a rectangular shape. Round pots are more versatile and can be used for many recipes, while rectangular pots are better for tasks like boiling long noodles or making broth.
A stock pot should come with a fitting stainless steel lid to help keep heat and moisture inside the pot. A lid with a built-in strainer can also be useful for draining liquids or solids from the pot. Glass lids are nice for seeing how the ingredients are cooking.
The handles of a stock pot should be securely attached to the pot and support the weight of the pot when it is full.
Compatibility With Cooking Surfaces
Make sure the stock pot is compatible with the type of cooking surface you have, whether that be gas, electric, or induction. Some pots may not be suitable for certain cooking surfaces.
Consider your budget when shopping for a stock pot. Keep in mind that higher-priced pots may have additional features or be made from higher-quality materials, but they may not always be the best value for your needs.
The weight of a stock pot can be an important factor to consider, especially if you plan on using it frequently or need to lift it when it is full of food. A heavy stock pot may be more durable and less prone to warping or denting, but it may also be more difficult to lift and maneuver. On the other hand, a lighter stock pot may be easier to handle, but it may not be as durable or heat evenly.
If you are concerned about the weight of a stock pot, consider one made from lightweight materials such as aluminum or titanium, or look for a pot with sturdy handles that make it easier to lift. It is also important to consider the size and weight of the pot in relation to the size of your stovetop and the type of cooking surface you have.
What Are the Different Types of Stock Pots?
With only a handful of different types of stock pots, it can still be overwhelming to know which one is right for your needs. So here’s a rundown of the most common types from basic, nonstick, multi-layered (clad) and enameled cast iron dutch ovens!
Budget Stock Pots
Stock pots that fit this category might just be constructed of a single piece of steel with nothing fancy to consider. I don’t like to recommend these because they are expensive for your utility bill as they are inefficient when heating ingredients, especially large amounts of liquid. They are likely to cook foods unevenly and often have unremarkable durability. For the small cost increase to get a much better pot, I just can’t feel good about making a recommendation in this category!
Nonstick Stock Pots
Nonstick options can be great for any stew or chili that will go through a lengthy reduction process that might leave layers and rings of dried ingredients around the walls of the vessel. Usually made with either hard anodized aluminum or layered stainless steel, these pots need to be used with medium-low heat sources to protect the nonstick coating from burning.
The Viking nonstick is super tough and built ready for both home cooks and professionals. This stock pot has large handles that work perfectly with mitts and it has a glass lit for seeing how the cooking is coming along. One of the neat things that make this vessel stand out is the capacity measurements on the inside of the pot for easy portioning.
Value vs. Performance Stock Pots
Budget stock pots can be a minefield of questionable materials and durability. Sometimes affordable stock pots will use a single thin layer of steel that does not hold its shape well when heated and will be prone to warping. Because of this, I’ve recommended an option that is not only affordable but has a three-ply layered stainless construction for performance and durability in every circumstance.
The Zwilling Spirit 8-quart stock pot is built to inspire home cooks and has durability suited for light professional use as well. It’s a full 3-ply stainless-clad construction that ensures even heating and is designed with a wider base that might fit in some ovens if desired.
High-Performance Stock Pot
Multi-layered (clad) stock pots are great because they help evenly distribute heat up the vessel's walls, ensuring all ingredients are cooked evenly. High-performance options will usually have between 5-7 layers of aluminum and stainless steel sandwiched together for a highly responsive piece of cookware.
The Demeyere Atlantis 8-quart stock pot has seven layers of stainless steel and aluminum for the best heating and cooling performance and durability. This is a professional cook’s dream pot.
Dutch Ovens are great because they are the perfect size for modern ovens, and their material is fully oven-safe. They are typically available in regular cast iron or coated in enamel for a pop of color. The flavor will be more protected and preserved with enamel coating as cast iron can be reactive with acidic foods like tomatoes.
The Merten and Storck Iron Dutch Oven is perfect for professionals and home cooks as the 7-quart capacity pot sits low and wide. It is one of the most versatile options available. These iron pots are available in five colors.
What Can I Cook in a Stock Pot?
A stock pot is a versatile pot that you can use to cook a wide variety of dishes, including soups, stews, stocks, pasta, potatoes, and more.
Some specific dishes that you can cook in a stock pot include:
- Soups: Stock pots are ideal for making large batches of soup, such as chicken noodle, minestrone, and tomato.
