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What's good to get 2nd-hand? Or ... not?

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I've been having fun skimming my local Craig's list for cooking-related gear, but I haven't bought anything. Likewise, I'd like to get good at yardsales and thrift shops, but I hate to throw away money on broken crap.

What have you picked up second-hand that was a good move? What have you wondered about (that maybe someone else can speak to)? What have you bought that was a brilliant bargain - something you'll never buy new again? What's your rule of thumb for deciding what to buy and what to pass on?

My experience:

* bought La Machine food processor at a garage sale, same vintage as the hand-me-down I already have -- probably early 80s? They both run great, but I needed spare parts. I bought the second machine for less than the new replacement part.

* Bought a Maxim crepe maker in perfect condition. I may give it away because I'm not cool with the nonstick surface. But it was $5, so who cares?
like this http://www.tabletools.com/ttools/imag...

* Bought a very dated but little-used ice cream maker. It's not winning any style points, but I can make kickass homemade ice cream in it. For $5.
like this one: http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/p...

* Eyed rusty, nasty-looking cats irons skillets. Passed. They could be reconditioned, I'm sure, but they were too much money to be worth bothering.

Other items I'm thinking about: espresso machine, range, kitchen table.

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  1. I bought a small Cuisinart food processor at a garage sale for $15 when I was in college, mostly just because practically everything my mom ever makes involves her Cuisinart in one way or another, and it was only $15. I'm still using it very regularly seven years later, although I think it's time for a bigger one now. Other good garage sale finds: a Donvier for $5, strange gadgets that I don't actually use but have fun trying to figure out what they are (like a meatball scoop - sorta looks like scissors but has scoops on the ends), glass pie pans, stainless steel bowls, and serving dishes.

    1. Cast iron pots and pans are good. Also cookbooks.

      1 Reply
      1. re: yayadave

        That's a good thought -- cookbooks. I have picked up a few. I stick with older versions of names I recognize, like the Frugal Gourmet, James Beard, etc.

      2. I've bought great cast iron and roasting pans at a thrigt store. I think that pampered chef stuff is over priced, but I picked up a large bread stone for $5.

        1. i'll bet you could find some little used pasta machines on the second hand market.

          1. I've mentioned before that my main knife is a Sabatier 7" chefs. I've used it constantly for 30 years. Here's what I haven't said: I bought it at a yard sale in Fresno, California for $1.00 or 2.00. It was in a can of about 20 other knives, all junk. The Sabatier was and remains perfect. I have a bunch of purchased new expensive metal--but the Sabatier remains the most used. How did it end up in that can?

            4 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I just read a book by Kathleen Flinn, The Sharper the Knife the Less You Cry. It was about attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. At the end of the book she quotes her grandmother "a woman needs two things in life, a good husband and a good knife. A bad husband is not worth the trouble, and a cheap knife is not worth the expense." I paraphrased it for the next edition of the newsletter I write to include both sexes. I'm glad you got a good one. I have an old Sabatier I don't use as much as I did any more. My DH bought it for me over 35 years ago when I complained his 10" chef's was too big. Now I routinely use an 8" chef's I've had for about 20 years, a Henckels from when they were good knives.

              To stay on topic, I have purchased a terrific 10" Wagnerware cast iron skillet which was cruddy and crusted and cleaned up beautifully in the microwave, from a thrift shop. At the same shop I got a Krups electric slicer, for meats etc. It was a mess. I think someone got tired of cleaning it and dropped it off. It cleaned up beautifully, has 3 blades and works well. I don't use it often but it is there when I need it. I got my first Le Creuset pot at a church rummage sale about 35 years ago, it was $5.00. I had to give that one some thought at the time. It is still going just fine and gets used at least once a week.

              1. re: Candy

                "...Wagnerware cast iron skillet which was cruddy and crusted and cleaned up beautifully in the microwave..."

                Huh? Wha? Please, please elaborate!

                As to the topic at hand, I've scooped up at yard sales many a Griswold or Wagnerware piece (far superior to overly heavy Lodge) for $1-2, plenty of restaurant-grade stock pots at church sales, a brand new Mircoplane for two bits, and a pair of steam tables for $10. All have served me (and allowed me to serve) well.

