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Apr 19, 2008 09:15 AM

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

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

* 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:

* 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


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