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What to look for in a pot. I'm supposing somebody that's just starting to live alone or a couple. Help me complete this list.

Size: small, but not too small. Maybe 2L or 3L.

Material: Stainless steel with a thick bottom. As you are going to buy only one pot to begin with, spend some extra money on quality.

Bottom: A thick bottom is a must on electric or ceramic stoves as they don't bend out of shape so easily. Also, a thick bottom is handy for slow cooking as the heat diffuses more evenly.

Handle: Same material, stainless steel. This is handy if you want to put the pot in the oven. Look at the fixture to the pot, it must be riveted on, with thick rivets.

Stove: if it's going to be induction - Glass, Ceramics, All Aluminum etc. are all out.

Price: Not too expensive. 20€ - 30€?

What am I forgetting?

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The way in which this question sort of answers itself is probably encouraging more people to post recommendation-ish answers; I'd consider moving a lot of this information down to an answer and either making it a wiki or expanding on some of the details (e.g. why is a thick bottom important? Why stainless steel over aluminum or cast iron? etc.) –  Aaronut Jul 26 '11 at 16:20
    
What do you want to cook in it? Will you use it for boiling, or for sauces, fondues, etc.? –  rumtscho Jul 26 '11 at 17:24
    
@Aaronut, I'd make it a wiki. –  BaffledCook Jul 26 '11 at 18:02
    
Will 'the pot' be used on an induction range? –  Cos Callis Jul 26 '11 at 21:30
    
@Aaronut. Stainless means less maintenance. Aluminum is a weak material so it will bend, could be great for a gas stove. Also, where I live aluminum can be used for cooking, but not for storing food, so why take the risk? Cast iron is great for a pan, but in a multi-use pot, I'm not so sure... –  BaffledCook Jul 26 '11 at 22:21
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5 Answers 5

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Modifying your original terms:

Size: 2-3 quart/liter. I consider 2.5 quarts to be ideal.

Material: Two options: hard-anodized aluminum nonstick, OR stainless-steel interior/exterior. With stainless, it should have either an encapsulated aluminum disk base or a tri-ply construction (aluminum layered with stainless)

Bottom: Thick is good, and you absolutely must have aluminum here for conduction

Handle: stainless is good, as long as it stays relatively cool. The handle absolutely must be riveted on, with thick rivets. Screws, glue, or welded handles do not last long-term. Tack-welded handles are the bane of the restaurant I work for right now; we've had several handles snap off in the last year.

Additional things to look for:

Weight: HEAVY. You want fairly thick cookware for even heating, but most of that weight should be from thickness of the aluminum disk.

Design: A flared lip around the pot, to facilitate clean pouring.

Shape: I'm partial to shallow designs, which flare out at the top. Although it's nonstick and not stainless, I love my Calphalon Contemporary shallow 2.5 qt saucepan for it's extra-flared design. This lets it transmit heat more efficiently from the range, and allows it to safely hold a larger capacity of food. It also allows for faster and cleaner reduction of sauces.

Lid: TEMPERED GLASS with a handle on top, and a flange to help seal tightly on the pot/pan. Tempered glass is very durable and lets you see the progress of your cooking without releasing the steam. The handle also remains cool, so you don't burn yourself on it; this is the second problem I have with solid stainless lids on many premium cookware lines (All Clad, and most manufacturers' tri-ply products).

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Edited the original post to add the rivets. –  BaffledCook Jul 26 '11 at 22:16
    
Could you clarify the options? I'm sure the tri-ply is the best solution, but how about the price tag? –  BaffledCook Jul 26 '11 at 22:28
    
Also, 2.5 cuarts is 2.3 liters, just about what I was aiming at. –  BaffledCook Jul 26 '11 at 22:29
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You probably won't want a stainless steel handle, as that transfers heat well, which means holding the pot could be uncomfortable. Look for one with a handle made out of some strong plastic.

Otherwise, you seem to have everything...

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Thanks, but which plastic can stand 200ºC in the oven? –  BaffledCook Jul 26 '11 at 11:11
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A SS handle is no problem, it just should have the correct shape. When it is thin and with a large hole, it is OK to touch even when there is water at roiling boil in the pot. –  rumtscho Jul 26 '11 at 13:09
    
@BaffledCook: Perfluoroalkoxy (PFA), various polimides, among others... @Thursagen: SS is actually a pretty poor conductor of heat, as far as metals go. –  derobert Jul 26 '11 at 21:04
    
@derobert, you're right, of course. The thing is when you're shopping, how are you going to tell that it's PFA or whatever? How do you even remember to look for PFA? –  BaffledCook Jul 26 '11 at 22:25
    
A couple of good hot pads are a small price to pay for the versatility of being able to put them in the oven. I would stick with stainless. –  Cos Callis Jul 27 '11 at 1:06
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I ask if you planned to use these pots on an induction range, you responded: it might be.

The point is that induction ranges require specific pots in order to work. You might look into these requirements to further inform your decision.

Glass, Ceramics, All Aluminum etc. are all out.

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Yes, very valid point, I'll edit the post. Thanks. –  BaffledCook Jul 27 '11 at 8:30
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It's a tough question for just 1 pot. I would only get a metal handle if you intend to do a lot of oven broiling or baking w/ it also (Like searing the roast and then braising it).

All of that being said, I think cast iron is a great multi-purposer (stir fry, shallow and deep frying, sautee'ing, etc...) It would be oven safe and it's thick enough that if you have cheap appliances, it offers a buffer. It's obviously terrible omelets or something, but from your comment @Thursagen, it looks like you have oven aspirations...

(another awesome thing about cast iron is the fact that it will get "seasoned" over time, just make sure you season it properly the first time according to the manufactures directions and hand wash it henceforth)

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How would boiling (spaghetti for instance) leave the 'seasoning'. Also, for a beginning cook, having to season or cure a pot might be a challenge. –  BaffledCook Jul 26 '11 at 22:32
    
true, boiling water won't add any seasoning... Boiling pasta means a dutch oven is the go-to, but be careful if you're going to bake it, that it NOT be teflon coated... The teflon becomes toxic at high temps... –  Rikon Jul 27 '11 at 0:43
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You've got most of the big points, but I would be a little bit more specific about the handles. Stainless steel handles will allow you to put the pot in the oven, but they will also transfer heat very well and will make the pot harder to pick up after it's been on the stove for a while. If you decide to go with stainless steel handles, be sure to get a pot with handles large enough to accommodate your hands with thick potholders, because you will need them.

Also, if you're just starting out, stainless steel is a reliable, budget-friendly material. But if you really want to invest in quality early, you'll want to look into pots with copper or aluminum cores, as they will transfer heat significantly better and more consistently than solid stainless steel.

For more in-depth information about how to select a stockpot to fit your cooking style, check out this article.

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