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Good LARGE stock pots - what to look for?

I have used cheap Revere Wear thin stainless, the good Calphalon annodized aluminum (before they sold out to China), Sitram Professional, cast iron, and some other random brands of similar quality for years. I make a lot of stews, soups, chilli's, and similar items.

I want to purchase a very good LARGE stockpot that won't scorch easily in the bottom and will carry heat up the sides of the pot. I'm finding an 8 quart pot is too small causing me to overfill and "splash" a lot or not have enough water for the amount of soup ingredients I have. I have high output burners on my natural gas cooktop so, the pot needs to stand up to big heat when I'm boiling water for pasta and similar things.

The 12 quart All-clad carries a good reputation but, at ~$400 is pretty spendy. I'm looking at the Vollrath Tribute 16 quart model as an alternative which is ~$100. Does the Vollrath cook as good as the All-clad (or close to the same)? Should I consider other brands?

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  1. Sitram makes some around ~ $100. Most of my Sitram stuff is from before Frieling acquired them or whatever, but I am happy with it. It's professional grade stuff; not as shiny or pretty as All-Clad, but I think higher-quality than a lot of other restaurant-grade stuff, and the prices are usually fair.

    If you buy All-Clad's multi-cooker thing (12 qt pot with two steamer baskets), it's closer to $100-150. I think I bought mine on sale for $100. I'm not usually a big fan of All-Clad, but I am pretty happy with this thing at this price point -- even if there are some differences compared to the $400 one, the thing is more than adequate for stockpot use, and the bottom is nice and heavy. I don't really use the steamer / strainer bits, but you can throw them away if you don't plan on using them.

    Generally speaking, I think you're thinking about the right things - find something that's nice and heavy (especially the base) and feels solid.

    1. I'm sure there are many here that know far more than I, however for stews, soops, chilli's and such, wouldn't you be better served with enameled cast iron such as LC or Staub? Williams Sanoma has a Staub that's 13 quarts, granted you probably have to be an ex-NFL lineman to handle it when it's full, I extimate it's about 50 lbs at that point, but that seems like it's made for those dishes. Then get a big SS stock pot for pasta and the high heat. I guess this is as much a questiion as a reccomendation.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mikie

        I'm thinking a cast iron pot in this size range would be awful heavy and ackward to use in a home kitchen. I have some smaller Le Creuset enameled cast iron which I like a lot. The small ones are hard enough to handle when they are in the sink being washed, I can't imagine using the 13 quart model if I were older then I am now. Stainless steel would be more tolerant of knocks and bumps and use on outdoor grills at the camp site or lake.

        1. re: Sid Post

          I certianly can't disagree about the weight, ergo the ex-NFL lineman reference, the empty pot is about 25 lbs. and you could double that with the contents. Certianly if you intend to transport the pot from place to place and use it on an outdoor grill, then this would not be a suitable alternative.

          1. re: mikie

            I don't expect to use it "outside" often but, on rare occasions it would be nice to have a nice boil or soup on for a large family gathering. I do like cast iron in general though.

      2. What did Cooks Illustrated like about the All-Clad? Also, why was the Vollrath recommended with reservations (it appears to be similar to the Sitram Professional)?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sid Post

          ***** Paraphrased review *****

          All Clad Stockpot - pot was nice and heavy, had easy grip handles
          that didn't get too hot (but pot holders were needed). The
          aluminum core runs up the side of pot. All of the other stockpots
          only had aluminum cores on the bottom of the pot.

          Volrath Stockpot - Was tall and narrow pot that felt tippy,
          cumbersome, harder to pour from and clean than squatter pots.
          It did cook with even heat and was the heaviest of all the
          stockpots tested, however.

        2. Don't forget that All-Clad has two different 12 quart pots. One is the 'multi-pot', which includes a steamer/pasta basket. The other is just the same as the rest of their lines. The multi-pot can be had for about $150 if memory serves correctly, although it's only a disk bottom.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ThreeGigs

            I've got some "disc"pots in smaller sizes which work pretty good but, I really want something that carries heat up the sides better for a pot this large.

            1. re: Sid Post

              Honestly, I don't think it's going to be a problem. And I have not seen too many decent, heavy-duty stockpots (especially in the price range you're talking about) that don't have disk bottoms.

