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Buying Guide: The Best Soup and Stockpots For You

The authors of The New Cooks' Catalogue certainly know what to look for when choosing cooking equipment. These leading culinary experts have been evaluating cooking equipment for over 25 years. The following information is what they consider important when selecting soup and stockpots.

All Soup and Stockpots »

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What to Look For

  • Well-designed stockpots are tall and narrow; pots for making soup may be shorter and wider.
  • A stockpot should have a capacity of at least 8 quarts; soup pots may be 4 to 6 quarts.
  • The best choices for stockpot and soup pot material are stainless steel with an aluminum core (or aluminum disc on the bottom) or anodized aluminum.
  • Be sure the stockpot or soup pot has roomy handles secured with rivets or thick, heavy screws.

More information

Introduction

Stock is made by immersing flavorful ingredients in liquid. Chicken broth, for instance, is made from water, chicken bones, meat, and vegetables like carrot, onion and celery as well as herbs and spices like thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns. As the ingredients simmer for several hours, flavors fuse and the liquid becomes a well-seasoned broth. A tall, narrow pot prevents the simmering broth from evaporating too quickly.

Don't assume that a pot labeled a "stockpot" by its manufacturer is sufficiently tall and narrow to be a good choice for making stock. But it may be an excellent pot for making clam chowder or chicken noodle soup. Soup rarely requires as much cooking time as a stock and can be made in a shorter, wider pan. While you can make soup in a stockpot, you can't always make stock in a soup pot.

Size & Structure

Stockpots and large soup pots can also be used for pasta, corn on the cob, lobsters, or any food that requires a large quantity of boiling water. It is useful to purchase an insert with your stockpot to remove pasta or corn from hot water without having to drain the pot.

A stockpot or soup pot must have a thick bottom to support the ingredients. A heavy base will also prevent the foods at the bottom of the pot from scorching. Because the bones and vegetables needed for stock take up a great deal of room, it is preferable to buy one with an 8- to 12-quart capacity. Though stockpots come in sizes as small as 4 quarts, a small stockpot won’t yield much broth. A pot intended for soup can be smaller (4-6 quarts) because soup recipes often call for smaller amounts of ingredients.

Handle

A pot filled with hot, heavy ingredients demands handles that are secured with rivets, thick, heavy screws or otherwise solidly attached to the sides of the pan. Handles should also be roomy enough to accommodate your hands in potholders. A stockpot with a spigot for draining off liquids can also be a plus. A stockpot should come with a lid, preferably one that is flat rather than domed, so that you can partially cover the pot to slow evaporation.

Material

Copper, so essential for saucepans and skillets, is not recommended for stockpots or soup pots. Rapid heat response is not important for stock or soup: invest in a copper sauté pan instead. Better choices include stainless steel wrapped around an aluminum core or anodized aluminum. Nonstick stock and soup pots can be of value, because they are easy to clean. Regular aluminum is lightweight and heats well, however it discolors and may become pitted if salty or acidic ingredients are used.

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