Use thrift stores as a guide for your cookware collection

EYB Members have frequently posted about the great items they discover at thrift stores. Whether it’s a wonderful cookbook, vintage cookware, or a gorgeous serving piece, there is a thrill involved in digging through the shelves to find the perfect gem. But the things you pass over – and the things you don’t find at these stores in the first place – can be used as a guide for what you really need to stock your kitchen.

thrift store cookware

Let’s start with the items – okay, junk – you must dig through in order to find the treasures. Thrift stores teem with gadgets and small appliances that were once the “must-have” new item. Consider how many pizza cookers and popcorn poppers litter the shelves at secondhand stores before spending your hard-earned money on something that is heavily advertised. They end up discarded for a reason. Do you see yourself actually using it enough to justify the purchase? Does it take up valuable counter space that you are going to want back in a few months? Do you really need to have a divided frying pan or countertop cheese maker

Then there are the things you don’t see in thrift stores. How many large Le Creuset or Staub dutch ovens grace the shelves? When is the last time you saw tri-ply cookware or heavy duty half-sheet pans? For me, the answer to those questions is none and never. Quality items like those are treasures that see constant kitchen use, and at least one person in the family will want it once its owner passes on or tires of it. This is the type of cookware that you should strive to purchase, even if it means doing without for a while. 

Despite the scarcity of high-quality cookware and the copious quantity of last year’s overpriced gadgets, I will continue to haunt thrift stores. Today I picked up a good condition Joy of Cooking (1953) to round out my collection, and paid only a trifle for it. I passed up a few other items, however, using the wisdom gained from previous impulse buys to temper my enthusiasm. If you can avoid the temptation to buy things you won’t use, thrift and secondhand stores still offer potential. 

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  • Christine  on  June 28, 2018

    In the spring, there are always a bunch of community garage sales by me — usually run by schools or churches as fundraisers — and they have tons of stuff for sale because so many people contribute items. So like a thrift store, it’s very hit-or-miss. Last year though, I couldn’t believe my luck to find a few decades old, but in perfect working order, cookie press for my mom. This particular older model is the best one we’ve ever used for the family Christmas cookie recipe and at one point everyone in the family had their own. I bought mine on EBay after I got married because I wanted the same one as Mom, Grandma, and aunts! My mom’s had seen a lot of use though and eventually broke and we never had been able to replace it — until I spotted that ($3!) treasure among the junk! She was pretty surprised to say the least.

  • inflytur  on  June 28, 2018

    The adverse is to ONLY buy specialized small appliances at thrift stores. Sure, you love waffles but how often will you really make them?
    Buy a cheap version and only upgrade when you find yourself frustrated because the thrift version can’t keep up with how often you use it.
    If you are looking for something special let all your thrifting friends know. It took months, but eventually a friend found a popover pan I’ve been lusting after.

  • Frogcake  on  June 28, 2018

    I agree that high quality cookware is a rare find at thrift stores. That said, I did purchase an older Le Creuset Dutch oven at a thrift store (in good condition) several years ago for $15. Other treasures I’ve found include: Lodge cast iron pans for $10 (i reseasoned them), high quality Henkel knives (resharpened and cleaned), and authentic depression glass. I’ve also fully and cheaply equipped my sons’ kitchens at university with great stuff such as nested French white Corningware casserole dishes. Better stuff than I ever had at that age. Lesson here is there’s always a chance you might find a treasure buried in the crap!

  • ejsimpson  on  June 28, 2018

    I have found many treasures, yes Le Creuset, a Boos block for $2.00, a Kitchen aid mixer for $15.00. And yes lots of junk..but my treasures are worth going there.

  • LDGourmet  on  June 29, 2018

    Spot on.

  • kestypes  on  July 12, 2018

    In nearly hyperventilated when I found a Catherineholm saucepan on the reduced table at the op shop (I'm in australia, that's what we call thrift shops)… for… $1!

  • annieski  on  July 13, 2018

    We call it "Goodwill Hunting"!

  • manycookbooks  on  July 14, 2018

    I have to say that probably 70% of my cookbooks were purchased at thrift stores, garage sales, etc. The thrill of the hunt!

  • Hawky  on  July 25, 2018

    It's the neighborhood estate sales for me from which I've stocked a good deal of my kitchen with bowls, gadgets, pans, and colanders. Many of the sales are in homes where folks stocked their kitchens in the 50's thru the 80's so I'm getting original, solid, made in the USA quality items.

  • KarenDel  on  August 14, 2018

    I found a 7L Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker today for $2. A few weeks ago an Anova sousvide pod (again $2). And many other AMAZING quality finds! So fortunate to live 3 miles away!

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