              1. re: will47

                Don't the Vollrath Tribute stock pots have aluminum past a "disc" in the bottom of the pan?

                1. re: will47

                  I've reheated a whole heck of a lot of soup in my time, and makes zero difference what the side of the pot is made of.

            2. Have you considered getting a pressure cooker?

              2 Replies
              1. re: cutipie721

                I have smaller Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers that I really like. The only really large pressure cookers I have seen have been pretty crude models for canning.

                Do high quality pressure cookers exist? Where would I find one?

                1. re: Sid Post

                  I am very interested in WMF Perfect "Ultra" 8.5L, which is slightly under 9qt. This specific model is not available in the US, but they have the Perfect "Plus" on Amazon US. I do prefer getting Ultra over Plus though.

                  If you want something even bigger, Fissler do make some 10L ones.
                  http://www.amazon.com/Fissler-021-674...

                  Check out http://www.firstireland.com. That's where I've been drooling over the 8.5L Perfect Ultra and found some other versions of Fissler 10L. Shipping isn't all that bad. As a matter of fact, the Perfect Plus is cheaper from them than from Amazon US at today's exchange rate.

              2. A good USED copper stockpot in the 10-16Lrange can be had for around $300 on eBay anytime--there are several listed every week. I bought a lightly-used Ruffoni 14L on Craigslist for $150.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Wow! I never really considered that option. All the copper Mauviel I own is very spendy so the thought of getting a 14L copper pot never crossed my mind.

                2. I'm not sure what you mean by big, but when I worked at the restaurant, it was really nice to have a stock pot with a spout near the bottom for draining. It's a pain to have to scoop it out.

                  1. I have a Le Creuset 8 qt. stockpot, and what All Clad _calls_ its 8 qt. stockpot.

                    The Le Creuset is NOT cast iron. It's enameled steel, and not anywhere near as heavy as it would be if it were cast iron. It's very easy to maneuver, though small bits of enamel have chipped off in two places (external). It's a lot less expensive than typical LC. It's what I've used for soupmaking for years. The 12 qt. size is $99.99 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Creuset-Enamel-...

                    All Clad's 6 and 8 quart stockpots are wider than they are tall, the same shape as Le Creuset's French ovens. I know a stockpot is supposed to be taller than it is wide. I wonder why All Clad chose to call their "wider-than-they-are-tall" pots stockpots.

                    I'm going to make some soup soon. I anticipate using the All Clad to make the chicken broth, then the Le Creuset for assembling chicken, split pea, or bean soup. It's nice to have a couple of different pots for making soup.

                    1. The voltraths work great. They routinely stand up to burners with four times the output of any stove sold to homeowners, and last for decades doing it. I wouldn't spring for the tribute one, the regular stainless one (75850 for 12 quarts) is fine. Don't forget to buy a cover.

                      Buy from a supplier to restaurants, to whom this is a normal thing, not a supplier to home cooks, to whom it's an unusual piece. There are any number of pots that work just fine. One feature that you want are welded handles. Rivets will leak; welded handles do not. They're easier to clean, too.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: dscheidt

                        ITA!

                        I have the Vollrath aluminum clad SS stockpots in all sizes and since I bought them from a used restaurant supply store, they were cheap.

                        Love the Vollrath stockpots, double boilers, colanders, pans, basins, bowls, and smallware.

                        1. re: Leolady

                          I wish I could find them used at a kitchen supply re-sale place. Are your pans the ones with the aluminum disc on the bottom (Intrigue) or the ones with the full aluminum sandwich up the sides (Tribute).

                          I'm thinking I need to stay with stainless for times when I want to cook acidic stuff (not often though).

                          1. re: Sid Post

                            They are stainless steel with an alumnium disk on the bottom.. I have even found them on Ebay for good low prices..

                        2. re: dscheidt

                          Welded handles on large, thin SS stockpots can and do fail, subjecting the user to severe burn risks. Riveted handles are safer.

                        3. I've narrowed my choices down a lot. The Vollrath stock pots seem to be very good quality for their price.

                          I'm trying to decide between the Tribute which has riveted handles and an aluminum core versus the Tri-Ply with welded handles and a carbon steel core. I don't plan on ever having an induction cooktop so, the carbon core is a little bit of a negative to me but I really like the welded handles and interior volume markings.

