Saturday, January 25, 2014

Best large stock pot for a standard-width cooktop

Answer:  I'm not yet sure what'll work best, but I can show you a promising option, a local commercial-grade resource,  plus a strategy for narrowing down what will work best in your own kitchen.

Here's a short description of the tall problem:
Almost all of the stock pots on the market are too tall for those of us who have over-the-range microwave ovens.  This is inexplicably ridiculous, but true. 

Screengrabbed from Google's shopping widget. 
This is what happens with one of those conventional tall stock pots:  Insufficient clearance between the top of the pot and the bottom of the microwave oven (duh - who designs this crap?!).  If you try to use this kind of pot, there's not enough room for you to get in there and actually stir your cooking.  This is an older cheapie pot that I've had for some years and will be donating to charity. 
The retail market seems to assume that, if you can afford a large stock pot, you must be wealthy enough to also afford a massive stove with massive spatial clearances.  But I live in an ordinary middle-class American suburban tract home with an ordinary kitchen lay-out that now accommodates a not-so-ordinary cooktop which we had shipped in from a New Jersey supplier and retrofitted into our house to better serve our lifestyle.  Researching and acquiring that very special cooktop was only half of my kitchen efficiency battle.  Now I have to complete the package by finding cookware that is able to take full advantage of the cooktop's special design.

This is the other big problem:
Most "high-end" cookware sets only include stock pots that are 7 or 8 quarts in size.  Eight quarts is way, way too small for my needs.  So larger stock pots are actually rarer in the consumer world to begin with, which makes shopping more difficult. 

These typical cookware sets are entirely formulaic.  They represent a hold-over paradigm from the 1950's when women remained in the home and prepared individual meals from scratch every evening.  Things haven't been that way for decades, so it's a mystery to me why the industry keeps churning out the same old collections of pots that are obviously designed for cooking individual meals one at a time. 
In order to work on this predicament, I went to a very cool store on the Gulf Freeway (remember, I get no compensation for recommending any given retailer - my posts contain noncommercial personal opinions only). 

JKS Restaurant Equipment.  Exit Airport Blvd. and you'll find it on the NB feeder a short ways north of the freeway intersection.  This is a fun place to check out even if you're not searching for a specific cooking pot solution as I was. 
I had to find one or more pots with specs that work best with my new non-traditional cooktop.  No consumer-grade store offers a sufficient number of options, so it was to JKS that I went. 
JKS has just about every dimension of cookware available for sale on the planet.  Here are some of their larger aluminum pots. 
But I don't use aluminum, not even temporarily, so I focused mostly on their collections of stainless steel cookware and coated cookware. 

Added bonus:  This stainless line is really good commercial quality AND it's only about half the cost of comparable consumer-grade cookware.
Many of the larger pots were too tall for my situation, but some were not.  That one of the right is a 12 quart pot - one and a half times the size of what is typically the largest consumer-grade pot you'll find in many retail stores.  But still only about seven inches tall, which is good. 
There's that same stainless 12-quart pot sitting next to a 15-quart nonstick-coated pot.  That yellow paper circle on top of the 15-quart is the trace of my existing 8-quart, for size comparison.  I like to get a spatial feel for things when I shop.
I really like that stainless steel stuff, but I chose the non-stick for its larger capacity.
Here's the 15-quart compared to my existing 8-quart. 
Price comparison:
8-quart consumer stainless from a high-end department store some years ago:  About $100
15-quart at JKS Restaurant Equipment:  $32 including tax
12-quart commercial stainless from JKS Restaurant Equipment:  $49 including tax
The 15-quart fits very well on the large burner that the Fagor cooktop was specifically designed to optimize despite its small size (standard 30" width). 
My pot-seeking strategy, then, is as follows:
  1. Go to an unconventional commercial outlet store, skipping consumer retail outlets
  2. Buy a cheaper large pot of dimensions I suspect will work
  3. Test it out in actual use
  4. If it proves to work well, scour the internet to find equivalent dimensions in a pot of higher construction quality
  5. Donate the cheaper test pot to charity. 
Although I doubt that I'll be choosing this particular dimensionally-comparable offering.  Four hundred and sixty five dollars?!?  Holy crap!  I don't think so!  That's more than half the cost of the cooktop itself!
That might sound a little OCD as strategies go, but I spend a lot of my time cooking.  The tools have to match the task.  Having the right tools has a significant impact on both efficiency and quality of experience (far fewer frustrations and food failures). 

You also have to remember that, in doing this, I'm going where almost no American consumer has gone before.  This is part of my overall strategy to develop a family meal management approach that maximizes the use of my time.  I'm a working mother - I'm not a June Cleaver character who has all kinds of time on my hands, who can afford to frig around with outdated ideas of how to manage a kitchen. 

Having now taken this 12.5-inch, 15-quart Dutch oven home, I'm contemplating whether a 16-inch diameter brazier pan might even work on this cooktop's optimized large burner in spite of the fact that 16 inches is more than half the width of the cooktop itself.  Time and additional experimentation will tell. 
They are HUGE.  Very cool.  Maybe.  We'll see. 

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