A stock pot is important to every home and professional cook because of its versatility. Not only will you use it for making delicious homemade soups, it will also come in handy when you cook pasta, make stocks, braise meats, make your famous homemade tomato sauce, and plenty more. So you want to buy something that will work well for every type of cooking you do and one that will hold up for many years to come. Here are some important things to look at when choosing a stock pot.
Stock pots come in sizes ranging from as small as 4 quart to as large as 100 quart, I would recommend something in the 6-12 quart range as you will most likely not need anything larger for most of your favorite recipes. An ideal stock pot should have a round base, straight sides, a cover, and sturdy handle(s). Although this shape is more important when making stocks and stock reductions, it works well for making soups as well. No matter what type of pot you buy, you want it to have a thick, flat, heavy bottom to help prevent burning. This is especially true when cooking soups since they require longer times to cook. The product will be sitting on the stove top for a long time so you don't want the ingredients to scorch and stick to the bottom. This is a common problem in pots with bottoms that are too thin or made of cheap materials. Many of the less expensive pots have an indention in the bottom where it sits on the burner, this creates nothing but a "hot spot" (an area of the pan/pot that is hotter than the remainder) and should be avoided when possible.
There are lots of different schools of thought to what a good pot should be made of. The primary consideration in choosing your stock pot is the material it is constructed from. The most common materials used to make stock pots are copper, aluminium, and stainless steel, and cast iron. Copper is the most expensive, but it is also the best conductor of heat. Aluminium pots are good at conducting heat and are favored by many cooks because of their low price. Stainless steel is the least conductive of the three metals and middle of the road when talking about price, but is favored by some because it is not a reactive metal. Cast iron is also a superb heat conductor and inexpensive. However it has drawbacks as well: rusting, pitting, reactivity, and sticking to food. For all of these reasons cast iron pans must be “seasoned.” This means coating the entire pan, inside and out with oil or shortening and baking it to seal the fat into the pan. This will reduce the chances of rusting and reactivity and give you a somewhat non-stick surface. The "seasoning" will break down with use and has to be re-seasoned. I just put mine in the oven when I bake cookies, cakes etc. and this keeps it seasoned. The problem with copper cookware, (beside the price), is reactivity. Copper, aluminum, and to a lesser extent cast iron, are “reactive” metals. That means they will chemically combine with certain foods, usually acidic ones, and alter the flavor and color of your preparation. Copper discolors and scratches easily, aluminum is a good heat conductor but as I said before is also reactive as well as being a soft metal and eventually wears down but remains popular because it’s inexpensive. There are anodized aluminum pans, which are chemically treated to prevent reactivity. If you insist on aluminum, anodized is the way to go.
Whether you are using it to make soup or just to boil some corn, you want a well constructed pot with a handle that you feel is secure and won't fall off when you are lifting a pot of hot liquid. So look for soup pots with handles that are securely attached to the pot with heavy screws or rivets. You can find a great selection of stock pots at J.E.S. Restaurant Equipment, as we sale restaurant supplies wholesale so the price is always easy on the wallet.
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