Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stock Pots 101

Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-Quart Copper Stockpot with Lid
Mauviel Cuprinox $614
So which pot out there is the best for the job?

Peter asked me what pots were good for boiling.  I had no idea, so I did some research.  When it comes to cooking that requires the boiling of a significant quality of water, such as cooking pasta, stock, soup, and poaching, a stock pot is used.

A good pot would be good thermal conductivity and durability.  Copper provides the best thermal conductivity of all the pots. It transfer heat quickly and efficiently.  A good copper pot would have thick copper with a thin tin lining to prevent copper from reacting with acidic food.  However, copper is a very expensive metal and these pots are prohibitory expensive.  It is not dishwasher safe. Well, you can put it in the dishwasher, but I would want the $600 pot to last 60 years (and they do usually come with life-time warranty).

Calphalon D812 Commercial Hard Anodized 12-Quart Stockpot with Lid
Anodized Aluminum $69.99
The second best metal for conductivity is aluminum.  However, aluminum does leak into food, and can be easily corroded by acidic food.  Although there are no solid scientific evidence linking aluminum to diseases such as Alzheimer, the internet prank emails worked and aluminum cookware has become unpopular.  If you have old, light weight, light colored pots at home that seems to boil water super fast, that is quite possibly an old aluminum pot! Nowadays, anodized aluminum is rapidly gaining popularity.  It is a specially processed aluminum which reduces (not prevent) the leaching of metal into the food.  Affordability meets conductivity!  It is not dishwasher safe (corrosion promotes metal leaching) and the pot is no longer safe to use if there are damages.

Imusa Stainless Steel Stock Pot, 16 Quart
Stainless Steel $19.99
Stainless steel cookware is the most widely use and possibly the cheapest too.  It is super sturdy, can withstand lots of abuse, and is dishwasher safe.  When in doubt, you can't go wrong with stainless steel. I have super old (and cheap) stainless steel pots that continues to work well today. However, they are the inferior product for thermal conductivity. It takes much longer heating anything in stainless steal and has a hard time maintaining the boil when food is place in the water. For example, pasta which then will tend to stick to each other and won't give you that firm (Q'ey) texture.

All-Clad Copper Core 8-Quart Stockpot
All-Clad Copper Core $361
Premium cookware, such as All-clad uses cladding aluminum or copper technique for their products. These usually have a thin stainless layer on the cooking surface and a thick core of aluminum to provide structure and heat diffusion.  Sometimes a thin layer of copper inside or outside of the pot that provides additional diffusion and the "look" of a copper pot. This provides much of the functionality of tinned-copper pots and the durability of the stainless steel at a lower price.
Le Creuset Enamel-on-Steel 8-Quart Covered Stockpot, Cobalt Blue
Le Cresuset Enamel $74.95
The new thing in the culinary world is  enamel over steel. Enamel is a type of fused glass which is non-reactive, while the stainless steel inside offers better thermal conductivity.  Enameled cookware is lighter than most cookware of the same size and cheaper.  It is more durable than aluminum or copper, and it is safe in dishwasher.  Enamel is non-reactive on the ion level, so food actually tasted better and the cookware won't have the left over food smell from the last use.  Because of it's (light) weight, enamel is especially ideal for water-based cooking and camping.  However, because enamel is a type of glass.  It can be prone to chipping and cracking.  For example, a low quality enamel pot may crack, when you shock it with cold water after cooking. The glass will end up in your food and the rust from the steel will end up in your body. Also, low quality enamel may contain cadmium, which is harmful for your body (this is illegal in Canada, but not regulated in places like China).  I would recommend Le Cresuset and Chantal offers high quality ones with those 25-lifetime warranty on their enameled cookware.

Copper and aluminum still have better thermal conductivity then enamel, but enamel is an upgrade from your ordinary stainless steel and cheaper than cladded cookware. And enamel is possibly the healthiest of them all! The choice is yours!

P.S. A lot of rice cooker nowadays are already using enamel over steel.  I have one of these and it sure is amazingly easy to clean.

No comments:

Post a Comment