Our 2015 gift choices are sublime. I hope that this guide and a few tips will help you as you begin your search for the perfect gift.
I know nothing about vintage cast iron and the choices on the site are totally overwhelming!
The easy way out is a gift card for The Pan Handler LLC. You can create a gift card in any amount you choose, from $50 to $1000.
If you want to give a physical gift and you aren’t very familiar with cast iron cookware, a good starting point is to take a look at the FAQs section on the website. Scroll down to see all of the topics. The information contained in the FAQs will give you a good starting point, along with tips about how to select a vintage cast iron pan.
You may also want to look at the top header on the front page of the website under “gift ideas.” If I think a piece is particularly special or a great gift idea, I try to put it in that category. Not every great piece is in that category, but many are.
For someone just starting out with vintage cast iron, a skillet set with different sizes or a skillet with matching lid would be a great choice. Take a look the shop’s “Skillet Sets” section.
If you want to purchase just one skillet for a newbie to vintage cast iron cookware:
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 the exact measurements differ.
You might also consider the lid factor; a size 8 skillet lid by any manufacturer is probably easier to find than other sizes. If you are going with one skillet and you might want to later supplement the gift with a lid, a size 8 might be a good choice.
She already has a vintage cast iron skillet; I want to get her another piece.
If she doesn’t have a lid for her skillet, that is a nice luxury. Lids are not commonplace; it is far easier to find a vintage skillet than to find the vintage lid to fit that skillet. 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, a good choice would be to get one that is larger or smaller by at least two sizes. A size 8 pan is a “typical” first purchase. If she has a size 8, a size 5 or 6, or a size 10 or 12 would be a nice addition. In my kitchen, for example, I most often use a 5 and an 8, an old ERIE 11 that has a hairline crack, and my much-loved chicken pan.
If she has one or a few skillets, consider whether she would want to have the same, or a different, manufacturer. Some people love checking out different manufacturers and prefer not to have things too “match-y”; others prefer the aesthetic of having pans with logos that “match.” Even within the same manufacturer, there are different logos. For example, she might have a Griswold “large block” logo with heat ring. If that is what she has, she might want another pan with that same logo and heat ring but in a different size. Or, she might want to have something totally different.
If you want to branch out from skillets, consider a chicken pan (my personal favorite) or Dutch oven. 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 small dutch oven.
I want to get him something he can use for cooking outdoors and on camping adventures.
If he loves to cooks outdoors, a nice big #16 round or long griddle is great for making camp breakfasts and grilling steaks. A big skillet such as a 14 is also a wonderful luxury. Another great choice would be a chuckwagon or camp oven (don’t forget the lid lifter!) I tried using a chuckwagon while camping for the first time this year, and made a huge pot of delicious scalloped potatoes. It was so much fun to try, and they were scrumptious! A Dutch oven would also be a welcome addition to the outdoor cooking enthusiast’s arsenal.
We have the very scarce Griswold oval skillet | fish fryer in stock – one with lid and one without. We also have the BSR sportsman’s oval fish fryer AND griddle lid; these would all be great gifts for the fisher person!
You might also check out the scratch and dent section of the site. Pans that spin, have pits or a hairline crack, still work great for outdoor cooking, and you can pick these pieces up for much less than the same pan in excellent condition.
She is very particular.
Well, the easy way is to ask her what it is, exactly, that she wants. But if you want to be a bit more mysterious, give her a gift card for a merchandise credit from The Pan Handler LLC! You can purchase a gift card in any amount between $50 and $1000. They are good for five years, so she will have plenty of time to peruse the site and watch for her perfect piece to be offered for sale. 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 virtual gift card option is that it will be instantly emailed to her. Or, if you prefer, we can email it to you, you can package it up in a big mysterious box, gift wrap it, and stick it under the tree.
Another idea is to ask her to just take a look at the shop on The Pan Handler LLC website, or look at it together. She can treat it like a virtual Sears Toy Catalogue, and write down pieces that she would like to have. Or, you can just take note of when she “oohs” and “aahs” as she looks at particular pieces. Then you will have a handy-dandy list that you can use for every occasion!
He cooks with modern-day cast iron, and I want to turn him on to vintage.
Look for a skillet with thin walls and a satiny smooth cooking surface, such as the early Griswold, ERIE, Wapak, Wagner, Sidney, Vollrath, and Favorite Piqua Ware pans. He will be amazed at the difference in weight, and appreciate the smooth cooking surface.
