Stock Pot – A Brief History

Stock Pot – A Brief History

The history of the stock pot is not nearly as ancient as one would think. Cooking vessels were a very slow but necessary part of the evolution of humanity. While early man used reeds, turtle sheets, mollusks and the stomach from animals to heat their food, the evolution to pottery was a slow process. Pottery allowed the containment of the food substances over a slow and low fire. Pottery cracks when it is super heated. Even modern pottery is reserved for slow cooking. No Open fires please! It was not until the development of bronze and iron that pots made of metal became another choice. Found in Medieval kitchen was a cauldron similar to modern stock pots. A cauldron had a rounded bottom and a curved handle which hung over an open fire. Cauldrons or kettles were used for cooking or boiling liquids. Cauldrons’ fell out of favor when they became a symbol of witch craft and the requirement of an open fire.

Stock pots are round, with a flat bottom and handles on either side. A lid is a helpful accessory. Rounded handles become hot when cooking making them less useful then the side top handles sported on modern stock pots. Stock pots are made from a small range of modern metals. Metals useful for pots conduct heat well and are chemically not reactive. Food should not taste like the pan, nor should the qualities of the metal become a part of your diet. Metals that have been used over time is aluminum, copper, cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel, enamel cast iron, enamel over steel, clad iron or copper, and metal featuring nonstick interiors.

While stainless steel has many great qualities heat conduction is not one of them. A good stainless steel pot should have another more heat conducting metal on the base of the pot.

In construction a stock pot is similar to a large sauce pot. A sauce pot is as tall vertically as the diameter of the bottom. Saucepots are measured by volume. The smaller the sauce pot the more likely it will have just one handle, much longer handle. Stock pots are much larger with two handles on either side in order to use both hands to balance the weight of the pot. Stock pots are also measured by volume usually 6 to 36 liters. A stock pot sides are at least as large as its diameter allowing for stock to simmer for long periods of time. Stock is created by placing vegetables or meats in a large quantity of water and simmering over a long period of time. The reduction of the liquid creates a rich stock (vegetable or meat) to be used as a base for soups, stews, pot pies, and sauces. Some meats do not lend themselves well to stock like pork because of the greasy quality.

Some recommendations for good stock is to start with cold water, add meat at a ratio of one part meet to two parts water, add meat before the vegetables, simmer with bubbles just breaking the top (not boiling), and scum that comes to the top should be skimmed and discarded.

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