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What to Look For When Buying Stewpots and Stockpots
Thick metal construction is an indicator of a quality saute pan.
Stainless steel clad aluminium and stainless steel pots with aluminium bases perform best.
Anodised aluminium pots perform well but make it difficult to see contents.
Cast iron pots deliver the most even heat, but should always be coated in thick enamel.
Nonstick surfaces require less oil and clean easier, but may not brown as well as metal.
Riveted stainless steel handles are sturdy and versatile and will remain relatively cool.
A tight fitting lid is essential for braising, steaming, and for keeping food warm.
Stewpots and Stockpots are designed for cooking food in quantity. They are great for boiling large amounts of water when blanching vegetables or cooking pasta, and when fitted with steaming baskets they become ideal for cooking shellfish. Smaller stewpots are acceptable for individual needs, but we recommend purchasing a pot that holds at least 7 litres for maximum versatility. Kitchen Warehouse carries stewpots and stockpots from All-Clad, Anolon, Baccarat, Chasseur, Circulon, Cuisinart, Essteele, Jamie Oliver, Raco, Scanpan, and Tefal.
The essential difference between stewpots and stockpots is one of dimensions. Stewpots are generally shorter and wider, offering greater surface area to assist in boiling. Stockpots are taller, more narrow and designed to simmer. Stock must be cooked at a low temperature, and the height of a stock pot promotes convection currents that regulate heat and draw out flavor while preventing excess evaporation. Good stewpots and stockpots are heavy and rugged and should always be equipped with a thick, conductive bases. Pots with thin bottoms heat unevenly and will scorch the stews and sauces inside.
Although aluminium stewpots and stockpots are acceptable for some applications, we don't recommend them. Aluminium is chemically reactive, will alter the taste of foods that are acidic, basic, or contain eggs, and will pit in contact with salt. Anodised aluminium, an electrochemically treated aluminium, is extremely hard, heats fast and evenly, is nonreactive, and relatively non-stick. It is more suitable than regular aluminium, but its dark grey color can make it difficult to see what is going on inside a pot.
Durable, nonreactive stainless steel is a much more acceptable material for stewpots and stockpots. Stainless steel is a poor conductor, so these pots should always be fitted with a thick base of copper or aluminium. Because these pots cook from the bottom up it is not crucial that the sides heat evenly. If considering a stainless steel stewpot, be sure the base extends the entire width of the pot otherwise it will develop hot spots around the edges. Stewpots and stockpots constructed from layered aluminium cores clad entirely in stainless steel are ideal as they offer all the nonreactive benefits of stainless steel and the even, rapid heat conduction of aluminium.
Apart from their sheer weight, enamel coated cast iron stewpots and stockpots may be the perfect material for making stews and stocks. They are durable, nonreactive, and a provide steady even heat that can hold a constant simmer for hours. If you are considering an enameled saute pan, be sure it is heavily coated as thin enamel will chip and crack in time.
Ultimately, the decision to purchase nonstick cookware will rely on your personal preference.
Nonstick surfaces have their advantages and their disadvantages. On the plus side, they are easy to clean and require less oil than traditional pans to prevent sticking. On the downside, the surfaces can be delicate and they do not generally promote browning as well as metal surfaces.
Although innovations have made Teflon coatings more durable than ever, Teflon will release highly toxic vapours if heated above 350 EC. Empty Teflon coated pots should never be left heating over a burner. Inexpensive coated pots will scratch and flake easily and should be avoided altogether.
Anodised aluminium pots are nontoxic and scratch resistant. They tend to stick more than coated pots, but they do a better job of searing and browning and are hard enough to be used with metal utensils. Some manufacturers use an anodised aluminium that has been electrochemically "infused" with non-stick polymers or revolutionary ceramics to create more efficient non-stick surfaces. We recommend any of these as they are durable and effective.
If the handles on a stewpot or stockpot have not been cast in one piece with the pot, they should always be made of stainless steel, and they should always be riveted to the side of the vessel. Plastic handles are simply too flimsy for supporting the weight of a full pot. Some manufactures coat the handles of their pots in rubber, but we don't for potholders inconvenient. They are a small concession against the chance of spilling hot soup all over yourself and your kitchen.