The All-Clad Stainless 12-Qt. Stock Pot with Lid is the unquestioned top performer among 12-quart, stainless-steel stockpots. Its "fully clad" construction (with an aluminum core extending all the way up the sides) adds up to incredibly even all-around heating. However, for a stockpot, such even heat isn't really needed -- and it makes the pot many times more expensive than others that perform nearly as well.
Outstanding performer in professional tests. Unlike most stainless-steel stockpots, the All-Clad has an aluminum core that extends all the way up the sides of the pot, helping to ensure that all food in the pot cooks at the same rate. This construction helps deliver remarkably even heat in tests, as well as in home kitchens: A user at Amazon.com notes approvingly that there is "no evidence of hot spots." However, it may not be necessary. According to reviewers, this pot actually produces more even heat than most home cooks will ever need.
Other pots in the same test, such as the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 12-Qt. Stockpot with Cover (*Est. $70), have their aluminum cores confined to the bottom of the pan, yet their actual heating performance does not suffer significantly as a result. Thus, while the All-Clad stockpot is indisputably the best of the best, it doesn't appear to offer the best value for the price.
Good size and shape. Owners say its large size makes it very versatile, suitable for everything from cooking soup to blanching greens to boiling up a few lobsters. An Amazon user adds that the stockpot's wide base makes it particularly convenient for braising or sautéing foods directly in the pot before adding liquid. The pot's wide, easy-to-grasp handles impress professional reviewers. Mariette Mifflin of About.com describes these as "stay-cool handles," but other testers say potholders are still necessary. Mifflin also notes that the pot's stainless-steel interior "makes cleaning easier," and we did find some corroboration for this claim; an Amazon reviewer declares that the pot "washes beautifully." (It is also dishwasher-safe, but the manufacturer recommends washing by hand.)
"Just beautiful." Like the rival Cuisinart pot, the All-Clad's stainless exterior is shined to a mirror finish. Unlike the Cuisinart, however, the All-Clad is constructed of 18/10 stainless steel, an alloy containing 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel. The high nickel content helps prevent corrosion, making this stockpot more likely to keep its sheen. The biggest weakness of the cheaper Cuisinart pot, according to reviews, is that it is vulnerable to pitting and staining of the surface. The only drawback about this pot's appearance is that its large size can make it a bit tricky to store.
Built to last. The All-Clad is heavy and sturdy, and as noted above, its 18/10 stainless exterior is resistant to corrosion. One reviewer at Amazon praises this pot's "A+ quality Pennsylvania workmanship," noting particularly that the handle rivets are secure and show no sign of leakage. Another owner at Amazon.com calls this "a true heirloom piece." Another reviewer praises the durability of All-Clad cookware in general, saying that the pieces in her kitchen have "lasted forever." All-Clad lends credence to this claim by backing this pot with a lifetime warranty.
1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Review Credibility: Very Good Although this is an older review, it's still the most thorough test of soup pots we found. Editors at Cooks Illustrated magazine test nine 12-quart stockpots, including the All-Clad Stainless 12-Qt. Stock Pot with Lid. They boil water, cook pasta and corn, and prepare large batches of chili. In general, they find that heavier pots provide more even heat, while a wider shape is convenient for cooking and cleanup. Large, easy-to-grip handles are also a plus. Three pots are recommended, one of them highly.
Review: Stockpots, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, Feb. 1, 2007
Review Credibility: Good The All-Clad Stainless 12-Qt. Stock Pot with Lid has only a handful of reviews at Amazon.com, but to date, it has only received one rating lower than a perfect 5 stars. Owners say this pot is "a true heirloom piece": beautiful and well made, with great heat conduction and plenty of capacity. They also say it is easy to clean, and one user particularly likes the fact that it is made in the USA.
Review: All Clad Stainless Steel Stock Pot With Lid, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good Mariette Mifflin, About.com's guide to housewares, includes the All-Clad Stainless 12-Qt. Stock Pot with Lid in this list of her top 10 stockpots. She praises its fully clad construction, durable 18/10 stainless-steel finish and stay-cool handles. However, it's not clear that Mifflin has actually tested any of the pots.
Review: Best 12-Qt Stock Pots, Mariette Mifflin, Undated