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Jun 26, 2011 11:11 AM

Cookware--Shiny & New vs. Vintage & Used

How to frame this question?... There are probably many variants of it that can be loaded one way or another, but lately I've been musing over the issue of why one would settle (or pay 5x) for a *new* piece of cookware when there are many equal or better pieces that can be had used? I'll try to avoid loading in phrasing a half dozen below.

Variant #1: If you must have Saucepan X, are you open to buying an equally functional used one that has some minor signs of prior use? Would buying used detract from your satisfaction of having or using the pan? Would it always be "someone else's" or could you make it your own?

Variant #2: If you learned that vintage Toaster Y (e.g., manufacturing ceased in 1953) is considered the *ne plus ultra* of that appliance and can be found occasionally on eBay for $25, would you nonetheless go out and spend $75 or more for a 2011 Toaster Z that had no crumbs inside? If both toasted equally well, which one would give you more satisfaction or tempt you to use it more?

Variant #3: If you had the choice between one vintage pan that has 25% better performance characteristics than another new pan, but the vintage pan required one additional minute of care per use than the new one, which one would you choose?

Variant #4: Are you open to the possibility that some particular thing made before you (or before your grandparents) were born will outperform anything that is offered new for sale today? Note Bene: I'm not talking about general technological progress here, but strictly Item Alpha vs. what's available new in 2011.

Variant #5: I know there are folks out there who treasure Gran's Griswold or their own antique-store rattail Sabatier for various reasons or purposes, but I'm curious if that value gets compartmentalized when it comes to adding pieces. I.e., If you have a valued vintage piece, are you really likely to go looking for another one of a different size, material, configuration, etc., or are you more likely to buy new?

Variant #6: You're at your friend's or neighbor's for a meal (the pay your voice!), and the cook is using a banged up, mongrel set of vessels and tools, none of which you even faintly recognize. When you lift fork to mouth, are your expectations likely to be *any* different than they would had your host been cooking in/with new-looking, shiny things perfectly-matched and -coordinated for finish, color and popular brand?

Just a little food for thought this weekend, take your truth serum and let us know.

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  1. Variant #1: I have among my cookpieces a number of used items. While I remember specifically many things I bought new, there are other pieces I'm not actually aware of whether they're used or new. I'm very able to make used things my own.

    Variant #2: Something electric (are you being that kind of specific?) I'd be more inclined to buy new. This comes from having wasted more dollars than I want to admit on "vintage" stereo equipment. I don't have any comparable experience with cooking equipment.

    Variant #3: I don't know. Theoretically, I wouldn't mind an extra moment's care, but in truth, I might. Not enough info.

    Variant #4: I'd be drawn initially to the older piece, but I'm not sure I'd choose it every single time. I'd much rather have a new electric ice cream maker than an old one I'd have to hand crank, but I'm not sure if that's a proper comparison (FWIW, I don't have *any* ice cream maker). In a more exact comparison, I think I'd rather have an older electric ice cream maker than a newer one, just as I prefer my original Cuisinart (1977) to the ones available today.

    Variant #5: IDK.

    Variant #6: I don't judge other people's food based on their cooking equipment. I base my opinion on the food, and whether I like how it tastes.

    1. Variant #1 - Have bought both new and used; have also given or been given pieces. I've never given it a moment's thought - once it's mine, it's mine.

      Variant #2 - That would be a decision of price and performance for me. If the vintage was less expensive and toasted as well, no thinking involved.

      Variant #3 - not really sure what kind of vintage cookware could require a moment's more maintenace ( cast iron is the only example I can come up with and new cast iron would also require maintenance) BUT I never make decisions based on ease of maintenance unless there's something really, really extreme involved in maintenance.

      Variant #4 Open to the possibility though hard to think up an example

      Variant #5 I have in fact searched out other vintage pieces based on my experience of something I already own and value so I guess the answer is the value doesn't get compartmentalized. I don't get nostalgic about the vintage pieces I own any more than the newer pieces but if something works well in my kitchen and if there is a need ( let's face it for most of us need is better defined as want when it comes to reasons to buy more cookware) I would make the new/old decision based on what the need is.

      Variant #6 - Nope. I would only judge the outcome. A good cook gets to know his or her equipment to the point that he can control outcomes. On the other hand a poor cook doesn't get any better whether the cookware is old/new/battered/cared for.

