Every Homesteader Needs A Stew Pot

Lately I’ve been studying what the pioneers packed in their wagons when they made that long trip across the country to start their new lives in unsettled land. Whatever they packed they had to survive on for a very long time, and they really only had room for necessities, with a few exceptions.

I want to know what they thought was absolutely essential. And I want to make sure that I have a similar item as well, just in case it ever comes down to bare bones survival. If it was enough for them, it could be enough for us.

One item that almost all pioneers would have had was a large cast iron stew pot. Not only did they cook in them, but these pots were also good for:

  • boiling water for baths and laundry
  • rendering fat
  • making soap
  • dipping poultry to loosen feathers, or scalding carcasses

I started thinking about how essential these stew pots were. If I didn’t have electricity, I would have no way to heat up a large amount of water at once.

The biggest thing I had to boil water over a fire in was a four quart Dutch oven. I realized it would take me forever to fill a tub for baths or laundry with what I had.

I started looking on Craigslist for “cast iron stew pots”, but everything I found was around $200 for a 20 gallon pot- and wasn’t exactly in the best shape. I did some more searching online and found a place called AgriSupply which sells large cast iron stew pots for a very reasonable price.

I settled my heart on the 25 gallon Carolina Cooker Cast Iron Stew Pot with a price tag of $179.99. Still expensive, but definitely a much better deal than the “antiques” I’d been considering.

I just had to sell a few things first. After clearing out some junk and stuff we didn’t need anymore, I had enough money to buy my pot. Although there wasn’t a store locally, the extra drive was worth taking compared to having the super heavy pot shipped.

stew pot

When my husband brought my new pot home I couldn’t believe how big it was. It was huge! Much larger than I had imagined. Even our 10 year old could fit in it. I’ll be able to boil a ton of water in this thing!! Wow.

It came with carrying hooks to help us haul it around. Which my husband and little ol’ me were barely able to do. We also picked up a large wooden paddle to stir whatever we put in the pot.

wash tubs

I also realized that if I was going to be doing laundry by hand, I really needed some wash tubs! My first inclination was to go buy some cheap plastic tubs and scrub clothes in them, but I realized that they’d surely melt as soon as I’d poured hot water into them.

And it would take forever to fill our bathtubs with enough hot water to do a load of laundry in. I needed something smaller than a bathtub, and stronger than plastic.

AgriSupply had these 15 gallon wash tubs for $18 each, so we grabbed them as well. They’re very similar to what the pioneers would have used. I got two so that I could have a wash tub and a rinse tub.

So now I think I’m set for doing some major off-grid laundry. I’ve got my massive stew pot, my wash and rinse tubs, a washing board, and of course the clothesline. Now I just need to keep an eye out for a clothes wringer!

Do you have a huge stew pot? What’s your favorite way to use it?

42 thoughts on “Every Homesteader Needs A Stew Pot”

  1. We have a 10 and 18 gallon cast iron pot we use for Brunswick stew, chili, and gumbo they work great.. we built a frame to hang the pot on with chains but when its full it’s hard to stir without someone holding the chains.. I’m wanting to get a stand for it so we can put a burner under it without building a fire and to make it easier to set up and to stir.. has anyone used the stands that Agr Supply sell?, just wandering how well they are built .. 18 gallons of stew gets heavy when it’s got 40lbs of meat in it, lol

  2. Are you positive it was preseasoned? I bought a 8 gal from Agri, for cooking chili. After it came in the mail it had a coating of black sticky, almost cosmolean smelling coating. So I checked there web sight again and they sell two different 8 gal pots. One says stew pot and lists preseasoned and is $94. the other says stew pot /wash pot $74. and does not say preseasoned. I bought the $74. one.

  3. Fun! We love AgriSupply! My Farmer drools when he looks through it.

    We are blessed to have 3 huge cauldrons on the farm. Farmer seasoned and cleaned up one of them last year and we rendered 12 hog’s worth of fat in it… beautiful lard!

    I’m thinking it’ll just stay the lard cauldron, but I can use it for other stuff in emergencies.

    Farmer still has to clean up and season the other 2 (they are weather worn… from his great grandparents).

  4. Ann, I was wondering about that, too. If it does require seasoning like cast .iron skillets, how would one season something so large?

  5. Heya – while you’re looking for a mangle/clothes wringer, you could use the English medieval option of a wringing post. You need something strong, upright and clean, like a pole/post stuck into the ground, and then you wrap the clothes around it and twist, twist, twist to get as much water out as possible. You can see a demonstration here at minute 24: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ra6jtiVjKQ (The whole episode includes a demonstration of medieval laundry methods from start to finish, in segments scattered through the half hour)

  6. I just read a tip the other day you might be interested in if you’re using a toilet plunger for agitating, drill holes around the rubber piece to keep it from getting stuck to the bottom of your bucket or tub from the suction. The transmission broke on my washer years ago. It would fill and spin out but wouldn’t agitate so I got the trusty plunger. Boy was I glad that was ‘all’ I had to do!

  7. Great post! Love the pics! One line, though, I’m sure is a typo… the part where you say that Jada is now a 10-year old. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?! When I stumbled across “Handprints” she was your curly haired TODDLER…. *sigh* They grow up so fast.

  8. I remember the hand wringers from my young days. I’m almost 80 now . Had to watch your fingers & long hair.
    My brother ( two years older than me) would crank the handle for Momma & I fed the clothes in. Good thing we were outdoors because we always seemed to get more than the clothes all wet.

