The Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 12-Qt. Stockpot with Cover offers the best value among stainless-steel stockpots. In professional tests, its performance rivals that of the much pricier All-Clad Stainless 12-Qt. Stock Pot with Lid (*Est. $380). Users also find the Cuisinart stockpot well made and easy to clean. Its chief weakness, some users say, is that the surface can become pitted or discolored with use.
A top performer in professional tests. Like most stainless-steel stockpots, it has a disk bottom made of fast-heating aluminum encased in less heat-sensitive stainless steel. Unlike the pricier All-Clad pot, it doesn't carry the aluminum core all the way up the sides, but this doesn't appear to have much impact on its performance; in one test at a foodie magazine, its performance was deemed "very similar" to the All-Clad's. Owners at Amazon.com and ChefsCatalog.com also report that this pot delivers even heat and does a good job keeping a steady simmer.
"I was able to maintain a low simmer for over six hours with my electric stove near its lowest possible setting," reports one Amazon reviewer. We found only one complaint about this pot's performance: One Amazon user gripes that unlike with other pots and pans, food always "ends up burnt and stuck to the bottom." However, this was the only complaint of its kind; another owner actually praises the even heating boasting, "no burned gravy in the bottom of the pot."
Ideal size and weight. One user reports that the pot is large enough to stew two whole chickens, yet another says it's light enough to carry easily when full -- something the user says would be very difficult with the heavier All-Clad pot. A third owner at Amazon declares the pot "ergonomically nearly perfect," from its height-to-width ratio to its overall weight. Both professional testers and home users say that the Cuisinart's handles are well designed -- large, sturdy and attached at a convenient angle for grasping. Users are particularly pleased with the "finger grip" indentations on the handles, which they call "a nice touch" (literally). However, several users warn that the handles do heat up during use.
The handles themselves are considered a plus, but a couple of users are annoyed with the jumbo-sized rivets used to attach them. One owner says, "I regularly use a steamer basket in these big pots and the rivets prevent me from easily lifting out the steamer basket." Another calls the rivets on the lid "absurdly large," saying they make the lid harder to clean because they stick up and "catch on sponges and cloths." Aside from this problem, owners agree it "cleans like a dream."
Owners love the glossy finish. "You have to see this to understand how beautiful it is," enthuses one owner at Amazon.com. "It is a mirrored finish and you can truly see yourself in it." However, we did see a few complaints that maintaining this mirror sheen is difficult. Several users report that with ordinary use, the surfaces of their pots have developed rusty-looking stains that can't be scrubbed off. Also, one owner at ChefsCatalog.com notes that the pot's large size makes it difficult to store.
Solid construction. Professional testers and users alike describe it as "weighty and solid," with a thick bottom and sturdy sides. One Amazon user says it is "built like a tank." A couple of dissenters say that the sides feel thin, but as another Amazon reviewer points out, a stockpot doesn't really need to provide all-around heat, so making the walls thicker would just add unnecessary weight. However, we did see some complaints about the durability of the stainless-steel surface. In addition to the problems with discoloration discussed above, a couple of users say that the surface became pitted with use, and another complains that it is easily scratched.
We also read one report that something in the surface of the pot reacted with the cooking water, turning it and the food inside grey, although this problem seems to be an outlier. Cuisinart does back this stockpot with a lifetime warranty, so, in theory, users who experience problems should be able to return it. However, a couple of owners warn that the pot must be shipped back to Cuisinart at the user's expense.
1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Review Credibility: Very Good Although this is an old review, it's still the most thorough test of soup pots we found. Editors at Cook's Illustrated magazine test nine 12-quart stockpots, including the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 12-Qt. Stockpot with Cover. 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 -- but most of the others also perform fairly well.
Review: Stockpots, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, Feb. 1, 2007
Review Credibility: Good In more than 175 reviews, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 12-Qt. Stockpot with Cover earns an overall rating of 4.4 stars from owners. Most say it is well made, attractive and easy to clean. However, we did see several reports of damage to the finish, including rust, stains and pitting. We also saw a couple of complaints that the handles get hot and the large handle rivets are a nuisance.
Review: Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stockpots with Covers, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good We found about 25 user reviews for Cuisinart Chef's Classic stockpots at this site (including the 12-Qt. Stock Pot with Cover and the smaller 6- and 8-quart versions). It earns a high rating of 4.8 stars overall from users, who say it is stylish, well constructed, a great performer and easy to clean. A couple of users, however, say that the pot's walls are on the thin side and might not satisfy cooks who intend to use it as a "real heavy-duty workhorse."
Review: Cuisinart Classic Stockpot, Contributors to ChefsCatalog.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good Mariette Mifflin, About.com's guide to housewares and appliances, includes the Cuisinart in this list of her top 10 stockpots. Features she likes include the aluminum disk base and the tapered rim for easy pouring. However, it's not clear that Mifflin has actually tested this pot or any of the others on the list. Although she cites the "mirror finish 18/10 stainless steel" as a plus, the manufacturer says this pot is actually made of plain stainless steel.
Review: Best 12-Qt Stock Pots, Mariette Mifflin, Not dated