8 Quart Stockpot
I need a new stockpot, because I'm a fool and ruined my previous ones. (Apparently, you shouldn't leave them on the flame when they have nothing in them, particularly when they're non-stick. Eh, they last me about 7 years each.) One was, as mentioned, non-stick, which I don't need or love, and the other was random metal--aluminum, steel, shiny-stuff?
As I make a bunch of soups per year, I'd like a nice reliable one, but have no idea what sort. Do I get aluminum? Stainless steel? Enamel? I'll wait for when I get married (please be soon) to get something fancy and several hundred bucks, so in the meantime I'm looking for under $100. I'm thinking an enamel-on-steel one from Le Creuset for $75 or so. Is it good? Or is metal better? Can I stain the enamel one easily? And how does it hold up to an indifferent cleaner? And what color? Ok, I'll settle that last one myself.
First, marriage is overrated.
Second, if you make thin texture soups, then pretty much anything will do. If you like to make thick soups, particularly with a lot of starch in them, then you want something which can provide an more even surface. You don't want heat spots which will burn your foods.
An full aluminum pot can can do this. A stainless steel pot with copper/aluminum base cap can also do this. A stainleess steel full triply pot will also satisfy this.
Tanuki Soup's suggestions are excellent. As for gumbo, we don't want to burn the roux, but many people like to sear the chopped onion/celery/green onion -- certainly the chopped onion. As such, many people use a cast iron dutch oven to do it. Yet, I won't recommend using it to make soup in general. A bare cast iron dutch oven is pretty inexpensive and you can put one in your wish list if you do not already own one.
Aluminum stock pot will be cheaper and will be lighter, but aluminum get easily oxidized, so you will end up cleaning it. It also slightly affect the color of your soup. You will not have to pay more than $50 for one:
Stainless steel for your stock pot is great, but stainless steel is not a great heat conductor, so you need an aluminum disc at the bottom or have aluminum triply all the way up to the side. They tend to cost more, and you will be looking at $60-$100. Examples:
Because you are only planning to get a functional stock pot now (waiting to spend more after getting married). You can just visit any HomeGoods, TJ Maxx and grab any stock pot fits your need. At HomeGoods and TJ Maxx, you will be looking for spending about $30-60 for a stainless steel stock pot.
I don't really have a particular brand to recommend, but the features I'd look for in a stainless steel stockpot are:
1. Induction-capable. (You might not need it now, but who knows about the future?)
2. Thick encapsulated aluminum disk in the bottom, all the way out to the edges.
3. Comfortable metal loop handles secured to a plate welded to the outside of the pot. No rivets on the inside.
4. A flared lip for pouring.
5. A good, tight-fitting stainless steel lid (or a vented glass lid if you prefer).
I'd expect you could easily find such a pot for $50 to $100.
First of all, you don't want aluminum for soupmaking because most soups are going to be acidic- acid will react with the aluminum. Aluminum isn't bad for you, necessarily, but the taste leaves a lot to be desired.
Second, unless you know, for certain, that you'll be using this for one pot cooking (browning meat, sauteing veggies, then braising), getting a clad bottom stockpot is kind of silly. Even if you do go the one pot cooking route, a clad 8 qt. pan is going to be seriously heavy.
If you do drier stews or starchy soups, just use the pot in the oven. It will heat very evenly and, if you have the temp right, the bottom won't burn on. That way you can use a nice lightweight gauge stockpot that will be easy to carry back and forth to the stove and to wash.
Enameled steel is great for soup, but you don't have to spend $75. I have an 8 qt. enameled steel pot that I've had for about 15 years that I spent $10 on. It's very lightweight, but I only use it for soups. If you do go the enameled steel route, no matter how much you pay, run your hand across the entire pot- a lot of these pots have bubble. One bubble and the pans toast..
Spending big bucks on large pots like this is a huge waste. Shop around. Check out restaurant supply places.
I have an 8-qt Calphalon that I got a deal on at Marshall's. It has worked fairly well. The aluminum is anodized so no issues with getting a funny metallic taste, just can't put in the dishwasher.
Take your time with the marriage thing -- it's hardly over-rated, though!