  9. All great ideas, but if you are making soap in it, you must only use it for soap, so better have more that one and mark the soap one somehow so you can tell the difference. The last time I priced these lil hummers they were soooo expensive that I changed my mind. But…they certainly have their good uses.

  10. growing up, we had a wood heater, wood cookstove, made our own soap outside in a pot similar to that one, and took our baths in galvanized tubs similar to the 2 you bought. Our wood stove had a reservoir in it, so we had hot water when we needed it as long as the cook stove had a fire in it. We washed our clothes in 2 galvanized tubs, and had 3 different washboards for different kinds of clothes. Believe me, it was very hard work, time consuming, and combine that with all the other jobs on a farm: livestock, poultry, killing, skinning, cutting up meat, hunting, fishing, clamming, gardening a full acre, running an orchard, haying, repairing broken down tools and tractors, canning a thousand quarts a year for the family, making soap, jerky, pemmican, and foraging in the woods on the farm for edibles, raising kids, being active in the community, county fair judging, being active in church, etc., everyone, but especially my parents went to bed thoroughly exhausted every single night. I’m extremely happy to look at the family butter churn, cast iron soap pot, the washboards, blacksmith tools, etc. etc. and Praise God I don’t have to work that hard on my acreage these days.

  11. Wife and I really enjoy your posts.
    I made a large firepit out of one end of an old propane tank. Its on four legs and looks very similar to your cast Iron pot. Your article gives me ideas of numerous other uses by building the fire under it. Thanks so much. If anyone wants to save a few bucks and has a welder and torch available, I gave $160 for my discarded tank, made a firepit out of both ends and cut 8″ bands out of the center to use as fire rings. I sold one “end” for $125 and two of the rings for $25 each so my pot came pretty cheap. 🙂

  12. I did clothes on a wringer washer in high school. My family has a saying that if a man does it at work all day, it won’t get done at home. My dad was an appliance repairman. When our washer quit, dad just set the antique wringer washer in it’s place. I might warn they the wringers can be rough on metal hooks and snaps. Watch careful as you feed your overalls through! We used it for many months before a new washer was finally bought.

  13. I saw a blog a while back that used 5 gallon buckets to get the water out of the clothes instead of a wringer. u drill holes in one bucket, put the clothes in it, then put a clean bucket inside the holey one on top of the clothes and sit on it pressing the water out of the clothes and out of the holes in the bucket. Dont remember the name of the blog but they were in Florida and had lots of adopted kids living off grid.

  14. What’s the weight on this pot? I can’t find it on the webpage. Unfortunately, it’s too far of a roadtrip for me so I would have to ship.

  15. I recommend one tub to wash and TWO to rinse (yes, double rinse). I bought the Lehman’s best model hand wringer and have been pleased. My agitator is a NEW toilet plunger, and I wrote on the handle (for clothes washing ONLY).

    Once acquiring everything, then I did a practice run, pumping water by hand and going through the entire washing/wringing/rinsing/wringing/rinsing/and wringing again process. Hung that load on the line with clothespins to dry.

    Only had one glitch. My new wringer was missing a screw so the handle would not stay on. So I had to make a run into town to the hardware store to get one that fit. Running to the hardware store might not be possible in the future so it is ways good to do a practice run BEFORE the crisis to make sure everything is in order.

    Now I need to break out the reel mower and make sure it does not have any parts missing and see if it really will cut the grass. I don’t want to garden with tall grass around me (snakes).

  16. We had one of those growing up and mom always made lard in it along with some deep fried meat. Good memories.

  17. I did something very similar; I bought a clothes ringer off ebay – an old wooden “Montgomery Ward” model; be careful, though; most of these have ringers so badly degraded you can not use them, and they’re really quite pricey, even in poor condition (which mine is not). I attached mine with the big bolt/screws that were part of it to the back of a junior-size wooden school-type chair bought second hand. I put one tub in the seat, full of wet clothes, a second empty one on the ground, behind the chair, and run my clothes through, turning the ringer handle with one foot holding the chair down (it’s not quite heavy enough). It’s amazing what we can do when we have to do it. And it actually works very well – clothes come out with less water remaining than they did in spin cycle of wash machine, ready to go on solar dryer.

    Lehman’s sells new, metal-housed ones for $200; I paid about $60 for my old one, and it was hard to find in usable condition. I’d go with Lehman’s, if I had it to do over.

  18. Thanks for the info. I found one for 300 but it’s smaller than the one resupply has and there is one only 30 minutes tops from my house. 🙂 Has anybody tried the tripod with their pots?

  19. I’m enjoying your articles… thanks!
    Regarding the large pot of boiling water… it all must be handled so very carefully with very hot water transferred in smaller, easy to handle buckets. Little ones have to be kept away. And when preparing bath water, put some cold water in the tub first, then add the hot water – going from cold to warm so young ones don’t go hopping into hot water before the temperature is regulated.

  20. I LOVE the stew pot! It’s on my wish list too. My grandmother still has hers and I can remember her using it to make Brunswick stew in when I was little. Have you decided what you are going to use it for first? 🙂

  21. My giant (to me, it only holds toddlers) 32qt pot is used for all manner of things… quadruple batches of stock, rendering lard or tallow, putting applesauce in as I Squeezo through it (to blend all the flavors), all manner of off the wall things. 🙂 Sometimes my friends never know what to expect when they come over.


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