- Stews: A stock pot is perfect for making a large batch of stew, such as beef stew, lamb stew, or vegetable stew.
- Stocks: A stock pot is used to make stocks, such as chicken stock, beef stock, fish stock, and vegetable stocks that use lots of scraps from carrots and onions.
- Pastas: You can use a stock pot to boil large quantities of pasta, such as spaghetti, linguine, or macaroni.
- Potatoes: Boil potatoes for mashing, making potato salad, or roasting in the oven in your stock pot.
- Corn on the Cob: One can use a stock pot to boil corn on the cob, a popular summertime treat.
- Chili: A stock pot is a great choice for making a big batch of chili, which can be served as a main dish or used as a topping for hot dogs or nachos.
In addition to these dishes, a stock pot can be used for a wide range of other cooking tasks, such as boiling eggs, making caramel, canning fruits and vegetables, or using a steamer insert for seafood and veggies. Stock pots are also perfect for large batches of holiday tea or scented waters that, when simmered, can fill the entire house with a warm and welcoming scent.
What’s the Difference Between a Stock Pot and a Saucepan?
Stock pots and saucepans are both pots used for cooking, but they have some notable differences. Stock pots are larger and have a capacity of at least 4 quarts, while saucepans have a capacity of 1 to 2 quarts. Stock pots are taller and have a wider base with straight sides, while saucepans are shorter with sloping sides. Stock pots typically come with a lid, while saucepans may or may not have a lid.
Can a Stock Pot Go in the Oven?
If it fits, it depends on the material and construction of the stock pot. Some stock pots are designed to be used on the stovetop only and are not suitable for use in the oven. Other stock pots, such as those made from cast iron or enameled cast iron, are suitable for use on the stovetop and in the oven. These types of stock pots have a heavy-duty construction that can withstand high heat and are resistant to warping or cracking. However, it is important to check the manufacturer's instructions or the pot's label to ensure it is safe to use in the oven. If the stock pot is not designed for use in the oven, it may not be able to withstand the high heat and could break or become damaged.
How Big Should a Stock Pot Be?
The size of a stock pot will depend on your culinary needs and how much food you want to cook at a time. Stock pots are typically available in various sizes, from 4 to over 20 quarts. For example, a 4-quart stock pot is suitable for cooking small quantities of food, such as a batch of soup or stew, while larger options, such as an 8-quart or 12-quart stock pots, are better for cooking larger quantities of food, such as a big batch of chili or a turkey. If you are unsure what size stock pot to buy, consider the size of your household and how often you plan to use the pot.
What Is Cladding in a Stock Pot?
Cladding, in the context of a stock pot, refers to a layer of material applied to the pot's exterior to improve its performance and durability. Cladding is often used on stock pots made from aluminum or other materials that are not as durable or heat-conductive as stainless steel. The cladding material, typically layers of stainless steel, is applied to the pot's exterior in a process called tri-ply construction. It creates a sandwich of materials with the cladding on the outside, aluminum or other material in the middle, and another layer of stainless steel inside.
The cladding helps to improve the durability and heat conductivity of the pot reducing hot spots, while the inner layer of stainless steel provides a smooth surface that is easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and resistant to corrosion. Cladded stock pots are generally more expensive than unclad pots, but they offer better performance and may be a good choice for professional or heavy-duty use.
Can You Use a Stock Pot for Deep Frying?
Yes, a stock pot can be used for deep frying. Deep frying is a cooking method that involves immersing food in hot oil and cooking it until it is crispy and golden brown. To use a stock pot for deep frying, fill the pot with oil to a depth of at least 3 inches and heat the oil to the desired frying temperature, typically between 350-375°F. Then, carefully lower the food into the hot oil using a slotted spoon or a deep-frying basket, making sure not to overcrowd the pot.
Fry the food until it is cooked to your desired level of doneness, then use a slotted spoon or tongs to carefully remove the food from the pot and place it on a paper towel to drain. It is important to be careful when deep frying, as the hot oil can be dangerous if it splatters or spills. Make sure to use a large pot to accommodate the volume of oil and the size of the food, and always use caution when handling hot oil.
Hopefully, this guide answered your questions about what is possible with a stock pot and why you might need one! If you would like further information about stock pots, or some help picking one out, please feel welcome to reach out to a Curated Kitchen Expert.