hunt for the right stockpot - help please!
cook on my antique Oriole 4-burner gas stove.
prefer made in USA - not China.
clueless: copper? stainless steel? best all-purpose size?
thanks, mavens, in advance
Is it primarily for cooking stock? I like my 12 quart stainless steel one most for stock making, but I am canning it when it's done.
I think if you just want a huge stockpot for making stock, then aluminum is the way to go. Don't even bother with anything too expensive. Just a plain aluminum.
If you want a medium size stock pot, then either pure aluminum or cladded cookware are good choice. Aluminum is cheaper and just as good for performance. Cladded stainless steel cookware are easier to deal with in term of sticking them inside a wash disher ...etc.
I like Vollrath, but keep in mind that, while they're a US-based manufacturer, not all of their product lines seem to be US made. I have a Tribute tri-ply 8 qt stockpot which I like quite a bit -- but it's described as 'imported' by the site I bought it from, and Vollrath's site doesn't say "Made in USA" for that specific product, though they don't say where it's made. Also, their stockers tend to be a bit shorter and squatter than I'd really like.
Polarware does make some US made stockpots that are tri-ply, but with carbon steel instead of aluminum as the middle layer. Vollrath also makes this style, but I don't know where they're made.
Browne Halco has some good disk-bottom stockpots at reasonable prices, but I'm not sure about where they're actually produced.
If your gripe is just with China / Asia, and you don't mind European made stuff, you could look at Sitram and Mafter Bourgeat's stainless cookware with disk bottoms, though a bit more expensive than the major brands sold in the US for commercial kitchen use.
Of course, you could go with All Clad or Demeyere -- the product is good, but it will be expensive, and IMHO, it's overkill for this application, unless you've got money to burn.
Hard to go too far wrong with thick aluminum, but I would want it a minimum of 4mm thick, at least on the bottom or on a disk. The reason you don't just want a thin pan of SS or a canner-type vessel is that a lot of stocks call for browning bones and sweating/stewing mirrepoix, and the ultra-cheap pots will have such thin bottoms that they don't provide even heat, and so are prone to hotspots and scorching. *However*, if you don't mind doing your roasting/sweating in a different pan first and then transferring (along with added cleanup), you might still consider ultra-cheap.
Past a certain size relative to your gas burner, aluminum and copper are going to work better at the boiling/simmering part, too. Going too big with a SS or enameled steel pan will be a frustrating experience for you.
As for optimum size, there is no clear answer. If you're of the school that only makes stock from your leftover bones/carcasses, smaller sizes work better if all your meat ingredients musty be fresh. If you're willing to freeze your leftovers (and have the freezer room/discipline), you can go as large as you wish--subject to your hob size. The largest practical size for me on a semi-wimpy home gas hob is about 14Q, but a larger stocker may straddle two hobs and get you where you want to go.
Companies... I'd steer you to companies that supply restaurants, like Vollrath and Sitram, and the knockoffs. Stockers by the popular home cookware companies tend to be high on cost and low on value. You can also find some excellent vintage stockers for a song if you don't mind (or learn to love) some kludgy things. If you already have an Oriole, you know what I'm talking about. ;)
Yes, they do. If you are constantly making stock (coulis), you pretty much have to do it that way, but if you are making it one batch at a time, you don't. Smaller stockers fit in the oven, too if you want to do it that way.
I find swapping, washing and drying 2x the pans more trouble than stirring my mirrepoix with a long-handled spoon
I'm a big fan of thrift stores that give things a second life. If your stock pot just needs to have volume, rather than being used for an another techniques, I say just go to your local thrift store and find one that provides the volume you require. I would bet the price will be great.