A stockpot is typically the largest pot in the kitchen. You can buy them in sizes starting at 8 quarts, which is a fine size for cooking pasta, but for a great multipurpose, large pot, we recommend a 12-quart. It’s big enough to make about six quarts of stock or broth (you’d think more, but the ingredients that go into it take up a lot of space), a big pot of soup, or a double batch of chili or ragù. It also has enough room to cook whole ears of corn, boil lobster or crabs, or slowly simmer a bumper crop of garden tomatoes into sauce.
What to look for
Heavy-duty bottom. About half of the pots we tested had an aluminum disk base; the other half had an aluminum core running across the base and up the pot’s side (making it “clad”). Both delivered even, controlled browning.
Roomy, secure handles. When you’re lifting a pot this size filled with 6 pounds of chicken parts and 6 quarts of hot broth, you need substantial handles that are roomy enough to grip with thick potholders.
A rounded rim, which allows liquids to cascade out smoothly.
Tall vs. stocky
As we set out to evaluate stockpots, we noticed one significant difference among those on the market—shape. Some are tall and narrow, others as wide as (or wider than) they are tall. Traditionally, a stockpot is deeper than it is wide so that simmering water can bubble up through bones, meat, fish, or vegetables, extracting and infusing flavors over a period of time without much evaporation. Yet, after lengthy testing, we didn't find a difference in flavor or yield of broths made in the wide stockpots versus those made in the tall, narrow varieties, so we have included both here.
The two styles of pots differ mainly in ease of use. We found that we preferred the wider pots, because their lower sides made it easier to monitor, manipulate, and stir foods. With the taller pots, using tongs to turn pieces of browning meat required plunging a hand into a deep, narrow vat of splattering fat. And because they're so tall, they're hard to see into.
We tested eight stainless-steel stockpots between 11-1/2 and 12-1/2 quarts in size. Our four top picks range in price from $130 to $395. You can pay less for a stockpot and still be able to make a reputable broth; most important are your ingredients. But if you're inclined to invest in a pot, spending a little more on one of our favorites will deliver controlled browning, so you'll end up using it more often.