Stock Pot: Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
I've come to need a 16qt stock pot.
I'll use it for big seafood boils and stocks of all kind.
My local restaurant supply has a great very heavy aluminum pot for $30 with lid.
Stainless steel pots run the gamut in price.
Is there a reason to go for one over the other?
(And if you're thinking of the Alzheimers link... apparently it's a myth. This from Alzheimers.org: Myth 4: Drinking out of aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.)
I'd buy the restaurant aluminum, unless you are going to do a predominate amount of tomato-based dishes in your new stockpot.
Go with the aluminum pan, it conducts heat better. BTW the aluminum "bad" rumor was started in about 1921 by the stainless steel companies. They put out the rumor that Rudolph Valentino died from eating food cooked in aluminum pans. He died from a perforated ulcer. It just seemed to escalate from there. I see people daily who are terrified of aluminum. One customer did not want a carbon steel wok with an aluminum lid. She was afraid of the condensation in the lid dripping back down on to her food. That was my laugh for the day!
i use both, both are fine, i do prefer the stainless. if you are *sure* you won't ever want to use your stock pot for anything reactive, examples: tomatoes, stock (esp court boullion) with wine, citrus (jellies etc), bbq sauce, chutney, homebrew, cheesemaking-- and you really do just want it for seafood and non-reactive stock. . .okay get the cheaper one.
i'm just afraid that as a home cook, you'll shell out $30 on the aluminum one, get seriously into cooking stocks and big batches of soup or chili or something, and you'll wind up having to buy the stainless one anyway-- but then you have 2 big pots to store, instead of one, and you'll ultimately have paid $30 you shouldn't have. you know? :)
wrt restaurant supply stockpots-- there is often a huge difference in basic quality between aluminum (institutional, workhorse) and stainless (high end). the stainless stockpots will often have a highly desirable doubleweight bottom that will protect delicate broths and cream-based soups, & if need be, you can chill the whole pot with san jamars in ice water baths & then refrigerate everything *right* in the pot. you can't do that with aluminum, which can scarily warp/crack/burst, or more horribly, leave an off-taste in your broth. additionally, aluminum will react to some detergents and sanitizers, and get scaly deposits on the surface that must be scrubbed off. you may not care about any of these issues, i'm just throwing them out. (i wonder if i'm the only chowhound who owns. . . hmm-- *many* times her/his own weight, in commercial stock pots.) depending on how often you intend to use this pot though, many of these issues may not make much of a difference to you.
i will say: a *really* nice feature in many commercial-grade stainless pots is stay-cool handles. the bigger/heavier the pot of deadly, scalding hot liquid is, the nicer it is to not have to worry about towel/potholder (which can slip off the handles), in order to move it around. a commercial brand that has this very nice feature, sturdy construction, and doubleweight bottoms, that i recommend to home cooks and pros is "winco." they make some nice stainless pots which imo are very reasonably priced for their high quality. if your local restaurant supply carries the brand (they come in a *box* rather than being loose on the shelves), you might want to consider picking up a stainless saucepan to see if you like the way it performs, it will give you an idea about the larger pots, and the smaller pan shouldn't be too expensive. whatever pot you choose, you should like its features enough to picture yourself using it 20, 40 years from now or whatever. sorry for the long-winded answer.
My biggest stock pot (24 qts) is aluminum, but here's one reason to go stainless. The big difference between the two is how well they transfer heat. But heat flows both ways. While you're heating a pot from the bottom it's also losing heat from the sides and top. Aluminum is much better than stainless for transmitting heat to the contents, but also loses heat faster. So the question is energy efficiency vs cost and what kind of cooking you do. I don't use my big aluminum pot much, and when I do it's mostly for steaming tamales or something else, which doesn't take hours, and the amount of water to heat is relatively small. But if I made lots of big batches of stocks or stews, I would invest in a good stainless steel pot with an aluminum bottom.
But let's face it. In terms of environmental impact and your gas or electric bill, it probably won't make much difference.