      Have to say though that Variant 6 always makes me laugh when it comes up - turn it around and ask whether shiny, new and even matched cookware would somehow detract from the food if the food was prepared by an absolutely great cook who just happened to like shiny??

      1. The kosher laws pretty much rule out used cookware and electrics. Some cookware *can* be kashered, but it involves a rabbi and blowtorch.

        2 Replies
        1. re: E_M

          "The kosher laws..."

          Really? Even if you put them in self cleaning oven for cast iron cookware... etc. What about knives? Can you sharpened a non-kosher knife (remove the edge steel) and start using one?

          I just don't see a rabbi can do a better job than you and I. I always imagine rabbi as some old dudes.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Yes, you need to completely strip the seasoning and start over, or re-tin the pot. The blowtorch is used, I believe, for stainless. Or maybe the oven. In any event, the rabbi is needed to oversee, approve, and bless the transition. Much like you don't NEED to be married by a religious head, you can stop with the civil license. But people invite religion into their lives (and kitchen) anyway.

            Our new rabbi looks like he's 16. Our old rabbi would have been fun to kasherize a kitchen with, he was also a chef.

        2. 1 possibly, but I haven't done it so far

          2 I'm happy with what I have. I'm likely to roll my eyes at anyone spouting off that I need a 1950s toaster.

          3 not enough data

          4 well ya, I cook waffles on a 80+ year old cast iron stove top iron

          5 yes, I have more than one Griswold cast iron pan

          6 I'm usually too busy visiting to notice other peoples cookware, unless they are also a cookware hound and it's the topic of conversation.

          1. #1: Absolutely fine with vintage when quality is high and price is low. Best example: Got three LeCreuset gratins of different sizes for less than $100 on ebay. All show some signs of use but still beautiful and highly functional for the next 20 years. Have made them mine; it may help that the LC gratin already here before the ebay acquisitions is itself a vintage, previously used item: my mother's.

            #2: Am in the midst of deciding whether to replace our impossibly slow-toasting and space-hogging toaster oven, which we use only for toast, with a mid-20th century one. My reluctance has much more to do with the 1960s-at-best wiring here than with the used nature of the toaster.

            #3: The better-performing pan would win, assuming it also won out in crucial matters like balance & weight, handle comfort and angle, etc. I would never decline to get a great pan because it doesn't go in the dishwasher; I rarely put pots and pans in the dw.

            #4: My grandparents were born in 1887. I'm sure there are some cast iron and copper pots out there that were made before then that are still in kitchenworthy condition, but that's going a long way back. I use several items that go back before I was born, my favorite being the Wagner skillet.

            #5: Have already shown that I don't compartmentalize (see gratins above). Am idly seeking small cast-iron skillet from same era as my existing ones (1930s).

            #6: My expectations are actually slightly higher from a host with banged-up, mongrel pans, because they're evidence s/he actually cooks. But I judge the food on the basis of the food, period, and have had delicious and ho-hum meals from both kinds of kitchens.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ellabee

              Hi, ellabee:

              Re: #4... If they were taken care of, there's no reason pieces a *lot* older than 1880 wouldn't be kitchenworthy. There is an inn on the Douro in Portugal that is an unofficial copperware museum, where they still cook in wares made up to 400 years ago. I don't have any pans *that* old, but my drip coffeemaker was made in 1844, works really well, and is sweet eye candy to boot. I have several pieces of heavy copper dating from the 1880s to 1920s that I use regularly. Then there's a stone pounder/pestle I found on the beach--maybe 1,000 years?

              We should start another thread."What's Your Oldest Piece of Cookware?"


              1. re: kaleokahu

                Do start that thread. It won't be a competition (since you've swept the field in advance with a millenial pestle ;>), and the range should be very interesting. Trying to think if anything here is older than the skillet...

                The drip coffeemaker needs to be in your post -- ideally with a photo!

                1. re: ellabee

                  Hi, ellabee:

                  I'll dig out the camera. I have it dated to 1844 because I saw exactly the same 'maker --called a "Potsdam Boiler"--in a treatise on coffeemaking. The maker is E. Dehillerin (I get to use the present tense!).

                  I'll also start the new thread, but I think the snark factor will bode ill for it.

                  There is a nice lady here on CH (from California, I think) who has the most amazing cooking fireplace. All the hearths, trivets, crane and trammel. I tried to hook her up with a place in Italy that does clockwork rotisseries. If you like older stuff, you should check out her threads on Home Cooking.


                  PS But do look-see if you have something older than your great skillet.