If you love making soups, stews, sauces, stocks or any dishes which require lots of liquid, a soup or stock pot is a necessary investment in the kitchen. You want a soup pot that is versatile and will last you for many years to come. In this article, I will go through the unique characteristics of each appliance to help you decide on the best soup pot to suit your needs and lifestyle. This list will be updated when I find new cookware that I find useful.
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What to Look for in a Soup Pot
A soup pot come in many sizes so consider how many persons you’re cooking for. A 4 qt pot is sufficient to make soup for my family of 5. I also have one extra large pot for making soup stocks. Size is especially important when choosing a thermal cooker. Don’t get a huge cooker if you don’t cook that much. With a thermal cooker, having minimal air space between the soup and the inner pot will help slow down temperature drop thus prolonging the cooking time.
Stainless steel is one of the most common materials used in a stock/soup pot. Other common cookware materials include aluminium, cast iron and copper.
Some pots come with a glass lid while others are made with the same material as the pot. Glass lid is useful as you don’t have to open the lid as much thus preventing heat and energy loss. On the other hand, lids made of similar material as the pot is stronger and there is no risk of glass shattering if you accidentally drop the lid.
Some soup pots have oven safe handles so they can double up as a dutch oven. Check also that the handles are strong as sometimes, you may need to lift up a pot filled with hot liquid.
Stainless Steel Pot
One of the first soup pots that I owned were made of stainless steel. What I love about stainless steel pots is that they’re so hardy and solid. They seem to last indefinitely.
I own a few stainless steel pots in various sizes which I use almost daily. My largest stainless steel pot is used solely for homemade stocks and I often par-boil meat for Chinese soups in my small stainless steel saucepan.
Maintenance wise, they’re easy to clean. Unlike non-stick cookware, you can use steel brushes to remove stubborn stains and sticky food residues.
Pros: Non-reactive, sturdy (does not chip, bend or crack easily), good price range (from inexpensive to costly), many options and sizes, low maintenance.
Cons: Poor heat transfer unless an inner core of aluminum or copper is used.
Some popular brand for stainless steel cookware are All-Clad (expensive but has superb quality and hundreds of positive reviews in Amazon), Calphalon, WMF (a popular German cookware manufacturer), and Cusinart (a cheaper alternative to All-Clad).
If you love Cantonese soups, a thermal cooker is a must-have item in the kitchen. Also known as magic cookers or vacuum cookers, thermal cookers uses trapped heat in the inner pot to cook food. Once the inner pot is transferred to the outer chamber, the trapped heat continues to cook and gently pushes out the flavor from all the ingredients. It can also keep warm for up to 8 hours. If you feel that the soup isn’t hot enough after a few hours in the thermal cooker, just reboil it for a short while on the stove top.
For busy days, my Tiger thermal cooker is my go-to pot. It consists of 2 pots; one stainless steel inner pot contained within an outer pot. Most of the “cooking” time is done without any source of power and they are an energy efficient and green way of cooking.
In some ways, it is similar to a slow cooker whereby you can just set it and forget it. The “set it” part for the thermal cooker would be placing the inner pot in the outer chamber to cook and you can just let it do its thing while you carry on with your daily activities. No babysitting required.
Other than soup, I also use the thermal cooker to make yogurt and stews. If you’re keen to find out more about the thermal cooker and why it should have a permanent place in your kitchen, read this article.
Pros: Great for Chinese soups, versatile, portable, energy efficient.
Cons: As cooking with a power source is for a short time, flavors may not be as strong. To overcome this, I usually boil soup on the stove top for at least 45 minutes to an hour before transferring the inner cooker to the outer vessel.
Just like a thermal cooker, you can leave the slow cooker to cook on its own without supervision. A set and forget device. So you can go about your day or leave the house, etc and come home to a lovely meal. There’s minimal water evaporation with no risk of boiling over if the ceramic inner pot is kept at around 80% full.
The prolonged cooking time in a slow cooker is ideal for cooking tougher and inexpensive cuts of meat. After long hours of slow cooking at a low temperature, the meat turns out tender and flavorful. It also extracts every last bit of flavor from the ingredients resulting in a robust and flavorful soup.
