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What size stock pots should home cook have?

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I'm in the process of getting some new cookware and wanted some opinions on what size stock pots everyone has. Currently I have a 6 and 8 quart. I was thinking about adding either a 12, 16, or 20. I think I'm going to rule out the 12 because I already have the 2 smaller ones and thought if I added one it should be bigger. I'm leaning toward the 16 but just wanted some input. I usually try to make a good bit of stock at one time, and I might also use it for boiling shrimp every now and then if I don't feel like setting up outside. Any advice? Thanks in advance

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  1. If you have the money and space for the 20, I'd say get the 20 but the 16 is probably ok, too.

    1. Looking at the Le Creuset enamel on steel, i think the difference is only $20 so pretty negligble. Thanks for the input, I always worry when buying a pot if I'm going to regret not getting one size up Just didn't know if the 16 would be limiting.

      2 Replies
      1. re: spmc

        I would not invest money on a LC stockpot unless you desire it on looks alone. The job of a stock pot is very simple, so commercial aluminum or stainless steel will do it better than heavy steel or iron.
        I have a 12 and 16 qt from Wearever and I rarely use the 16.

        1. re: Kelli2006

          SPMC is most likely looking at the enamel on steel stock pots which aren't too much money -- an 8qt can be had for $40 or so, I that would put a 12 or 16 around $80 or $90, about what you'll pay for a good SS one.

      2. Size will depend on a number of factors:
        Are you strong? Lifting a full 16 qt stock pot is plenty for me, the full 20 qt is simply too heavy.
        Do you have storage room? Short of keeping them by the front door filled with umbrellas, you need permanent space of considerable size.
        Other than making stock and the shrimp boils you mention, do you have other plans for this? Your use should determine the size.

        Please give some consideration to buying NSF restaurant stock pot. I know a couple of people who've bought the pretty LC pots only to be disappointed by the (lack of) quality later. My NSF stock pot is at least 35 years old, going strong. Granted it is not a thing of beauty but I keep it in a closet.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sherri

          Just expanding on what Sherri said, keep in mind that it will be a lot heavier full of water than empty. I have a 16 and I think I only use it for making stock. They do take up a lot of room. Also, you don't need to spend big money on a stockpot. A no name brand in this case is usually as efficient as a name brand like LC.

          1. re: Sherri

            I would like to add to my previous post:
            A large stock pot requires a large colander and a large bowl.
            I really think two large bowls are best, but that is personal (I have three and use them all when in the midst of production).

            Do you have fridge space to quickly cool and store a large amount of stock? Freezer space? In the fridge, the largest bowl will hold the ice bath and a smaller one will hold the strained stock.

            Another poster mentioned sink size and that completely escaped my first post because I have a very large sink that I chose specifically for washing large pots. After too many years of contorting to fit a residential sink, it got to be my turn! A high faucet is also a must.

          2. I agree with the other posters - your use should determine the sizes you need. I have a 12 qt Cuisinart and though I also like to make larger quantities of stock I find it is often too big, unless I happen to have enough freezer space to accomodate all of that stock at once. I end up using a smaller pot and have no real issues having enough stock on hand at all times but then my household is small. Otherwise the big one comes out for lobster, corn, etc occasionally. It does take up some space in a small kitchen so you'd have to consider whether you have the space to comfortably accomodate a huge pot.

            1 Reply
            1. re: knet

              I have a 16 qt that I also mostly only use for lobster, crabs, corn. But it does get a lot of use, especially in the summer. So if you have the space and you have the need I'd say go for it. I think I'm eventually going to buy a 20qt as well - just so I have more room for more lobsters. :)

              I should mention that I have an unfinished basement with lots and lots of storage space, so this is a non-issue for me.

            2. Really big stock pots are trouble three ways:
              -Where to store (hope you have space)
              -How to lift (a 20-quart pot 3/4 full will weigh nearly 40 pounds)
              -How to heat (it will take a lot of BTU's to get all that water hot)
              Consider getting a turkey fryer kit -- in addition to a huge (32 qt) pot that will be nice for seafood boils, you will get a high-output burner and other stuff. Shop around -- they list for over $100 but are often sold at a pretty steep discount.

              Heat distribution is not really an issue -- for most uses plain aluminum or enameled steel (speckled stuff commonly used for canning) works really well and is reasonably priced. I would not blow the budget on high-end enamel steel (save your LC dollars for their cast iron stuff), stainless or anodized aluminum.

              1. I guess one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is how much stock will you be making? Or, how many times have you been unable to make something because you didn't have a big enough pot?

                In addition to the various possible problems with lifting, pouring, storing, etc., think about whether you will be able to get the pot into your sink for washing. I have a smallish sink, and it's not very deep, so I could imagine a very tall pot causing me some headaches in that department...

                2 Replies
                1. re: Full tummy

                  I hope nobody minds if I do a summary from the great suggestions here. These are the things listed so far, when considering size of stock pot.

                  - Need - Do you plan to make something that requires the size of pot?
                  - Storage - Where to store?
                  - Handling - A filled stock pot is heavy! Will you be able to lift, pour, etc.?
                  - Heating - The stove will need to be powerful enough to heat the full pot.
                  - Refrigerator/Freezer space - Once you cook that quantity of food, you will need somewhere to keep it!!
                  - Sink size - Will it be able to fit in your sink for washing?
                  - Faucet height - Will the faucet be high enough so that you can run water into the pot? (Or do you have a spray nozzle?)

                  1. re: Full tummy

                    Thanks so much for all of the help. I don't think the weight of the pot will be a problem, but storage could be and the sink definitely would be, with the 20 at least. I've eliminated the 20 and may hold off on the 16 until I come across a time where I just can't get it done with what I have (or if I find a really good sale). Again, thanks everyone for the feedback

                2. When making stock in a large pot, you usually don't have to lift the pot when it's full.

                  When I make stock, I usually start by putting the bones in the pot (which may have been broiled, depending on the stock), then add filtered water by the pitcher, and when I've skimmed off the initial scum thrown off by the bones, I add the vegetables and spices, so at this point I haven't had to lift a full pot. Then I may slide it to the back burner, but that's easier than lifting.

                  When the stock is ready, I remove the large bones and pieces with a big coarse wok skimmer, and then I ladle the stock into a smaller pot through a chinois or a colander lined with cheesecloth for the next stage of reduction, and then I may only actually lift the pot to strain the last bit when most of the liquid has been transferred to the smaller pot. The large pot isn't going into the refrigerator either.

                  It's good to have pots that are spaced at reasonable intervals when you want to strain and reduce to progressively smaller volumes.

                  To cool the strained and reduced stock, I put the smaller pot in a sink full of cold water with a few ice packs, and I stir the stock with a bottle of frozen saltwater that I keep in the freezer.

                  I keep a few kinds of stock in the freezer and make stock about once a month. Usually I use a 12 quart pot (the very one in my avatar, in fact), but I've been finding that a bit small, so I recently got an 18 quart pot. When I needed to make that much stock before, I just did it in two pots, like a 12 quart and an 8 quart.

                  I also have an aluminum 40 quart pot for lobster. With cover, it was around $55 from a restaurant supply house. This is indeed difficult to wash, but it does fit in the kitchen sink, and I can store it in a cabinet over the wall oven. I bought a shower hose that attaches to the faucet for a few dollars in the grocery store and am finding it useful for the other large pots as well. You can also fill a large pot with such a hose.

                  If your largest pot currently is 8 quarts, I'd get the 16, but the 20 will be better if you also want to do lobster.