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Taking Nominations for a new pasta pot

  • danna Jun 16, 2011 12:22 PM

I currently use a stainless pasta pot from Williams Sonoma that my Mom gave me. 95% of it's use if for boiling water for pasta, but I also use it for making stock, apple butter, rice krispies, jams, etc. So I need one pretty big. This thing is just SO SLOW to come to a boil. I'm not sure I can afford a giant copper pot. (although I'd be interested in hearing recommendations) Maybe All Clad copper core? I looked at WS but none of the AC in stock appeared large/deep enough.

Thanks!

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  1. I don't think copper will really provide so much benefit for a large pot like that - when you're boiling water, making stock, etc., being able to change temperature quickly or have precise control of heat is not so important. I would suggest a tall, narrow stock pot with a heavy aluminum disk bottom. The All Clad Multicooker is not a bad deal when it's on sale ($100) -- note - this is not a fully clad pot; it has a disk base much like the (cheaper) options mentioned below.

    Something along the lines of this one might do the trick:
    http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/v...

    For smaller amounts of pasta (1 lb or less) I can usually get by with a 4.5 qt saucepan (Sitram) without feeling like I'm crowding the pan too much.

    1. How many quarts do you need? I'm using the Cuisinart 12 quart multipot.

      6 Replies
      1. re: rasputina

        I use the Cuisinart 12 qt., sans the inserts, as well. It's a great pot and serves me very well.

        1. re: Molly James

          Somewhere has an 8 qt Cuisinart on sale for like $30 right now.

          1. re: will47

            minw ia only 8 quarts, i could go a little bigger, but this one serves.

            But...what makes me think a Cuisinart pot would be any faster at boiling than the stainless pot I have now? I'm not saying it won't, I just don't know what to look for. Copper is the only thinkg I know of that heats faster.

            1. re: danna

              I don't think a different pot is going to make a significant difference in how fast your water boils, and definitely not to the degree where it would be worth paying for a copper stockpot. Copper will react more quickly to changes in heat, and the pot itself might heat marginally faster, and might even be a bit more efficient, but I don't think this would make a significant difference in terms of your boiling time. I don't know what kind of stove you have, but a more powerful stove (or a stand-alone induction plate) might speed things up.

              I usually just heat the water for pasta first thing, before I start prepping, then turn it off once it comes to a boil.

              The large (4 or 5 qt, I think?) saucepan I have does have a copper disk base (it's Sitram Catering). You could consider this series if you're really intent on copper (these prices don't include lids, and I'm guessing the second and third options would be a bit difficult to handle when full of water, since they don't have helper handles).

              http://www.deiequipment.com/s.nl/it.A...
              http://www.deiequipment.com/s.nl/it.A...
              http://www.deiequipment.com/s.nl/it.A...

              1. re: danna

                danna, I have pure aluminum pots (vintage Wagner and Meljax) that are quite thick and respond to heat much faster than any of my stainless steel. Perhaps an aluminum or SS lined hard anodized aluminum might be of interest to you.

                will47 also makes a great point about the type of stove you have and the BTU's of your burners.

              2. re: will47

                I picked up my 12 qt at Marshall's a few years back for less than $25 and it wasn't even on clearance. Might be worth it for the OP to take a look at Marshall's/TJ Maxx/Homegoods if interested. They typically always have a nice selection of Cuisinart Chef Classics line.

                As a footnote, I've noticed that a lot of the newer stock to the above mentioned stores from this line, have a much thinner base than the 2 older pieces I have. Just an observation I thought to mention.

          2. For most pasta, I use a cheap ($15 for stockpot, steamer, pentola) 8-qt SS stockpot because it's also extremely light.

            If I'm making ravioli or other stuffed pasta, I use a wide 8-qt A-C stockpot (Dutch oven profile), and take them out with a Chinese strainer/spider.

            1. Can't help with the pot, but I think these inserts are the coolest: http://www.instawares.com/jr6224-stai...

              Perfect for the family with the mother who likes whole wheat pasta, the son with an aversion to gluten, the daughter who doesn't like macaroni shapes....

              2 Replies
              1. re: E_M

                What a great idea. I can also see where it would also come in handy for separating different kinds of ravioli or tortellini.

                I wonder how well it works.

                1. re: E_M

                  Funny you should mention that. The pot I have came with one of those inserts. If I use it, the water will practically NEVER boil. Somehow the heating of the extra metal requires just that much more energy.

                  I know you guys are well-meaning, but the "do something about the heat source" is rubbing salt in my wounds. Any of you that feel like running a gas line to my house let me know.

                  I have a copper polenta pot. The sides are too sloped to be good for pasta and yes, it is a little smaller, but it boils the same quantity of water WAY faster on my electric glass top stove.

