I'm looking for a stock pot that has a few simple requirements: boiling pasta (easy enough), handle a light sauté of mirapoix before adding stock to make soup, less than $30. I'm thinking 8 quart or so? Anything fit the bill? Alanons and Circulons are too expensive.
Is using the stockpot to sauté even unthinkable? I did that all the time in a Le Creuset and All-Clad, but those can certainly handle the job. I'm wondering because I destroyed the nonstick surface on the cheap set stockpot I had, when the surface looks the same as the frypan that came with the set.
I wouldn't get a non-stick stockpot. But you should be able to sauté in one... the problem is that at your price range, finding one with a heavy bottom is going to be tough.
I would look in commercial kitchen supply stores in your area and see if they have a stainless steel stockpot in your price range.
If you're not anti-aluminum, you can pretty definitely find an aluminum stockpot at a kitchen supply store in that price range.
Either way, look for something with a nice heavy bottom.
I would look over InstaWares for a brand called Royal Industries. I have 2 links below for you to check over. (top general brand/second an 8 qt SS model) I chose them because of their halfway decent utility grade and it comes with the lid. They are thin grade of SS with a 4mm Al-clad bottom to them.
Beyond these you may find Revere, Tramontina or Betty Crocker Al-clad-SS close in comparison. (check @ Walmart or Favorite Discount chains)
It maybe an advantage not to try the mirepoix in the confines of a stock pot or expecially one of SS. Not that I haven't done so myself, but it is that education from the "School of Hard Knocks", when I spoils me broth. I just hate that when it happens!
Anything that may glaze or stick becomes a later burnt spot, even though the water is added to help prevent that, it still can happen. I am not getting any younger so my reflexes were not like they once was.
I also can get an advanced start with the water simmering in my stock pot by doing the other from the confort of my side pan.
Costco sells a heavy stainless 12 qt stockpot with removable insert for around $45. It's a great buy. I use mine for stocks, soups and even making big batches of pasta, ragu and chutney. They may have a smaller size if 12 qt is too big for your needs.
Try Target, they've got a Le Crueset that rated best by Cooks Illus for under $40 and some copper bottomed and tri-ply cookware that has received rave reviews from the egullet folks.
I bought a heavy stainless steel 16-quart ("Roshco" brand) at my local Corning/Revere outlet store for $30. Came with a glass lid, plenty heavy enough for sauteeing (you could even make a roux, but the pot is too tall for me to reach into the bottom without a ladder!).