The Pan Handler’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide
Oh my goodness, where to begin?
I know nothing about vintage cast iron and the choices on the site are overwhelming!
If you aren’t very familiar with cast iron cookware, a good starting point is to take a look at the FAQs section on the site. Scroll down to see all of the topics. This information will give you a good starting point, along with tips about how to select a vintage cast iron pan.
If he doesn’t yet have vintage cast iron cookware, a “starter” skillet set with different sizes or a skillet with matching lid would be a great choice. Take a look at the “Gift Ideas” category on the shop site, along with the shop’s “Skillet Sets” section.
If this is his first piece and you are going to get just one skillet:
Remember, the size number of the skillet does not equate to the inches in diameter. A size 8 is typically about 10-1/2″ in diameter. Pans typically go up or down 1/2″ for each size, though manufacturers differ.
If your budget permits, a lid for the skillet is a nice luxury.
She already has one vintage cast iron skillet; I want to get her another piece.
If she doesn’t have a lid for her skillet, that’s a nice thing to have. You need to know the manufacturer of her pan, though, so that you can be sure that the lid will fit. A size 8 lid from one manufacturer does not necessarily fit a size 8 skillet from a different manufacturer.
If you want to get her another skillet, it’s nice to have another that is up or down at least two sizes. In my kitchen, for example, I most often use a 5 and an 8, as well as my much-loved chicken pan.
Consider whether she would want to have the same, or different, manufacturer. Some people love checking out different manufacturers; others prefer the aesthetic of having pans that “match” logo-wise. Even with manufacturers, there are different logos. For example, she might have a Griswold “large block” logo with heat ring. She thus may want a pan that has that same logo, but a different size.
If you want to branch out from skillets, consider a chicken pan (my personal favorite). In my kitchen, in addition to my number 5, I routinely use my Griswold number 8 skillet, and a Griswold Iron Mountain chicken pan and lid. The Iron Mountain lid fits both the Griswold skillet and the Iron Mountain chicken pan, which is a nice bonus. The lid is a “high dome,” so my chicken pan also does double duty as a dutch oven.
A griddle is also a nice piece to have. If she cooks outdoors, a nice big round or long griddle is great for making camp breakfasts and grilling steaks. If she cooks indoors, look for a griddle that will fit over her burner(s).
He is very particular.
Of course you can always ask him what exactly he wants, but if you want to be a bit more mysterious…
Give him a gift certificate for merchandise from The Pan Handler! We have a new option this year that permits you to buy a store credit in any amount and gift it to a lucky recipient. Gift certificates are not redeemable for cash, and must be used on or before November 1, 2015.
For someone who is very particular, a card for merchandise credit is a great gift. It enables the recipient to get exactly what they want.
Another nice thing about the gift certificate option is that you can instantly email it to your recipient. The Pan Handler emails you the coupon code; you can send it to your lucky recipient. Or, if you prefer, we can mail out a physical gift card to the recipient with the coupon code printed on it.
Another idea is to ask him to make a wish list on The Pan Handler website. When looking at a piece on the site, there is an option to “add to wish list.” A wish list enables the recipient to select various pieces they would like to have, and then gives you the option to select from that group. This narrows the field quite a bit for you.
She cooks with modern-day cast iron, and I want to turn her on to vintage.
Look for a skillet with thin walls and a satiny smooth cooking surface, such as the early Griswold, Wapak, Wagner, Vollrath, and Favorite Piqua Ware pans. She will be amazed at the difference in weight, and appreciate the smooth cooking surface.
Know what kind of cooktop she has. If she has raised burners or primarily uses the pan on a grill or outdoors, a bit of a wobble in a pan is not a big deal. For a convection cooktop, it is more important that the pan “sits flat,” so that all areas of the bottom of the pan are in contact with the cooktop.
He loves to bake.
Look at the “baking pans, cake molds” section of the site, as well as the “patty mold” section. You will find a dizzying array of pans for bakers. From gem and muffin pans to bread and cornstick pans, to patty molds galore, there is something to please every baker. We also have the manuals for the various patty molds available.
We also have the Griswold cake molds; the Santa, lamb, (including the leg-forward lamb, which is the largest and hardest to come by), and the rabbit. Those are very fun and also quite decorative and special.
We also have some of the more scarce and collectible Griswold pieces, including: the large turk head pan and the small turk head pan, a variety of wheat and corn stick pans, French waffle iron, and the heart and star pan. These pans are wonderful for baking and beautiful for display.
For bakers, it is always nice to have a trivet for your hot pots, too!
She already has everything!
