Really need some stockpot advice
I have recently started making my own chicken stock, but neither my Le Creuset dutch oven (7qts?) nor my Farberware 8 qt are really big enough. Also, I'd like to start making my own beef stock with the huge bones I see at the local Vietnamese grocery. So I've been keeping my eye open for an inexpensive big stockpot.
At Tuesday Morning, I found three possibilities:
1) a Tramontina 16 qt: stainless steel; with a glass lid with no holes; very sturdy, with thick bottom (although not clad, apparently); thin, wide-set handles; made in China; $49.99
2) a Tramontina Pro 16 qt: stainless steel; with a metal lid with two little steam holes; very sturdy, with thick bottom; thin, wide-set handles; made in China; $49.99.
3) a Sitlax 16 quart: stainless steel; glass lid with 1 vent hole; quite a bit lighter than the Tramontinas; handle loops are smaller, but handles themselves are thicker; made in Brazil; $29.99.
Is 16 quart big enough? Is it big enough to do a lobster in, if I want to make it multitask? Is there anything else I might use such a big pot for? Does weight actually matter in a stockpot? After all, you're putting it over extremely low heat regardless. Or does a thicker bottom reduce the chances of you boiling your stock and making it cloudy? Should I check out the huge cheap aluminum pots I've seen at a nearby ethnic supermarket, or should I consider this a lifetime purchase and get something more solid, like one of the Tramontinas (but not All-Clad or anything, because I don't have the money and because I don't understand the benefits of a fully-clad stockpot [are there any?]).
Any feedback would be very much appreciated. I've searched for previous threads on stockpots and haven't found any, although someone did reference such a thread. If anyone can point me towards that, that would be great, too. TIA.
Investing in a couple good stockpots took me a few years to learn two simple lessons. First is that trying to use aluminum surfaced pots is a big mistake for thinking they can be tossed in the dishwasher or more importantly used with any acid based preparations such as tomatoes or wine or vinegar or seafoods. Talk about a tinny tasting bouillabse. Secondly, the thinner the base and bottom sides, especially the curve up at the sidewalls, the more you have to stir to keep solids from sticking, carmelizing or burning. You want to do a stock from bones and water and moirpoix for 8+ hours such as overnight, you need something substantial. At present, I have 3 favorites but then admittedly cook meals once a week for a local family shelter hosting 12+ adults. Smallest stockpot is the 7 qt. all-clad pasta pentola pot....perfect shape, full 1/8" thickness from bottom up entire sidewalls, ss lined, the LTD anodized exterior that looks like hell from the dishwasher but it makes great soups, small batches of stock, all of our family pasta preps, etc. Secondly, bought a 12 qt. ss commercial Sitram with heavy base aluminum core wrapped in stainless, substantial sides, for overnight stocks has been wonderful. Recently bought a 20 qt. heavy commercial Sitram, again, all stainless with aluminum core that is approx. 1/4" thick. I can leave this one on overnight or all daylong and never have a burned or scorched problem. Beast to carry or empty but it serves the desired roll. Admittedly spent a fortune of several hundred plus but worth that expense at least to me. Meanwhile, our old cuisinart ss pot with foil thin sides has been relegated to the garage to help mix planting soil.
I would not buy a cheap aluminum stockpot. I used to have one, and it wasn't that cheap, but it took forever to get the water to boil in it. I got a stainless steel one at Big Lots, and it is much better. It is either a 12 qt or a 16 qt, but it was not very expensive and it works like a charm! And I can put it in the dishwasher.
I wonder why that is. Aluminum has excellent conductivity properties. It would take less energy to get it up to heat compared to a thick SS or CI pot. You would need to keep the heat up as it has low ability to hold heat.
I did a very large batch of stock last week using 9lbs of chicken, turkey, duck and a few beef bones. Trying to empty my freezer of all the bones and carcases. I used 12 quarts of water and because I didn't have a stock pot big enough I used my big turkey fryer pot which is all aluminum. It did take a long time to get up to a high simmer but then that was a lot of water and parts to heat up. I was able to maintain a steady temp just under a boil for 9hrs. It was a bitch to deal with that much but in the end I got 2.5 gal of stock.
Stock pots need to be sturdy, especially in the large sizes -- 4 gallons of water all by itself is going to be 32 lbs!
Head to someplace that sells to food service. You don't need a fancy multi-ply stock pot. Good heavy SS pot with AL bottom and STRONG thick handles can be had from companies like Royal Industries, Polar Ware or Crestware for less than Tramontina that you saw at Tuesday Morning. If you look hard you might even find some Vollrath for under $90 -- well worth it. Shipping is not too bad on these, if you can find 6 friends to each get one shipping is free: http://www.instawares.com/nsf-stainle...
You don't want or need anything bigger than 16 qts. for home use. If you come across bigger bones have the butcher cut 'em. Frankly the best bones for stock often are somewhat smaller -- they tend to have more cartilage / connective tissue as that tends to really have more gelatin for some body to the stock.
I agree with renov8r, you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a good stockpot. Just get something made out of stainless steel with an aluminum disc sandwich bottom. The lid is up to you, I prefer the glass lid because I make stock and it's nice to be able to see inside without taking the lid off, but I do have to worry a little about dropping and breaking it.
This one is a good pot and a good price:
Sitram's Profiserie line is also good and inexpensive, they have a bunch of sizes:
I just picked up a Chefmate 16-qt. stockpot at Target for $40 that I like so far, though it has riveted handles and I prefer welded.
My biggest (indoor) pot is a 16 quart, Revco or something similar from the Revereware outlet store for $29. It is big enough for a dozen blue crabs (dunno how many lobsters it might hold). It has a glass lid, which I like: you can see how the stock is simmering without raising the lid. I don't see the benefit in a more-expensive stockpot, unless you're a seriously abusive cook. Those extremely inexpensive pots are fine, though they tend to dent easily and the rougher alumnium interiors are slightly harder to clean (not as much of a concern if you only make stocks & never do any large-scale stews in the big pots).
re: Hungry Celeste
I usually avoid any aluminum in cooking material for the reason that aluminum (in some studies) is associated with alzheimer's disease (and I have enough memory problems). Even though you generally don't do much stirring (and scraping of the sides) in a stockpot, I went with a stainless steel model ... the Sitram Catering Stainless Steel 12" Stockpot - 22.2 quarts one. It is not cheap though - even without the lid it was around $270. Hopefully it will arrive soon.