Friday, April 24, 2009

Buying a stockpot? Here are 10 top tips

By Stephen Kember

One of the most important and most frequently used items of all your outdoor cooking equipment is your stockpot. It therefore really makes good sense to buy a good one and to see it as an important investment in your outdoor kitchen.

Stockpots vary hugely in size and in quality and come in both stainless steel and aluminum. Deciding which to go for and what sizes you're going to need are the two big questions needing answering at the outset.

You are going to need a few stockpots so buy with that in mind. Don't go with the idea that one size fits all. If a set of 2 or 3 stockpots is going to be too expensive today buy the size that you think that you are going to use the most and then buy more when funds permit.

For inside the house stockpots start at 8 quarts, which is okay for small scale cooking and most buy the 12 quarts for everyday bigger scale cooking. However if want to cook outdoors for family & friends then youre going to need larger pots.

And if a big stockpot is what you are after then youll find stockpots ranging in size, for example in the Bayou Classic range, from: 24 to 36 to 44 to 62 to 82 quarts going right up to a 162 quart stainless steel stock pot. The choice is up to you.. But remember, the larger the pot the more powerful the burner that is needed to heat it up with.

So when buying a stockpot what should you think about? Here are 10 important guidelines:

1. Aluminum is lighter in weight; it provides even heating without heat spots; it costs less size for size than stainless steel but it easily dents, is harder to clean, doesn't last as long, and certainly doesn't look as good as stainless steel;

2. By contrast stainless steel is going to be easy to clean; it lasts longer; it, doesn't dent so easily, and it looks nicer as a piece of cookware. But it does suffer from heat spots, it is heavier and it is more its more expensive;

3. Its essential to go for 'quality' whether going for aluminum or stainless steel. Do take seriously the fact that there is a lot of cheap 'rubbish' in the marketplace at the present. I warn you, if you buy cheap then you'll soon come to regret it!

4. When selecting a stockpot, particularly if buying a large one, ensure that its made from the highest standard of commercial grade stainless steel or aluminum appropriate for that size of pot; also make sure the same applies to the basket you buy to go with it;

5. Check your stock pot has an indention just below the top of the pot; this holds the basket off the bottom of the pot for when steaming;

6. Make sure you select a pot with a thick base; this is where you'll get wear, especially with poorer grade aluminum pots;

7. Make sure the lid fits well, which means snugly and tightly; and make sure the pot has a tidy rim that makes pouring easy;

8. Chose a stockpot with well designed, secure, good quality, spacious handles. Poor quality rivets & small handles are no good as you'll be lifting some very hot liquids bearing considerable weight!

9. Don't get hung up about the width versus height argument. Some say the height has to be greater than the width but, in all my outdoor cooking, with every conceivable size of stockpot, including the very largest of pots, which typically have a wider base than depth, I don't find any difference whatsoever in respect of the taste of the food that is served up. Indeed I would go for the counter argument for practical reasons. If you have a wider base, especially when you're cooking over a big flame outdoors you'll find it far easier to brown and to stir in a wider pot rather than in an overly tall pot;

10. Finally you won't find a good quality range of stockpots in the local hardware store. You might find one or two pots from one or two good brands but you're much better off going online and investigating the many great offers across the whole range of sizes that you'll find there. And whilst you might find some great brands and a good selection from each at a cookware specialty store you're likely to be paying far more than if you buy online.

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