Sure, she might have a selection of vintage skillets, but does she have a chicken pan? Dutch oven or Roaster? Large skillet? Small skillet? Waffle iron? Long griddle? Round griddle? Breakfast pan? Oval skillet? Fish skillet? Square Skillet? Grill pan? Sad iron? Trivet? Patty mold or cake mold? Gem or Muffin Pan? How about a Plett or Aebleskiver pan? Bowl or kettle? Griswold ash tray? Citrus squeezer? Does she need a trivet to fit into one of her Dutch ovens or skillets? Chain mail scrubbie? Panhandler?
Take a look around the site at the shop categories other than “skillets.” There are a wide variety of vintage cast iron pieces. Also check to see if she has lids for her vintage cast iron pans; they can be hard to come by and are often sold separately.
He is a foodie.
If he has a ceramic cooktop, consider a smooth-bottom skillet (instead of one with a heat ring) and make sure the description says that the pan sits flat. If he has a gas or electric range, it doesn’t matter as much if the pan has a slight wobble.
She is a collector.
Go for a Griswold unless she already has accumulated pieces from one of the other brands, such as Wagner, Favorite, Lodge, Martin, or Wapak. Griswold is the most commonly collected of the cast iron cookware lines.
If she already collects cast iron cookware, try to see what her collection is missing. Does she have a fish skillet? Square skillet? Chuck Wagon? Dutch Oven? Waffle iron? Baking or muffin pan? Lids? Is there a particular size skillet or lid that she doesn’t have that would round out her collection?
For the highest quality pieces on the site, do a search on the site for “minty” “near mint” and “excellent” pieces. Of course, sometimes I get tired of using the same lingo and start throwing out “superb” and “spectacular” and “collector’s quality” or “gorgeous” and “lovely”, but those three terms will give you a good start. Also, searching for “scarce” or “rare” is a good way to get right to some of our highly collectible pieces. I don’t throw those two words around loosely, so if I use them in the listing you can be sure that the pan is indeed “scarce” or “rare.”
If you know she does collect a particular brand of cookware such as Griswold, check to see what the logo looks like and try to find a pan with a matching logo (i.e. large block logo, slant logo, small logo). You can see photos of the various Griswold logos in the blog post “Griswold logos.”
He prefers things that are offbeat.
Consider one of the lesser-known makers, such as Wapak or Favorite or Griswold’s Victor line. Look for some of the really old pieces, like Waterman, Filley, and Griswold’s old ERIE line. Also take a look at the “unknown makers” category on the site. The Sidney cursive logo pans are amazingly cool.
Consider a piece other than a skillet. View our “scratch and dent” section, which has some pieces that have history and have lived a life (as have we all) and need a new home where they will be well-cared-for and of service.
We have some ultra cool waffle irons, including hammered, heart, and funky unknown makers. The Wapak Indian Medallion skillets are very cool. How about a sad iron or hatmaker’s iron to be used as a paperweight or door stop? An ashtray as a spoon rest? A wonderful outdoor stove / hot plate? Or do like I did and get a variety of Handi Hostess kits and patty molds and have a patty mold party! How about a decorative kettle or bowl filled with candy or popcorn or fruit? A Griswold heat regulator? Skillet grill? Quaker pan? Citrus squeezer? Look for some of our more esoteric pieces.
Only the best will do.
Do a product search on the site for the words “minty” “near-mint,” “excellent,” and “collector’s quality.” Search for the words “scarce” and “rare.” As noted above, I don’t throw those two words around lightly. If I say a piece is scarce or rare, in my opinion, it is.
You might also consider something high-end such as the Griswold fish skillet with lid, Griswold sun dial, Griswold French waffle iron, Griswold #14 skillet with lid, Griswold #13 oval skillet, Griswold #13 skillet, Griswold heart star pan, Griswold turk head pan, Griswold hammered waffle iron, Griswold #11 Dutch Oven, Griswold square skillet with lid, a Griswold mold set, Griswold skillet set, or Griswold skillet with lid.
I don’t care about a name brand; I just want to get her a really old piece.
Do a search on the site for the word “antique.” Those are pieces that I believe to be more than 100 years old.
I don’t care about a name brand; I just want to get him a good “user.”
See above info in the first section relating to “I know nothing about vintage cast iron and the choices on the site are overwhelming!”
To pick a skillet if you do not care about the manufacturer, first narrow down the size (see the “I know nothing…” section). Then consider the factors noted above that matter to you (cooktop type, aesthetics, logo, pitting, wall thickness, heat ring, condition, etc.) and do a search for skillet by size. Then, to the extent that you budget is at play, sort the products in that size by price from high to low or low to high. Pick through the skillets until you find one that has the qualities that you want, at a price that works for you. You can save skillets and compare them with each other to help you decide by clicking on the “compare” button on each product page, too.
