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What Size Stock Pot Should You Buy? (Quick Guide)

Are you in the market for new cookware but don’t know which size stock pot to get?

In this article, I explain everything you need to know about stock pot sizes. You’ll learn what sizes are available and the factors to consider before buying. 

I also talked to cookware brands and retailers to get their advice on the topic.

So, if you’re ready to pick out the perfect stock pot for your kitchen but need help deciding which size to buy, keep reading.


Use the links below to navigate the guide:


Stock Pot Sizes: What’s Available

Stock pot sizes are measured by the amount of liquid they hold, which is measured in quarts.

The most common stock pot sizes are 6-quart, 8-quart, 12-quart, and 16-quart. They go up to 20-quart and beyond, but those sizes are primarily used in commercial kitchens.

Stock pot sizes vary by brand and collection.

For example, All-Clad offers 3-, 4-, 6-, 7-, 8-, and 12-quart stock pots, while Le Creuset offers, 5 ¼-, 6-, 6 ⅓-, 7-, 7 ½-, 8-, 9-, 10-, and 16-quart stock pots.

Calphalon stock pots come in 4, 4.5, 6, 8, 12 quarts, and Anolon stock pots come in 6.5, 7.5, 8, 8.5, and 10 quarts.

Some brands have much more limited options. For example, Made In, an up-and-coming cookware brand, only offers 8- and 12-quart stock pots.

Remember that just because two have the same capacity in quarts doesn’t mean the dimensions are the same.

Some stock pots have taller sides and smaller diameters, while some have short sides and wider diameters.

Stock pot with tall sides and small diameter
Stock pot with tall sides and small diameter

For example, the All-Clad 6-quart stock pot has a diameter of 11.25 inches and the walls are 4.25 inches tall, while the Le Creuset 6-quart stock pot has a diameter of 9.5 inches and the walls are 6.75 inches tall.

Diameter of a 6-quart All-Clad stock pot
Diameter of a 6-quart All-Clad stock pot
Height of a 6-quart All-Clad stock pot
Height of a 6-quart All-Clad stock pot

Stock pots with shorter walls fit better on oven racks but take up more space on the stove.

Stock pot with short sides inside an oven

To give you a general idea, the chart below displays the dimensions of All-Clad’s most popular stock pot sizes. You can learn more about these stock pots on Williams-Sonoma.com.

Stock Pot Diameter Height
6-Quart11.25 in.4.25 in.
8-Quart10.5 in.5.5 in.
12-Quart11.25 in.9 in.
16-Quart11 in.10.25 in.

Stock Pot Sizes: Comparison Chart

Are you looking for a quick comparison of the different stock pot sizes?

The chart below shows, in general, how many people each option serves. Keep in mind that the serving size varies based on the meal.

SizeServes Ideal for
6-quart12Soup, chili, stew, curry, and pasta
8-quart16Poultry stock and vegetable stock
12-quart24Beef, pork, and game stock, steamed lobster, corn on the cob, and canning
16-quart32Canning
20-quart40Commercial kitchens, brewing beer
24-quart48Commercial kitchens
32-quart64Commercial kitchens
40-quart80Commercial kitchens

Most Important Factors to Consider

Now that you know which sizes are available, let’s look at the factors to consider before you choose the right stock pot for your kitchen.

Household Size

When picking out the right stock pot size, the most important factor is your household size.

If you are cooking for two people, a small, 4- or 6-quart stock pot will work. But, if you have a large family or frequently host dinner parties or holidays, you might need a bigger one. Even if you don’t have guests often, it’s nice to have a bigger stock pot just in case.

If you have a smaller stock pot, you’ll have to cook in batches, and each batch will taste slightly different.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll need a stock pot with 2.5 to 3 quarts of capacity per adult (or young adult) in the household. So, if your household is two adults and two young kids, go with a 6-quart stock pot. If your household is two adults and two hungry teenagers, go with a 10- or 12-quart stock pot.

Types of Cooking

Most things you cook in a stock bot will require boiling or simmering. You’ll want enough room between the pot’s contents and the top of the pot’s walls to avoid boiling over. Try not to fill your stock pot past ⅔ of the total volume.

Thicker meals, like stew or chili, are more difficult to stir, so the extra room in a large stock pot helps.

If you’re going to use your stock pot to braise or sear, you’ll need the pot’s base to be wide enough so moisture can escape without steaming the meat.

The size of the base is approximately the size of the diameter. If you refer back to this chart, you’ll see that stock pots with larger capacity don’t always have wider diameters. Keep that in mind if you plan to use your stock pot for searing or braising.

Weight

Before choosing a stock pot, check its weight, which is usually listed online or on the box.

Within the same brand and collection, larger stock pots will be heavier than smaller stock pots. However, the thickness of cookware, thus the weight, varies across brands.

Not only do you need to consider the weight of the pot, but you have to think about how heavy it will be when it’s full. A quart of liquid weighs about 2 pounds, so factor that into your decision.

In the chart below, I’ve listed how much some common-sized stock pots weigh empty and when filled with water.

Note: The 16-quart stock pot is lighter than the 12-quart stock pot because its sidewalls are thinner. It’s not fully-clad like the 6-, 8-, and 12-quart stock pots.

Stock Pot Weight (pot only) Total Weight (pot + water)
6-Quart5 lb.17.5 lb.
8-Quart6.4 lb.23 lb.
12-Quart11.3 lb.36.3 lb.
16-Quart8.5 lb.41.8 lb.