                2. See if you can do anything about the heat source.

                  I experimented with two pots. A cheapo thin stainless steel pot and good sitram stock pot with a decent aluminum base. Controlled for temperature of the starting water, and the beginning heat of the burner. With equal volumes of water, both came to a boil at exactly the same time.

                  Yeah, I'm a geeky engineer. The pot makes zero difference for boiling water, it's all the heat source.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tomishungry

                    We now have a 23k BTU stove, and even bringing a large 10-12 qt stockpot full of water is surprisingly quick. Though, much as I like gas, induction and even electric are probably a little more efficient than gas for boiling water.

                    1. re: tomishungry

                      You said it before I could reply. If you want to bring mass quantities of water to a boil you need more BTUs because different metals are irrelevant,

                    2. We have a large pot that has a colander that slides right into it so we can cook the pasta in it, lift out the pasta and drain the water back into the pot and add the pasta right to the pan of sauce on the other burner. It was fairly cheap and fairly light so easy to carry to and fro the sink. We never use it for anything else so just give it a good rinsing with hot water and put it back on the shelf to dry. Love, love, love this system since we eat pasta at least half nights of the week.

                      1. Hi, danna:

                        Contrary to what some others here have opined, a high-conductivity pot *will* make a difference. See, my experiments and data at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/732777

                        We all can debate *how* big a difference a thick copper or aluminum pot will make, whether the marginal difference is worth the cost, etc. Others may even say that the high-conductivity pots "waste" energy. But the fact remains that a copper or aluminum stocker will boil water faster and/or at a lower heat setting, *and* attain a higher boil, than clad or cast iron on your resistive hob.

                        My recommendation for you is that you find a vintage pot of either aluminum or copper. Obviously the former is going to be less expensive. Look for the thickest metal you can find. Sandwiching a thin layer of good-conductivity metal between two thick layers of crappy material (SS) makes for mediocre cookware (even AC).

                        Others are right that if you pump in enough BTUs, you can boil fast in anything. But if you have a marginal stove, you might never *get there* with a bigger stocker. If you are already slow with an 8Q, you will notice a big difference with Cu or Al.

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                        PS You might also want to check to make sure your coils aren't failing and producing less heat energy.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Well, AWESOME. Thanks so much! Copper it is. I'm so glad you stopped me from buying a crap sandwich, as it were.

                          BTW, my copper polenta pan was tin lined and I melted some of it off years ago, thus I'm careful what I cook in it. Should my new stock pot be lined at all? Sorry for the basic questions, I appreciate your help!

                          1. re: danna

                            Hi, danna:

                            You're very welcome. Copper stockpots are toward the bottom end of the budget/wishlist for copper cookware for most folks, but if you're looking in the 8Q range, Ruffoni makes a decent one for not a huge outlay. Mauviel's tall, narrow "soup station" is also a good choice, and looks very pretty and sexy. Also, don't be shy about just buying a larger saucepan to do your pasta and stocks in.

                            If you get a copper pot, yes, it should be lined. Unlined is really only advisable for confectionary and egg preparations. Most stockers are tin-lined because of production problems with the SS bimetal they use for pans--there's a 40% failure rate in manufacture and there's probably no need for SS in a pot that's 95% pasta cooker and 5% stocks.

                            One caveat: If you're going to/wanting to use a boiling insert, you need to get one that won't scratch the tin lining at the bottom. I use a Chinoise that doesn't touch the bottom at all (straddles the top rim instead), but you can use a regular SS insert if it has silicone feet. The ideal setup would be an insert that is perfectly sized to sit atop the pot's rim, all the way around, without touching bottom.

                            Aloha,
                            Kaleo

                            1. re: danna

                              Sounds to me like you're just waiting for someone to validate what you want to do anyway. If you want to buy a big copper pasta pot, knock yourself out. Just don't delude yourself into thinking it's going to make a big difference in how fast you boil water.

                              You could buy a powerful induction plate for cheaper than you can buy a copper stockpot.

                          2. For rapid boiling you want a thinner construction. I am using a calphalon ss that I got for a song at Home Goods. Does the job perfectly.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: wincountrygirl

                              I think you want thinner as well, though preferably aluminum rather than stainless. I used a stainless one with a disc bottom recently (to try the silly insert, heh, which after trying it I don't really believe it's meant for pasta although I bet they sell it as such), and it took forever to boil. Since I don't cook more than about a pound, I generally would still do pasta in a 5qt pot and I have an old T-Fal (yes, it has nonstick in it, oh dear) that works very well. Boils fast, and this is on an electric coil. The outside of the thing is THIN aluminum. Yeah, copper will conduct the heat really nice, and it doesn't have to be a lot of copper thickness I suppose, but still, the crazy expense for boiling some water.