                1. re: Scortch

                  Sorry, I meant in the self cleaning cycle of my oven. Over 50 mind wandering.

                  1. re: Candy

                    Whew!

                    I was beginning to think "cleaned up" meant "blew my microwave off the top of the counter with shower of flames and sparks"...

            2. Keep an eye out for "Going out of business" auctions of restaurants and bakeries. Lots of good, commercial-quality goodies in box lots can be had there.

              As for yard sales and second hand, I just look for the occasional 'gem'. Good, heavy solid spoons, metal or wooden. Old copper cookware that's heavy gauge. Oddball cast iron bits. My yard sale finds are few and far between. Restaurant auctions have the best stuff, although there's usually too much of it. No reason to buy a stack of 30 half sheet trays when I'd only want 5. But the smaller restaurant auctions can be great.

              1. Estate Sale Queen here -griddles and BBQ items - so expensive at the store. Got some GREAT skewers - heavy duty ones for $1.

                Estate sales always have electric can openers, electric knives, pressure cookers, and breadboxes...for some reason

                the best place to find items of the past - when people baked wedding cakes at home, unusual desserts, cookie pans (madelines, for ex.), you name it.
                Cookie press, cake carriers, cake stands...

                1. I found the original Cuisinart DL7, French with German motor, for $10, including instruction leaflet. Works perfectly, but one foot pad is gone so I had to fix that.

                  I'm always looking for Griswold or McLary cast iron, usually smoother surface than Lodge. And this summer I'll look for French or domestic carbon steel pans, for omelets and crepes.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jayt90

                    Oops. I meant to reply to the comment below but I'm jealous of your finds too!

                  2. It doesn't happen very often since I don't have much time for cruising yard sales but my husband found a gem. He picked up 20 or so pieces of brand new Calphalon Commercial and Professional hard anodized cookware for $25.00. I checked out retail value on all the pieces and it was well over $1,500. The woman was getting rid of it because it wasn't non-stick.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Dee S

                      Jealous!!

                    2. many of my pots and pans are hand me downs(other than a couple of new stock pots, and saute pans), the quality of product does not seem to be the same today, perhaps cheaper metals, or the fact that most things are made in China nowdays.

                      I have bought cast iron pans, and an old school hand crank meat grinder(they dont make them like they used to).

                      I would never buy used knives, or kitchen appliances. Knives are to personal of an item for me to want a hand me down,, and with the technology of today, I would rather have a new appliance than someones cast off.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: swsidejim

                        I would reconsider your new appliance policy... at least for some things.

                        Older appliances tend to have been over-engineered with quality components, whereas newer appliances tend to be designed to last at least the length of the warranty. You can still find old mixers, slow-cookers, blenders, popcorn-poppers (great for roasting your won coffee), etc., that are decades old and still work great. A quick look around CH shows a bunch of posts about old, second-hand appliances, outlasting brand-new models (see Kitchenaid mixer thread, as an example).

                        That said, there are definite benefits to buying new: warranty, updated electronic controls, aesthetics, and in some cases, better built-in safeties, etc.

                        1. re: can_i_try_some

                          I would agree regarding some of the mixers/blenders from back in the day, they seem more heavy duty.

                          1. re: swsidejim

                            I picked up a 1950s Dormeyer hand mixer for $5 in an antique store. It not only rusn beautifully, but it's got great styling. It even has fins.

                        2. re: swsidejim

                          I just bought an "old school hand crank meat grinder". It has a bit of rust on the grinding attachment that I'm hoping I can clean up. Otherwise it's just going to be decoration. Did you have to do any rust removal on yours?

                        3. I've bought an old Sunbeam stand mixer, various Reverewear sauce pots, and at the other end of the scale, an Alessi 9091 kettle. And an old Copco enameled cast iron baking pan.

                          1. I've gotten several nice old Le Creuset pots from estate sales for a dollar or two. I think the folks selling them didn't know what they had (they were scratched a little, but the enamel is still intact).

                            1. Flatware, if you don't mind stuff not matching or a monogram.. if you can find some decent heavier-stock stuff, you can provide yourself with some 'larger group' extras to have handy in a moment of need.