                          How much, if any, difference will I notice cooking between the two with such drastic thermal conductivity differences:

                          Copper: 401 W/m*K
                          Aluminum: 237 W/m*K
                          Cast Iron: 80 W/m*K
                          Carbon steel: 51 W/m*K
                          Stainless steel: 16 W/m*K

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Sid Post

                            Probably not much difference except in your utility bills and hob settings. If others here are correct, you may also be able to measure--if not notice--a difference in your room temperature.

                            I like copper because I can keep a slow simmer going at a lower heat setting and/or on a smaller hob, and it cools the stock faster off the heat, whether in icewater or air. I also think it heats faster and more evenly. But if you dump enough heat energy in a pot, it will simmer the way you like.

                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              If I could find a nice copper stock pot for similar money in a similar size, it would be an easy decision. Maybe Ebay or Craigslist will come through for me .... ;-)

                              Carbon steel versus Aluminum?? Hmmm ......

                              1. re: Sid Post

                                On a standard gas or resistance electric stovetop, the aluminum clad cookware have better heat response and better heat distribution. That is, the aluminum clad cookware will heat up faster and have fewer heat/cold spots.

                                For you silly copper lover :)

                                Exactly what the is the selling point of copper after the introduction of induction cooking? Sure, most people are not willing to invest induction cooking partially because of its high initial investment compared to gas or resistance electric. However, a set of good copper cookware easily surpass that price difference. Induction cooking on magnetic cookware will beat gas cooking on copper cookware. Is heat evenness (heat distribution) what you are seeking? But then, you can get a clad cookware with aluminum.

                                What give?

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Heat evenness and response have won many over. Then there is the nostalgia for the days of old with copper. Add bargain hunting and buying it one piece at time for some people who like to bargain hunt (heck think about people constantly on the look out for Le Crueset). Plus, it sure looks nice when it is polished sitting on a granite, marble, etc. counter top or hanging from a pot rack like a French bistro.

                                  1. re: Sid Post

                                    See, I think copper cookware on gas stove have the heat evenness on their side when compared to a typical magnetic cookware on induction stovetop. However, I am not sure about the heat response part, as magnetic cookware heat up very fast on an induction cooktop.

                                    I also made a typo. In my previous response, I wanted to say that "Induction cooking on magnetic cookware will beat gas cooking on copper cookware *in term of heat response*", but I omitted the last part.

                            2. re: Sid Post

                              carbon steel core is an interesting choice -- as in, what the heck were they thinking?

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I'm pretty sure it is target at their induction customers since some stainless isn't induction compatible or marginally compatible.

                                1. re: Sid Post

                                  Ah, thanks. I wasn't thinking about the induction part. I was like, "what the heck?!"

                            3. So, Sid, what did you end up getting? Between then and now I found a 10 Imp. Gallon 3mm copper stocker for $185. Perfect lining. Bell metal handles. The rare antique store bargain.

                              1. Have you considered a "flame tamer" which will keep things from scorching. They're under ten dollars and then you can go with a pot that isn't so expensive/heavy.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: escondido123

                                  Agreed. I've had good luck even with improvised flame tamers for slow simmers. And even a relatively cheap aluminum disk in the bottom makes it pretty even. I suppose if you were cooking down 12 quarts of tomato sauce or something, you might benefit from more even heat, but I can't imagine needing anything special for most soups, particularly on the sides of the pot.

                                  I'm a bit late to this, but my experience... My 20-quart All-clad was relatively inexpensive (it was a gift, but I think it was around $100 a few years back), since it just has an aluminum disk in the bottom, but I've never had any significant issues with uneven heating. The aluminum disk is enough to insure against scorching on the bottom. Of course, I tend to use it as a stockpot and occasional soup pot, not to make thick stews or anything like that (which I'd generally heat in the oven anyway). With a decent amount of liquid, I find the heat circulates plenty without special metal conducting way up the sides. Personally, anything that I'm cooking that needs more than 8ish quarts is either heavy on the liquid or cooks so slowly that enough heat will eventually permeate where it needs to go... or both. I've rarely put any large stockpot over anything other than low heat, except for an initial browning step for some ingredient or something (where significant conduction up the sides is not usually necessary). I have boiled water in the All-clad pot, though -- it seems to work well over high heat too.