He’s really outdoorsy; the pan will be used for camp cooking.
Oh Chuck Wagon, I hear your name. 🙂
Big griddles round and long, skillets. Scratch and dent skillets, griddles, and Dutch ovens are often a good choice for this type of cooker; it matters little if the pan sits flat and it’s okay if there is a hairline crack or a bit of pitting. The purpose is to get the job done….campfire cooking!
I have a tight budget.
As noted elsewhere herein, you can search any of the shop categories by price. That will help to narrow down pieces that are in your price range.
You might also take a look at the section of the shop marked “scratch and dent.” You will find pieces in that category that have flaws and have been substantially marked down. The section for “other /unknown / unmarked” pieces also has some budget-friendly pieces. Also, Lodge and Birmingham Stove & Range pieces are often more budget-friendly than those of some manufacturers that I consider to be more collectible. Additionally, smaller more common-sized skillets, such as 3, 5, and 6 are typically more budget-friendly than less common and larger skillets.
At check out, you have the option to pay via credit or debit card, in addition to paying through PayPal. PayPal offers the option to “buy now, pay later.” This is a financing agreement between you and PayPal (not The Pan Handler); details are available when you check out.
I don’t know what kind of cast iron he already has, but I know he has some.
If you know that he has cast iron cookware and you want to supplement what he has, you are best off asking him, nosing through his cookware, or asking someone who cooks with him what he already has. If you don’t want to any of these things, I’d suggest that you consider something other than a size 8 skillet. Skillets are typically the first vintage cast iron purchase that a person makes, and a size 8 is a common first purchase. Either go for a larger, smaller, or deeper (chicken pan) skillet, or move away from skillets altogether.
I want to get a lid for a pan that she already has.
You need to know what size and make of pan she has before you try to buy a lid for that pan. Lids do not have a universal fit. A #8 Wagner lid, for example, will likely not fit a #8 Wapak pan. Even if the same maker of the lid makes the pan, the fit can vary. For example, Wagner skillet lids do not necessarily fit Wagner chicken pans. Moreover, Dutch oven lids are different from skillet lids.
Griswold skillet lids fit Griswold and Iron Mountain skillets regardless of logo; look for the number on the lid that matches the number on the pan (i.e. 8, 9, 10).
I want to get him something amazing that he can pass down to his children and grandchildren.
All of the vintage cast iron pieces on the site are made to last a lifetime and then some. Many of the pieces of the site already have lasted through at least one lifetime.
If you are looking for pans that are the most collectible and will hold their value, I recommend Griswold (including “ERIE“, Victor, and Iron Mountain). As to the different Griswold logos, see this blog post.
My recommendation after Griswold is Wagner.
Another option, of course, is to look at the various pans and see which ones “speak” to you (e.g. a lot of folks really like the Favorite “smiley” logo); go for that one. Of course, what he will use and enjoy and love, is what you want to get him.
Oh geez, I dilly-dallied too long…I need that gift RIGHT NOW!
If you need it now…as in right now…as in immediately via the web, then your best option is the gift certificate / merchandise credit. We can turn that around VAVOOM. When you purchase, the coupon code for redemption will automatically be emailed to you. You can then email it to your recipient, or print it off and wrap it. Or, if you prefer and there is time, we can mail the gift card to your recipient.
If you are purchasing a cast iron piece and … ooops you should have started looking earlier … be sure to email me right away upon purchase. I can check into the cost to upgrade your shipping so that it arrives sooner than it typically would via USPS Priority Mail or FedEx. Around the holidays, Linda and I put our Santa hats on and work pretty much around the clock to pack and ship your packages just as fast as we can. We will do our best for you!
Enough already! I don’t have time for a crash course in vintage cast iron; I just want to buy a gift…now!
If you feel lost in a sea of pans, email us through the “contact” form at the bottom of the home page and give some detail on what you’re looking for; we’re happy to make suggestions!
Wrap it, please!
We offer two gift wrap options at checkout. One is for the “rustic” burlap with felted ornament; the other is for the pretty gift bag with tissue paper and raffia bow. Both are $7. We wrap the piece in the burlap; for the gift bags, we enclose the folded gift bag, tissue paper, and raffia.
Please note that we’ll do our best, but if it the gift is being sent directly to the recipient, it will need to be the burlap, as the bag would get all crumpled and yecch in shipping. Also note that sometimes one just will not work (i.e. too large for the gift bag). In that case, we automatically substitute.
Happy holiday hunting – thanks for stopping and shopping!