How to Pick a Great Soup Pot
Buying a good soup pot, also called a stock or cooks pot, is important to every home cook because of its versatility. Not only will you use it for making delicious homemade soups, it will 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 soup pot.
What to look for in a good soup pot?
Size: Soup pots typically come in sizes ranging as small as 4 qt. to as large as 20-qt. before getting into commercial sizes. Although a soup pot doesn't have to be as big as a stock pot because you typically don't make as big a batch, you don't need to have one pot for soup and anther one for stock. I'm recommending you look at a 6-qt. - 12-qt. range so it will be versatile for your other cooking needs.
Shape: As show in the picture on the left, a soup pot usually has a round base, deep straight sides and a cover. Although this shape is more important when making stocks and stock reductions, it works well for making soups too. Could you use a shorter, smaller, wider pan for making soups? Of course and depending on how much you are making you just may want to use a large sauce pan instead.
Structure: No matter what type of pan you buy, you want it to have a thick, heavy bottom to prevent burning. This is especially true with soup pots. Soup requires time to cook so the pan will be sitting on the stove tip for long periods. You don't want the ingredients to scorch and stick to the bottom because it is too thin or made of cheap materials.
Materials: There are lots of different schools of thought to what a good pan should be made of. For a good article on cookware material from a professional chef, check out contributing chef Mark Vogel's, How to Choose Cookware. In his article you will learn about the various materials you can choose from including as copper, aluminum, cast iron, stainless, nonstick and a combination of different materials. Each material has its own pluses and minuses including cost.
Companies like Calphalon created a "hard-anodizing" aluminum for cookware using an electrochemical method of preparing raw aluminum that was developed by NASA for the aerospace industry. Talk about cooking with George Jetson. The end product is actually harder than stainless steel and non-reactive to acids. So you can see there are a lot of choices when it comes to materials. Which on you choose will depend on what's available, cost and what feels good in your hand.
Conductivity: What this means is the pots ability to transmit heat from the heat source to the food and do so both evenly and efficiently. Well-made soup pots are considered highly conductive when they can transfer heat evenly across the bottom and up the side so the food cooks the way it is supposed to. You want the soup at the bottom of the pan to be cooking evenly with the soup at the top. Every metal conducts heat differently so that's why its important to find the right match the type of pot you are using and the way you cook.
Handle: 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 secure 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. So pick a pot that uses heavy screw or rivets with their handles.
Some of the new cookware on the market have handles that resist getting hot when using on your stove top. This is great if you want to move the pot from the burner to the sink but you want to be careful if you put it in the over for any reason. Cool resistant doesn't mean cool proof. Always use your Silicone Oven Mitts when taking any cookware out of a hot oven.
Another thing to look for in a handle is the shape and size. You want enough room to be able to grab with potholders and a comfortable shape for picking up.
What do I use?
Personally, most of my pans are older Calphalon hard-anodized aluminum pans that are no longer on the market. I called Calphalon and spoke with an knowledgeable customer service person who told me these pans are still around in some specialty shops if I really wanted one. But I don't and that's because I've tried a couple of their new Calphalon One, infused anodized pans that are are not nonstick but because of the design have many of the qualities of nonstick but all the versatility of heavy gage aluminum.
These pans are great and I highly recommend them. You can use them on the stove top, in the oven, use metal utensils, deglaze, sear foods and best of all they clean up fast and easy. They are also dishwasher safe and have a lifetime warranty. What more can you ask.
Other brands: There are many other excellent brands on the market. I started with Calphalon years ago and just stuck with them but I speak with other home cooks and they tell me they like All-Clad, Anolon, Circulon, Emerilware, Le Creuset, Farberware just to name a few.
Buying Sets or Individual Pots: Some people like to buy the whole set at once and get it over with. When I started buying cookware, I couldn't afford to do it that way so I started with one 4 1/2 qt. sauce pan and added on. I had some really cheap pots that I bought right out of school but they didn't hold up very well and were awful to cook with. They're most likely buried in some box in the garage somewhere. Just can't seem to throw them out.
The other reason I'm glad I didn't buy them all at once is because they keep coming up with new materials, new designs and new features. It's great to find a new piece of cookware under the tree at Christmas and find out out some new feature that makes using it easier.
Onlinesources: Soup Pots
There are a lot of great brand names when it come to cookware including Calphalon, Berndes, Le Creuset, Napa Style and what you choose should be based on your own personal needs.