                              Odd things that can be serve as individual server containers, like small pots that can work for pots-du-creme - they can have a funky vibe being different on a able..

                              Best second hand buy for me was a rolling kitchen cart with a nice cutting surface, from a family upgrading to a full kitchen island.. they had cared for it well..

                              1. my alltime favorite find is a 10-inch mauviel copper frying pan that looked brand new. I stopped into a music store that was going out of business looking for a guitar for my daughter and spotted the pan which the owner's wife wanted to get rid of. you never know what you'll find or where you'll find it.

                                1. I bought early 50's stainless Sunbeam Mixmaster for $4.00. I had to fix the cord to make it work. My wife loves using the mixer because it so cool, but I love the two mixing bowls. They are very heavy stainless with a substantial base.

                                  I also got a dutch oven for either $8 or $9, I remember I got some change back from a ten... It took some work to restore, but it my go to pot for football game chili.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: taketheunder

                                    Oh, I have my mother's Sunbeam waffle baker from the same era. Heavy steel grids and they make for the crispiest waffles. The aluminum and non-stick varieties cannot compare. Also it seems that all you can find now are the Belgian type waffle bakers. My old Sunbeam makes a shallower waffle and makes 4 large one at a time. My mom still haunts electric reply stores and thrift shops for the old Sunbeam vacuum coffee pots. Bodum makes one but it is acrylic and the coffee stains make it unsightly after a period of time but either make great coffee.

                                    1. re: Candy

                                      A vacuum coffee pot is exactly what I was thinking of when I started this thread... I was eyeing the Bodum one in Kitchen Kapers recently and while the design was nice, it looked and felt a little fragile Someone else in the store mentioned that they have the original kind and that I should try to keep an eye for them at yard sales and stuff.

                                      There's a little consignment shop with mostly domestic items not far from me where I've gotten some solid Farberware, Bormioli Rocco espresso cups, etc. I popped in yesterday, and got a shallow, oval-shaped copper pan and four mis-matched espresso cups/saucers. I probably should have bought some of the linen and damask napkins, but I was indecisive and decided to hang onto the cash instead.

                                      The lining (tin?) on the copper pan has two small um, problem areas. I can't tell whether it just needs to be polished or if they're pits. Any advice?

                                      1. re: Mawrter

                                        Try rubbing the area with salt and lemon juice. Use your finger or a scrubby, and if the copper is showing through, you will see it loud and clear, as this solution really brightens copper. A small amount showing through will not poison anyone, if you avoid acidic foods in it, until it is re-tinned.
                                        I have an oval copper pan, and it is great for starting a dish on the range, and finishing under the broiler.

                                        1. re: Mawrter

                                          The Bodum vacuum pot makes great coffee which is why we use it in the shop, but with all clear acrylics it does stain after a period of time. I occasionally do a baking soda scrub but the stain is near to possible to eridacate.

                                          We carry Mauviel pans but on special order. They are tin lined and to preserve that lining we suggest only wooden or silicone utensils, not hard to find right now, it helps to preserve the tin lining. We used to carry Castle Copper, stainless steel lined copper imported from Ireland, but when Kasperzac, company founder of Calphaon, died the the heirs to the co. dropped it, sadly and I've not seen anything comparable in durability to replace it since

                                    2. I pick up old heavy glass cookware, mostly Pyrex: pie pans, square baking dishes, a double boiler, a coffee pot. I also have an old Hamilton Beach Milkshake Maker (including metal canister--it was a housewarming gift form a friend.

                                      I can also vouch for how tough old Sunbeam Mixmasters are--I have the one that my mom got for their wedding in 1952 and that baby can tackle anything. I'm not sure, though, that I would have purchased it from, say, an antiques store or a garage sale--I knew for a fact that it runs (and runs like a champ) but might be hesitant about stuff whose history I don't know. But bear in mind that I'm not a DIY gal and can't re-wire or do other types of fixes.

                                      1. Cruise garage sales for an old hot air corn popper, the perfect thing for toasting nuts and spices.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Billow Fair

                                          And works well for roasting your own coffee beans too!

