While a 12-quart pot is the most versatile, some users find an 8-quart soup pot more convenient for preparing big batches of soups, stews and chili. The Rachael Ray Hard Anodized 8-Qt. Oval Stockpot (*Est. $75) consistently earns high praise from home cooks, who say the oval shape makes it perfect for spaghetti and ears of corn. Users also like the pot's weight and its nonstick interior coating, which they say makes for easy cleanup.
This pot does have its weak points: It's not dishwasher-safe, the finish scratches without care and the pot can overheat. A few users also find the price a little high for an aluminum pot. Note that Rachael Ray cookware is made by Meyer Corporation, a cookware company that also makes brands such as Circulon, Anolon and Farberware.
The Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 8-Qt. Multi Pot (*Est. $100) is also made of anodized aluminum. The "multi" in the name refers to the included inserts: a stainless-steel pasta insert and a stainless-steel vegetable steamer. Owners say this pot is indeed useful for cooking a wide variety of foods and is easy to clean. Most reviews say the pot is solidly built, but we did see one or two complaints about chipped finish and rust on the stainless-steel inserts. A couple of users also find this multi-piece set "a little pricey."
Anodized aluminum isn't the only suitable material for smaller soup pots. We found very good reviews for the Le Creuset 8-Qt. Stockpot (*Est. $60), which is made of stainless steel with a colorful enamel coating. This pot has more than 130 reviews from owners at Amazon.com and Cooking.com. Most owners say this pot is the ideal size and weight and food doesn't stick to the enameled surface. However, we did see many complaints about durability. Some users say that the pot feels flimsy, and others complain that the enamel chips or wears off, leaving the pot vulnerable to rust.