Instant Expert: The Standard Stockpot

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Get the low down on this kitchen staple with our handy stockpot-buying guide:

What it is: A lidded pot that ranges in size from 1 to 13 quarts that's normally made of stainless steel. It's one of the most common pots you'll find in a kitchen, with a flat bottom and high sides perfect for boiling pasta and making soups or stocks.

What to look for: Avoid stockpots made from aluminum, copper or non-enameled cast iron, since acidic ingredients like tomatoes, citrus and wine can cause the pot's finish to deteriorate. Instead, buy one that's made from either stainless steel, anodized aluminum or enameled cast iron — like a Le Creuset Round French Oven or stockpot.

What it costs: The bad news: If you invest in a Le Creuset, it'll cost you more than that KitchenAid Stand Mixer you've been coveting. The good news: It's well worth the money since you'll be using it practically everyday.

Why you need it: Think of it as a big ticket kitchen item worth investing in. Cast-iron stockpots are common among pro chefs and home cooks because they distribute heat evenly and can be transferred from the stove top into the oven.

How to clean it: Make sure it's completely cool before adding warm, soapy water to the pot and scrubbing with a nonabrasive sponge or brush.

Cooking tip: Keep your stockpot in perfect shape by using silicone, plastic or wooden utensils while cooking. While metal utensils are normally safe to use, over time they can damage the pot's enamel coating.

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