                                        2. Hey, if the price is right...

                                          My favorite finds:
                                          $20 a working (plugged it in on the spot) Hobart KitchenAid mixer that is over 20 years old, and gives me a thrill every time I use it
                                          $12 set of vintage le creuset enameled cast iron pot, saucepan and lid/shallow fry pan with a few chips missing on the sides, but nothing that affects its performance
                                          $1 toaster which I keep outside for the express purpose of broiling fish and smelly things
                                          $1 coffee grinder

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: oryza

                                            I have a friend in the restaurant business who regularly visits restaurant equipment stores. Every once in a while he finds "gently used" equipment at relative bargain prices. I have a Hobart undercounter dishwasher that he found for about 80% off retail (retail is $4,000) that had only been in use for 6 months before the place went under. I've had it for 7 years. It runs 30 loads an hour but the most I put through per use is 4 or 5.

                                            1. re: ferret

                                              Favorite find? Sakura holiday dessert/salad plates for $1 piece at a thrift store, and once a vintage scotty S & P set for a friend who had just gotten a scotty puppy (that thing is a little bastard now).

                                              Regular hunts? Vintage glassware, depression pink in particular; advertising items like tins, coasters,signs or utensils; vintage cook and "household hints" books (they're often hilarious); vintage kitchen linens; cast iron cookware; pyrex; silver or plate serving ware which is often a great bargain; vintage bar ware, especially novelty; anything black cat kitchen related because I have black cats. They are egotistical and somehow they know.

                                          2. I really haven't gone yard-saling in a long time, but when I did, I picked up a couple of fun things--a very wide spatula/pancake turner that has come in handy when the regular size just won't do, something called a "Kitchenmajig", which looks like a spatula that's somewhat curved to form a spoon and has elongated openings. It's made by Ekco (in the USA) and it's "chromium plated". And it "strains, drains, beats, blends, whips, mixes". All of this is etched onto the gadget, which I probably paid no more than 50 cents for (and probably less). My fave find is more beverage related--a new, leather travel bar, into which somebody put an old Southern Comfort pamphlet (looks to be late 60s). Paid $1.00.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: nofunlatte

                                              That "Kitchenmajig" gadget sounds like the perfect thing for poached eggs.

                                            2. cookbooks at garage sales.

                                              I found a family hand-written (fountain pen) from the early 1900's. It was mostly baked goods, so I gifted it to a professional baker friend. She was thrilled, as she collects antique baking books.

                                              I found an old chafing dish cookbook which I had garage-sale'd 20 years earlier! I knew it was mine--it had the same chocolate smears on the choc fondue page.

                                              Also fairly easy to find now are the 70's editions of Joy, Julia Child cookbooks, and the 50-60's era Farm Journal cookbooks. Many treasured recipes there.

                                              I'm still looking for Roy Andres DeGroot's 'Auberge of the Flowering Hearth'....that'd be the find of a lifetime.

                                              1. cast iron pan requiring minimal cleaning ($1), spice grinder ($2), toaster oven ($1), pasta roller with very smooth crank ($7), madeleine pan ($1), pile of prep small stainless steel prep bowls for probably $20 but i've got over 50 of them, ice cream makers with refrigeration units ($40), stemware ($.50 each), a gigantic sturdy pot that definitely doesn't fit underneath a standard hood on a stove ($3), and funny cookbooks.

                                                appliances aren't usually a problem if you remember to give it a little test. have never been lucky enough to come across the pans that some people are mentioning here though i did get a cuisinart smaller fry pan from a thrift store for $7 and it matches my current set.

                                                1. I love the vintage kitchen tables available at antique malls--the price is right, and they're gorgeous. Sometimes the enamel top ones have great Art Deco detailing.

                                                  I have a lot of vintage glass ... Pyrex is great, Anchor Hocking too. Plus I prefer the old patterns. I have lots of vintage refrigerator containers--glass, and one that's enamel with a heavy glass lid that I love. I find that food keeps longer in glass than in plastic.

                                                  And of course vintage dinnerware is great too. Some is even dishwasher safe ...

                                                  Oh, and mixing bowls. Most of my mixing bowls are vintage ...