Slow cookers are great for cooking beans such as this Black Bean Soup and Red Bean Soup. The beans will definitely soften due to the long cooking time. You also do not have to pre-soak as long as you would if you’re cooking them on a stovetop.
The downside to boiling soup with a slow cooker is the longer cooking time will result in more power usage. In the event of an electrical outage, it would be safer not to consume the food unless it was cooked long enough before the power went off.
Pros: Great tasting soups, convenient and easy to use.
Cons: High energy usage, heavier to lift and clean.
Pressure cooking is the process of cooking food using steam pressure inside a tightly sealed pot. As heat has nowhere to escape, pressure is built up gradually from the trapped steam and causes temperatures to rise rapidly inside the pot. This allows food to cook much faster compared to other methods. You can cook at lightning speed with fantastic results.
This cooking appliance can cook almost anything but cooking is not as intuitive as you can’t see, touch or taste the food while it cooks inside the pressure cooker. It’s a whole new way of cooking and you’ll need to follow all the safety precautions carefully.
Some pressure cooker models also come with a steam rack insert so you can cook two meals at once. This time and energy savings appliance is perfect for those who love the green conscious lifestyle.
Pros: Cuts down cooking time, makes wonderful soup stock, food retains most nutrients, saves energy and time.
Cons: Can be complicated to use especially for beginners.
Clay pot cooking is an ancient method that is still very popular today. Made from clay, a naturally porous material, they do not contain poisonous substances and are a healthy and non-toxic cookware. They can withstand high cooking heat while keeping food nutritious and flavorful.
I love using my clay pot for cooking soups, congee and braised dishes. When cooking herbal soups and acidic dishes such as this Pig Trotter with Vinegar, clay pot is highly recommended as it will not react to them unlike copper and aluminium pots.
Clay pots need to be handled with more care compared to other cookware as they are made from clay, a natural material. Do not bang or drop the clay pot or it will crack. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to prolong its usage.
Pros: Flavorful soup, versatile, non-reactive material, pretty designs.
Cons: Not as durable compared to other materials as it cracks easily if you drop or bang it.
Modern clay pots come in attractive colors and designs. You can cook and serve from the same pot and it makes a lovely centerpiece on your dinner table. In Singapore, a popular brand of clay pot is by Tanyu which is made with natural Japanese clay and fired at a high temperature of 1260°C. See also a list of clay pot cookware here.
Alumite Ceramic Pot
Alumite ceramic pots are newer in the market compared to the other type of cooking appliances. They are covered with a ceramic coating on the interior and exterior to resist scratches and corrosion.
I use Happycall alumite ceramic pots and I cook everything from soups to stews, curries, fried fish for soup, etc with them. Food heats up quickly and they are solid pots yet surprisingly light. There are different sizes available to cater for various cooking needs and also a separate steamer tray for steaming. The bright, attractive colors and sleek design is a bonus.
Pros: Versatile, Stylish and durable. Although it is not a non-stick pot, it has non-stick effects.
Cons: Not suitable for induction cookers.
If you’d like to read my in-depth review of Happycall alumite ceramic pots, click here.
Rice cookers are great for cooking rice but they can do much more than that. Besides cooking rice, a basic rice cooker can also be used to boil soup, steam food, cook congee, etc.
Modern rice cookers (called fuzzy logic rice cookers) are equipped with more functions and also cook a wider range of food such as porridge, oatmeal, cakes and bread, different type of rice grains (brown, mixed, jasmine, sushi), etc. I have one by Philips which I’ve been using for about 5 years and it’s still in good working condition. I’ve used it to boil soups on many occasions and it’s really easy to use.
Both traditional and the modern fuzzy logic rice cookers can be used to boil soup. Depending on the brand and model, some of these fuzzy logic rice cookers have the slow cook or “soup” function which allows it to boil soups. For example, this model from Tiger comes with a “Slow Cook” function.
Pros: Versatile, convenient, makes perfect rice, long lasting.
Cons: High-end fuzzy logic rice cookers are expensive.
All of the above-mentioned cookware can do a very good job of boiling soup. I personally like the clay pot, thermal cooker and alumite ceramic pot. Choosing the best soup pot (or pots) is easy once you know what is important to you and your lifestyle.
I hope this article will help you in your search for the best soup pot. Which is your favorite soup pot and why? Share with me your thoughts and comments below.