Heat Conduction

A smaller stock pot will heat up faster and more evenly than a larger pot since the heat is more concentrated.

So, a 4-quart stock pot filled with water will come to a boil faster than a 12-quart pot with the same amount of water.

The material and construction of your pot also affect heat conduction. Most stock pots are made with stainless steel with an aluminum plate bonded to the base. That type of construction is often referred to as an impact-bonded base.

Since aluminum is highly conductive, the base of the cookware heats up quickly and evenly; however, since steel is not conductive, the steel walls don’t heat up as fast.

Some stock pots, especially smaller ones, are made from fully-clad stainless steel, which means the exterior and interior are steel with the conductive aluminum core throughout the entire pot (including the sides).

Fully-clad pots heat faster than those with an impact-bonded base, but they’re heavier. That’s why you aren’t likely to find fully-clad stock pots above 12 quarts.

Copper is the most conductive cookware material, meaning copper stock pots heat up the fastest. However, it’s an expensive and high-maintenance material, so they’re not too common.

Heat Retention

Generally, a larger stock pot will retain heat longer than a smaller one. Large stock pots are made with more material (steel/aluminum) and hold more ingredients, which absorb and help retain heat.

Also, taller stock pots hold heat longer than shorter ones because their diameter is smaller. With a smaller diameter, you will have less heat escaping from the top of the pot.

Storage Space

As I mentioned, the capacity of your stock pot isn’t the only size you need to consider. The height and diameter will affect where you can store it.

Check the height and depth of your storage space before purchasing. You should be able to find the exact dimensions of a stock pot on the product description online. If it’s not listed, reach out to the manufacturer.

Also, don’t forget to leave room for the handles and lids.

Stovetop Size

It’s easier to find a different stock pot size than to change your stove, so you should choose a pot that will fit your setup.

Some stovetops are narrow, and a large stock pot will take up too much room. Also, if you tend to cook on multiple burners at once, your range can get too crowded.

Pay attention to the diameter of your burners compared to the diameter of the pots. If your burners are too small, all of the heat will be too concentrated in the center.

Lastly, for larger stock pots, height could become a concern. If your stock pot comes too close to your vent hood or above-range microwave, it will be harder to move or stir its contents.

Price

If you compare pots within the same brand and collection, larger stock pots will cost more than smaller ones.

Materials can also affect the price. For example, copper is much more expensive than steel and aluminum.

Prices also vary between brands. Smaller pots from premium brands might cost more than larger pots from budget brands.

For example, a 12-quart stock pot from a mid-range brand like Cuisinart will cost less than a 4-quart stock pot from a premium brand like All-Clad.

For more information about the prices of specific stock pots, see the table below.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

What Cookware Brands and Retailers Say

I reached out to several cookware brands and retailers to get their expert advice on picking the right stock pot size.  

The product specialist at All-Clad told me that the 6-quart stock pot is the most popular size by far. It’s big enough to cook for a small crowd but is easy to store and small enough to maneuver.

She also mentioned that 8-quart is the second most popular size. It gives you more space to cook large batches and isn’t so big that it won’t fit in most cabinets. 

She warned me that 10- and 12-quart stock pots are suitable for cooking crabs or large batches but too big and unnecessary for most households. 

The product specialist at Anolon echoed similar themes. She said that the 6.5- and 7.5-quart stock pots are its best sellers and ideal for households of four people or less. 

Anolon offers other sizes, but she claimed the 10-quart stock pot is too large (unless you have more than five people in your household), and the 5-quart stock pot is a bit too limiting.

Lastly, I connected with a cookware specialist at Williams Sonoma. She agreed with the experts at All-Clad and Anolon. 

She said you couldn’t go wrong with a 6- or 8-quart stock pot. A stock pot smaller than 6 quarts won’t provide enough room for leftovers, and a stock pot bigger than 8 quarts is unnecessary and unwieldy.

Bottom Line: What Stock Pot Size Do You Need?

Now that you know the key factors to consider, you should know what size pot is best for your needs.

A few of the key factors to keep in mind when choosing a stock pot are:

  • You need enough capacity to feed your whole family. A good rule of thumb is 2.5 quarts per adult.
  • Make sure you have enough room on your stove to accommodate the height and diameter of the pot you choose.
  • Stock pots are heavy. Remember that liquid weighs about 2 pounds per quart, so add that to the base weight of the pot.
  • If you often host gatherings, opt for a larger stock pot. It’s better to have the larger option than to get stuck cooking in smaller batches.

If you’re still not sure which stock pot size is right for your kitchen, here’s my recommendation.

Buy a small pot for date night, a medium pot for family dinners, and a large pot for parties. With those three, you’ll never be stuck with the wrong size.

If your budget or storage space only allows one, go with a 6- or 8-quart stock pot. That way, you can handle decent quantities without taking up too much space. I don’t recommend buying a stock pot under 6 quarts.

If you’re looking for something small, you’re better off buying a saucepan since they have longer handles and are easier to maneuver with one hand.

After you decide on size, you need to determine which brand and collection to buy. To help you narrow down the options, I’ve put together the Definitive Guide to the Best Cookware Brands. In that guide, I break down the top brands across stainless steel, non-stick, cast iron, enameled cast iron, and copper cookware.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s been studying consumer buying behavior for 10+ years and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn or via email.

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