                              I guess the real problem is it can be hard to get a pan made of thin aluminum like this anymore. I suppose there's nothing wrong with a hard anodized aluminum pot, but I think the process will be slowed a bit with the thickness, not enhanced. What the thickness gives is heat retention. For boiling water for pasta, who cares? Retention is not a big issue here.

                              Also low and wide should boil a hair faster, I think. This is marginal, really tiny difference, but closer to the heat source should be better. So buying something 8qt that says "dutch oven" or even saucepan might be better than one that says "stock pot". Something cheapo like this http://www.amazon.com/KittAmor-Quart-... is closest to the kind of thin aluminum pans that heat up fast.

                              1. re: CrazyOne

                                Hi, CrazyOne: "What the thickness gives is heat retention. For boiling water for pasta, who cares? Retention is not a big issue here."

                                You're kinda right here, although there are varied uses of a stocker for which thicker walls are better than thin by virtue of retention and enhanced conduction. An obvious one is blanching vegetables, but the same principle also applies to pasta, boiling crab/lobster, deep frying, etc. In all such cases, ideally you want a temperature/boil that continues from food immersion to food removal. The food comes out with better color and texture (Ask Julia), and I think tastes better than it does if you dump in your food and wait X minutes for the boil to recover.

                                On a home hob, this is difficult to do, and next to impossible in a small vessel like the OP is now using. I have a thick 10 Imperial gallon stockpot that I can bring to a 210F boil on a coil, put in a pound of pasta and not lose the boil; a thinner pan (even of copper or aluminum) will not boil on that hob, let alone hold it. For comparison, my thinner 14Q Ruffoni will actively boil on the same hob, but will not hold the boil with a pound of food without help from a Buffalo Iron and/or preheating the insert. Thin aluminum is even worse, and has a hard time making the last few degrees F past 200. Granted, much of the difference is attributable to the much larger thermal mass of water, but a SS or cast iron 10-IG pot would not even boil on my hob.

                                Moreover, in holding/recovering the boil, the thicker-gauge copper conducts a good amount of heat up the walls, as evidenced by the fact that my data shows water vapor bubbles actively boiling off the *sides* of the pan (see link in my post above).

                                Aloha,
                                Kaleo

                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  That makes sense. The heat retention a heavier pot has will help you in the matter of recovery from adding something (the pasta in this case).

                                  But. The OP is looking for fast to come to a boil though. Now granted I haven't tried a copper pot of these sizes, but I've tried heavier aluminum and it definitely takes longer to come to a boil than the thinner pot. If you're in a hurry to get the pasta ready, you a) don't really need a ton of water, 4-5 quarts should be enough for a pound and b) aren't going to care that it goes off boil for a sec when you put the pasta in. Or at least, that's what I was figuring.

                                  A copper pot just seems far too much of an indulgence for such basic purposes that can easily be served by a cheap pot. I'd rather spend that money on something else. Just MHO, obviously. :-)

                                  1. re: CrazyOne

                                    Hi, CrazyOne:

                                    If you look at the data from the link above, you'll see that the thin aluminum and SS pans lost badly to 3mm copper in a boil-speed test on an electric hob, although the thin aluminum cooled faster.

                                    I agree that a copper stockpot is a bit of an indulgence. That's what I was alluding to above when I wrote that it would be nearer the bottom of many's wishlist when it came to copper cookware. But bargains are out there to be found; the vintage 10 Imp. Gallon stocker I referred to weighs about 40 pounds, and I got it for $185. What's the biggest AC in the best grade going for these days?

                                    The Ruffoni 8Q I referenced earlier is not as expensive as one might imagine. And it is thin enough (at about 1.5mm) to conduct max heat (at least to the pot's bottom). For some idea of what used and vintage copper stockpots can cost, see http://stock-pot.info/?s=Copper+Stock...

                                    Maybe my electric hobs are weak, but in all the years I misspent cooking a pound of pasta in a clad or CI 5Q pot, the boil was lost for a minute or more. Pasta makes less difference to me than veggies in this regard, but IMHO, there is still a qualitative difference when the boil is maintained thoughout.

                                    OTOH, it takes forever to get 12G of water to a boil on any home hob...

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      Yeah, I admit I hadn't clicked the link before. It is very interesting.

                                      Well, someday when I really have money to spend on pans. ;-) I'm not especially good at seeking out used/vintage but should try it sometime....

                                    2. re: CrazyOne

                                      Very interesting on the cheap pot. I used to have a pot, not even sure what it was made of, that my Mom gave me when I left home that she picked up free at the grocery store. It boiled water great. You couldn't cook anything else in it, though, because it would stick/burn immediately. Eventually the lining chipped and it had to be tossed.