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The Always Pan people just launched the Perfect Pot. Here's what I thought of it

Priced at $165, the new Perfect Pot claims it'll replace as many as six other kitchen tools. I took it for a test drive to see how close to perfect it really is.

perfect-pot
Our Place

When the Always Pan launched, it came in about as hot as any piece of new cookware I could remember. Perhaps due to a social media advertising blitz or the pan's curiously consistent supply shortage (it's "sold out" 10 times since launch). Or maybe it was the smart design of the multipurpose fry pan that captured folks' attention. Most likely, it was some combination of the three, but whatever it was, that same direct-to-consumer kitchen brand, Our Place, is hoping lightning will strike twice with the recent launch of the Perfect Pot

The look and feel of the Perfect Pot are strikingly similar to the Always Pan -- which I liked, by the way -- as are the claims about how much it will do. To find out for myself, I took this newly unveiled cousin of the trendy skillet for a joyride to see if it lived up to its name. The pan proved easy to use with a lot of smart features that make cooking more fun, but at the end of the day, $165 is a lot of coin to throw at any one piece of cookware. Maybe too much.

7.6

The Perfect Pot

Like

  • Extremely versatile multipurpose pot
  • Very lightweight but still feels durable
  • Easy-drain lid is great for making pasta

Don't Like

  • Overpriced for an aluminum pot
  • Won't impart or retain heat as well as cast iron

What is the Perfect Pot?

The Perfect Pot (no relation to Perfect Company) is a multifunction stockpot and Dutch oven that claims it can replace several of your existing pieces of cookware: saucepot, roasting rack, steamer, strainer, braiser, spoon rest and a few others.

The pot itself is 5.5 quarts, which is right in the sweet spot for cooking for three or four people and can hold a large batch of soup or stew. It would also fit a smaller rib roast or a medium whole chicken if you plan to do roasting and braising. The core of the pot is aluminum, which is famously light and good at heating up fast but not quite as good at getting hot or staying hot. It's also a soft metal, so the pot could suffer dents over time, but I didn't experience any dinging in the week or so I cooked with it. I even gave it a few whacks with the butt of my chef's knife, but the Perfect Pot didn't flinch. 

spoon-rest

The built-in spoon rest is a nice idea but, as with the Always Pan, I eventually reverted back to my stabler countertop spoon rest.

David Watsky/CNET

The surface is the same slippery nontoxic, nonstick ceramic coating that's used in the Always Pan. That coating proved to be quite sensitive, in my experience, so I'd suggest using nothing but soft wooden utensils like the one included with the pot when cooking with either piece. The Perfect Pot is also safe to put in the oven up to 450 degrees F.

Some of the pot's "big innovations" over a standard Dutch oven or stockpot include the pouring spout and a lid with a grated opening that doubles as a strainer. The Perfect Pot also comes with a custom bamboo spoon with divots on the underside of the shaft so it can rest on the pot's side handle and an oven-safe roasting rack that doubles as a low steaming tray.

red-sauce

At 5.5 quarts, the Perfect Pot is a great size for making a big batch of Sunday sauce. 

David Watsky/CNET

What I liked best about the Perfect Pot

For me, the aspect of the Perfect Pot I liked best was the weight -- or lack thereof. At under 5 pounds with the lid, and even less without it, this is one of the lightest pots I've ever handled and that made certain tasks more convenient. You really can fling it around the kitchen or in and out of the oven and fridge with ease. And it's especially nice when it comes to cleaning.

Speaking of cleaning, with its nonstick surface, the Perfect Pot was unsurprisingly easy to clean, which is always a big draw for me. The marinara and meatballs I let simmer for a few hours lifted right off the bottom, leaving no red traces behind. I also browned chicken thighs in the pot and despite getting a decent sear, found not much (if any at all) was left stuck to the pan afterward.

pp.png
Our Place

It'll sear but not as well as other pots and pans

I had some bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, so I fired up the Perfect Pot to see what sort of sear I could get on the chicken skin. While it did produce a solid crispy layer of goodness in about 8 minutes, it wasn't as pronounced as with my enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or my blue carbon steel frying pan. The Perfect Pot is aluminum, which is simply never going to produce as much surface heat or stay as hot as those other metals during cooking.

chicken-thighs

You can get a good sear going with ceramic-coated cookware, but nothing close to what you'll get from cast iron or stainless steel.

David Watsky/CNET

The lid is very useful

Draining anything from a pot or pan can be a tricky business and especially hot liquid like pasta water. I found the Perfect Pot's built-in strainer opening in the tight-fitting lid to be a useful feature. 

You can spin the lid in place so it gets a complete seal, or if the pouring spout is lined up with the lip it allows you to steam-cook. I used the steam rack to cook some green beans and it worked just as advertised. A steamer tray is not exactly groundbreaking stuff but it's handy to have nonetheless.

strainer

The light weight and strainer lid make this an ideal pot for pasta. 

David Watsky/CNET

It may be a perfect pot for some but not everyone

I like this utilitarian pot a whole lot and appreciate some of the thoughtful design elements and enhancements. I think it would make an excellent piece of cookware for a new chef or someone who doesn't have space for a stockpot, Dutch oven and roasting rack. It's a serviceable replacement for all three, but I stress the word serviceable because an aluminum Dutch oven is simply never going to do what a cast-iron Dutch oven can. Namely, sear meat well and hold steady core heat during a long braise, bake or roast. 

Because of its light weight and large size, it would be an excellent pot to take camping. You could heat up beans, soup or stew over a portable gas burner or boil water for pasta or oatmeal for a large group. It's a snap to clean and it's not going to bog you down with extra pounds. 

steam-tray
David Watsky/CNET

$165 is a lot of money for any one pot. Is the Perfect Pot worth the money?

All of the Perfect Pot's little nips, tucks and innovations add up to a very smartly designed piece of cookware that's fun and easy to use. Whether that smart design warrants its bloated price of $165 is a question all its own. My short answer is no, especially when you consider the pot is made of aluminum, one of the cheaper cookware materials.

The good news is that Our Place's Always Pan goes on sale from time to time, so likely the Perfect Pot will too. When that will be and how low the price will drop is hard to say, but if you can hold out on buying this handy, versatile piece of kitchen cookware, you might be able to snag the Perfect Pot at a far closer to perfect price.

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