A stockpot is one of the most common varieties of cooking vessels not only in Western nations but also around the world. The majority of stockpots have a very similar design, featuring a flat bottom, vertical sides, and a wide profile. The opening at the top of a stockpot will occupy the same area as the bottom. Because they are heavy when filled, stockpots feature two handles securely attached to opposite sides. These will not be the familiar “stick handles” used on skillets, but will instead consist of U-shaped pieces of metal, each one of which is attached in two places. Stockpots usually come with lids featuring either a single “button” or U-shaped handle. There are two main varieties of lids: flat and domed. Many cooks find that stockpots with flat lids are more versatile as the lids are easier to partially position atop the pot. This allows for partial evaporation and helps cooks to more finely control the cooking process.
Basic Purpose of a Stockpot
A stockpot is designed to make stock, which is a type of broth used in the preparation of other foods, soups, or sauces. According to August Escoffier, the legendary French chef, “stocks are the keynote of culinary structure” for fine French cuisine. Stock is made by allowing water to simmer for hours on end while foods such as meat, bones, fish, and even vegetables are added. As the simmering process continues, the stock will acquire colours and flavours from these ingredients, becoming a subtle and nuanced liquid that can be used in a variety of recipes. When a stockpot is purchased specifically for making stock, it should be tall and narrow, as this configuration will provide the broth with less surface area for evaporation. Many pots that are labelled as stockpots are short and wide instead; these will promote evaporation and make it difficult to simmer broth for the long periods required for making stock.
Stockpots as a Generic Cooking Pot
The average home cook will probably make true stock on an infrequent basis at most, but this does not mean that he or she has no need for a stockpot. These pots are used for a huge array of cooking tasks and are called for whenever a recipe of any type calls for a large pot. Some of the most common uses for stockpots are to prepare batches of boiled pasta or corn-on-the-cob, to steam vegetables and shellfish, and to prepare soups and stews both tinned and fresh. When purchasing a stockpot for general cooking purposes, one that is short and wide may be advantageous since the greater surface area of the liquid inside the pot can make it easier, for example, to scoop out items that have finished cooking.
Non-cooking Uses for Stockpots
Stockpots are also handy for a variety of tasks that do not involve cooking. Because they are available in very large varieties, they can be used to boil clothing items during phases of a home dying process, for example. Some people even use stockpots to make homemade soaps or their own laundry detergent. It is a good idea to maintain a separate stockpot for these purposes in order to eliminate any possibility that traces of industrial chemicals could come into contact with foods that will be eaten.
Stock Pot Sizes
Stockpots are available from a great number of different manufacturers. Because sizes for these cooking pots have never been fully standardised, most stockpot makers indicate size according to the interior volume a stockpot can hold. To be useful for making stock, a stockpot should have a capacity of at least 8 litres. Common sizes used in a home cooking setting include 12, 24, and 30 litres, but stockpots are also available in 50, 75, and 100 litre sizes. These larger sizes are most commonly encountered in a restaurant or community kitchen setting.
Most stockpots are a bright silvery colour and are commonly made from either anodised aluminium or stainless steel. According to many experienced cooks, these two types are superior to the other, less common, choices available online or at brick and mortar stores.
Stainless Steel Stockpots
Stainless steel is a metal that looks good and typically holds up well to cooking tasks, but it is well-known for being a poor conductor of heat. Stockpots made only of stainless steel will not generally produce a high-quality stock even when the cook is careful to follow all directions precisely. High-quality stainless steel stockpots have improved heat conduction through the use of additional types of metal. One of the most common combinations is for a stainless steel stockpot to have either an aluminium disk incorporated into the bottom or a core made of aluminium.
Aluminium is a relatively inexpensive metal, which makes it ideal for making large pots that require a considerable amount of material. Aluminium is also excellent for stockpots because it conducts heat well, which allows it to heat up and cool down rapidly when exposed to changes in temperature. Unfortunately, however, aluminium has one strong drawback: in its natural state it reacts chemically with foods that are acidic. To overcome this, some aluminium pots and pans are anodised. Anodised aluminium stockpots help to prevent chemical reactions with the metal surface, which means less aluminium will be present in finished food items. It also helps to keep foods from becoming discoloured during the cooking process. Another drawback to non-anodised aluminium is that the inside surface can develop pits over time if used to cook acidic or salty items.
A popular modern item is the non-stick stockpot. These can reduce the amount of time spent in cleaning, which is especially important in the case of stockpots because they may be too large to fit in an automatic dishwasher. Another reason why a non-stick surface is handy is the fact that stockpots are often on the stove for very long periods of time. This can lead to scorched foods on the bottom, even if the cook is careful to frequently stir a soup or stew. Scorched areas on the bottom of a stainless steel or aluminium stockpot can be quite difficult to get clean. A non-stick stockpot can be very helpful in such a situation.
Features to Look For
It is imperative that a stockpot has a pair of sturdy handles so that heavy loads of boiling liquid can be safely carried from one spot to another in the kitchen. Look for handles that are attached with sturdy hardware such as thick, strong screws; riveted handles are also quite durable. Just as important is the shape of the handles, they must be roomy enough to comfortably accommodate an adult hand when covered by a potholder or oven mitt. Some inexpensive stockpots have smaller handles to save on materials, but spending a little more to be able to move a pot easily is well worth the extra expense.
Some stockpots feature a spigot installed on the lower portion of the pot. Opening the spigot will cause liquids to drain out. Removing liquid during some stages of cooking is a key element in recipes for certain foods; having a spigot to help accomplish the task can be a great time-saver compared to spooning out liquids using a ladle or spoon . A spigot can also be a safety feature because without one, some cooks will lift a pot and attempt to pour out liquids in order to save time. This can be a messy process, and if it goes wrong, the result could be scalding liquid coming into contact with skin. Even so, a stockpot with a spigot also has disadvantages. Children that can reach the stove may find it an interesting, irresistible gadget. For safety, all stockpots should be used on back burners, but ones with spigots should have the spigot faced away from the front of the stove. This provides an extra precaution.
Find Stockpots on eBay
On the online shopping site eBay, stockpots are grouped with saucepans in the Pots & Pans category. Find this category by choosing Home & Garden from the main category listing and then proceeding through the selections labelled Furniture & Living and Cookware, Dining, & Bar. To reach pages listing stockpots, select Pots & Pans, then Saucepans & Stockpots, and finally, Stockpots. Another option is to search the entire site for stockpots. This will generate additional choices as some sellers may have chosen to list their stockpots as vintage or professional cookware instead of in the Home & Garden category.
Most home kitchens need a stockpot of medium size to help with tasks such as boiling spaghetti, even if the cooks in the family do not make their own stock. Stockpots are available in a wide range of sizes and come in both stainless steel and aluminium. An excellent place to shop for stockpots is eBay, which provides shoppers with easy search tools allowing them to quickly find the type of stockpot needed.