Stainless steel stockpot recommendation
I am new to Chowhound. You guys are really great; this is the most cordial online discussion I have ever seen.
I am also new to cooking seriously, and I have a rule about never buying any new gadget/pot/pan/etc. until I've done without it a few times. Soups are my specialty; I usually make my own stocks and broths.
Currently, I have the. worst. stockpot. ever. made. I'm not even sure where it came from, but it is unbelievably flimsy aluminum that burns me, burns everything I put in it, requires absolute constant stirring, scratches easily, and refuses to get clean.
I am ready to bite the bullet and get a new (awesome) stockpot, preferably under $200.
I'd like something stainless steel, preferably 18/10, something light but sturdy that holds at least eight quarts, and most importantly, something that doesn't burn.
Utter evenness in cooking temperature is less important. I currently have a gas range, but may (sigh) unfortunately be moving to an electric range.
I have researched Demeyere, Le Creuset, All-Clad... What am I missing? Is Demeyere's Apollo line worth $279? What about Sitram? Other brands?
Do you mean evenness across the bottom of the pan? Even if you're cooking ingredients in the bottom of the pan before making a soup, I don't think you'll have issues with burning around the edges as long as you keep the heat to a reasonable level. The fact that such a pot is likely to be fairly large in diameter makes this even less of a problem. I have an All-Clad stockpot with a disk aluminum base (doesn't go all the way to the edge), and it works fine for this kind of thing.
I got a Vollrath Tribute 8 qt recently, but it hasn't arrived yet, so can't say how it is. Tri-ply, ~ $80 for 8 qt or $90 for 12 qt (without cover). The cover is kind of funny looking. I would also check out Sitram's Catering line (with copper disk bottom; ~ $140 for the 11.6 qt) and Mafter Bourgeat's Performance and Excellence lines, though the fact that the base doesn't go quite to the edge on any of these might be a problem for you. You could go even cheaper (Update, Winco, etc.), and I think you'd still be just fine.
An enameled cast iron dutch oven might also work for some of the applications you mention, such as making soup, though I would tend to use a taller stockpot for making stocks and cooking pasta. Le Creuset or Staub look nice; we've got a cheapie Lodge and are perfectly happy with it for soups / stews.
I'm sure Demeyere would be great, but I'd personally save the big bucks for saucepans / frying pans, and buy relatively cheap stockpots.
For a stockpot, I'd look at Tramontina. I have one of their 8-quart Multi-Cooker pots and am very happy with it. Nothing fancy, not "kitchen jewelry" by any means, but a heavy, solid pot that heats evenly and is easy to clean.
I agree with will47 that there are better things to spend money on than an expensive stockpot -- high-quality enameled cast iron Dutch ovens, good frying pans, sharp knives, and even end-grain cutting boards come to mind.
I agree with the Tramontina recommendation. I have a 12 qt tri-ply that I ordered through Walmart (just did the ship-to-store and picked it up). It's a very nice quality pot with a nice lid. I think it was about $80. I use mine mostly for pot roasts.
That being said, I'm not sure that spending extra money on a tri-ply is really worth it - I think a simple ss pot with a disk bottom would work just as well for a stockpot. I think the tri-ply is probably more useful on fry pans where you might want some heat conduction up the sides of the pan. But, for a stockpot, I think this is a non-issue.
Furthermore, the tri-ply stockpot itself is pretty heavy, so when it is full of soup it will be even heavier. I think a disk bottom stockpot will be lighter.
Your practical needs may be met with a $40 disk-bottom stainless pan.
One other thing to keep in mind is that the 10 piece tri-ply Tramontina set, which comes with an 8 qt stockpot, is available for roughly $200 US.
As mentioned before, I agree that a disk bottom pot is probably sufficient... but because the inner layer is aluminum, some tri-ply cookware can be quite light, depending on how each layer is (some of the 5 and 7 ply stuff, on the other hand, can be quite heavy).
I would be tempted to get two cheaper pots - one tall, narrow stockpot around 12 qt for stockmaking and large batches of pasta, and optionally, a short stock pot / sauce pot around 8 qt for making soups / stews / beans that you don't use the dutch oven for.
If you're just using your stock pots to boil water for corn, lobster etc. and make soups, then a triply pot is certainly not necessary.
But if you cook for a crowd and use your pots for things like chili, risotto, etc. then the triply is worth the extra money was it really does eliminate hots spots and greatly reduces the risk of burning your food.
You've gotten some interesting comments here. I wouldn't buy super heavy for the stockpot unless you've got some serious muscles. Make sure the handles are comfy for your hands. And I think a disk bottom has good enough heat distribution for soups. A brazier, or Dutch oven, will give you the capability to do soups in your oven, as well on the top of the stove. But I think I'd buy the stainless first, and then if I wanted one, I'd get a really nice Dutch oven. You'd be all set.