Monday, December 14, 2009

Choosing a Pot

When you have limited space choosing a pot that can serve multiple duties can be a real space saver. Which you should get depends on how you cook and how you want to cook. Here are some of the things we've thought about before getting our current pot.

We cook pasta fairly often and unless you like stirring the pot often to keep the pasta from sticking you want one big enough to hold a gallon of water and since you want some headspace for the water the food is going to displace it should be at least 6 quarts. Now, if you are just boiling water for pasta all the time, going with a lightweight aluminum is great, it heats fast and is light enough even full of water to dump in the sink.

We also like cooking pot roasts using 7-bone roasts. Usually rubbed with salt, pepper and cumin cooked with a mirepoix and some beef stock. It makes great left overs like pot roast sandwiches, shepherd's pie, enchiladas and BBQ sandwiches. These roasts are often 12 inches across so having a pot that is big enough for that is important to us. The big thing for this is you want an oven proof pot that can hold lots of heat to quickly brown the meat. Cast iron is best for that. Virtually indestructible and able to hold lots of heat, as a downside it is rather heavy.

Buying a whole chicken saves us money by doing the portioning ourselves and allows us to customize what we do to it. We often end up with bones, backs, gizzards and like that we freeze for stock making later. We usually save up a chicken or two before cooking it down. There are lots of good gelatins in chicken bones that make for a great tasting and textured chicken soup. With that much chicken parts we often end up needed a stock pot near the 8 quart size and most stock pots are lightweight aluminum.

The last major thing we like making is homemade spaghetti sauce. That is a high acid food cooked for a long time. Tomatoes would be able to leach metallic ions from reactive metals like untreated aluminum and cast iron, impacting taste and perhaps our health.

That requires us to look at stainless steel, anodized aluminum and enameled cast iron. The stainless steal is good but is a not so good conductor so needs special clad bottoms and that can run into money for the good stuff. The anodized aluminum is nice and light but we didn't find anything at the time that was wide enough for the pot roast. The enameled cast iron is heavy and comes in an amazing number of sizes and some great colors.

We finally decided on a 7.25 quart Le Creuset French Oven in a gorgeous Cherry Red. Big enough for a 7-bone roast. Small enough to fit in our cabinets. And looks great too. It also has a 101 year warrantee, I expect to be able to hand this down to our great-grandchildren.

It does take a couple of extra minutes to bring water up to a boil but not enough to be a deal breaker.
It also works great as a deep frier as long is you have a thermometer for keeping an eye on the oil temperature.