It also helps if you know what kind of cooktop he has. If he has raised gas or electric burners or primarily uses the pan on a grill or outdoors, a bit of a wobble in a pan is not a big deal. I have a glass cooktop, and a small wobble is not a problem. If he cooks on 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. In my opinion, some folks go way overboard with “sits flat” hysteria. A pan does not have to sit perfectly flat to be a great cooker and display piece. There is no need to shun a pan if it has just a small amount of movement when pressing along the upper edge. If it spins, however, then it needs to be on a cooktop with raised burners.
She 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 sell reproductions of the vintage recipe and instruction manuals for the various patty molds.
We also have turk head pans, gem pans, a variety of wheat and corn stick pans, waffle irons including a scarce Griswold French waffle iron, and the coveted Griswold heart and star pan. These pans are wonderful for baking and beautiful for display.
For bakers, it is always nice to have a decorative trivet for hot pans, too!
He already has everything!
Sure, he might have a selection of vintage cast iron cookware, but does he have a Chicken Pan? Dutch oven or Roaster? Large skillet? Small skillet? Waffle iron? Long griddle? Round griddle? Deep Fat Fryer? Breakfast pan? Oval skillet? Square Skillet? Skillet Griddle? 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? Does he need a trivet to fit into one of his Dutch ovens or skillets or a lid? How about a miniature piece? If he has a sad iron, how about a trivet upon which to display it?
Take a look around the site at the shop categories other than “skillets.” We offer a wide variety of vintage cast iron pieces.
If he really does have everything (like Harold R. Henry, about whom we wrote a blog post a few months back), consider an accessory. We have generously-sized chain mail scrubbers. We also have wonderful panhandlers which serve to protect hands from the heat of a cast iron skillet handle. We have many in stock in different colors; all handmade and hand-felted. One customer purchased very brightly-colored panhandlers for her elderly parents. She said their eyesight was failing and she wanted to make sure that there was a big contrast between the panhandler and the skillet handle, so they’d know if the handler was on. I thought that was a very considerate gift!
If he really does have everything, he certainly needs a display rack or two. Or three or four. We have griddle and shallow skillet racks, 7-slot skillet racks, exclusive custom 8-slot skillet racks, 3, 6, 8-sized skillet racks, 6, 8, 10-sized skillet racks, and 6, 8-sized skillet racks. The racks fit a variety of sizes; not just those listed. I use the 6, 8 skillet rack in my own kitchen; it holds my #5 and #8 pans. We have only had the racks a short time, and they are very hot sellers. We had the 8-slot, 3-slot, and 2-slot racks made to our precise specifications. You will not find these high-quality racks anywhere else; they are exclusive to The Pan Handler LLC.
She is a foodie.
Of course, I think that all vintage cast iron skillets are wonderful and cook beautifully. Griswold small logo and Iron Mountain skillets are praised as great cookers. The Iron Mountain pans are a personal favorite of mine; I have and use the size 5, 12, and 14 as well as the Iron Mountain chicken pan. Other pans can also be great cookers, of course; look for pans with satin-smooth glassy cooking surfaces.
If she has a convection cooktop, you may wish to consider a smooth-bottom skillet (instead of one with a heat ring) and look to see that the description says the pan sits flat, or that any movement is minimal. On convection cooktops, the entire bottom surface of the pan needs to make contact with the cooktop. I think there is a bit of unnecessary excitement over this issue in the vintage cast iron cookware world, however. I have seen pans with heat rings (and pans that do not sit perfectly flat) cook wonderfully on convection cooktops, so I wouldn’t be too worried about it either way as long as any movement is minimal. Pans with heat rings also work just fine on glass cooktops; all of my pans have heat rings and I cook on a glass cooktop.
If she has a cooktop with raised burners, the issue of a heat ring is a non-issue. Similarly, a cooktop with raised burners tolerates more movement of a pan than does a convection cooktop.
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 or Filley – do a search for the word “antique.” Also take a look at the “unknown makers” category on the site. Check out the Sidney cursive logo, the BEST TO COOK IN Favorite skillets, the Wapak “Indian Head” logo, the Favorite “smiley” logo, the Martin “hamburger” logo, our hammered Chicago Hardware Foundry skillet with lid, and some of our cool waffle and wafer irons.
View our “scratch and dent” section, which has some pieces that have history and have lived a life (as have we all) and are looking for a new home where they will be well-cared-for and of service. Consider one of the skillets with the pitting on the bottom – these are typically pieces that are very old and have pitting as a result of cooking over an old coal or gas stove.
How about a sad iron to use as a paperweight or door stop? An ashtray for its intended use or as a spoon rest? A wonderful outdoor stove / hot plate? How about a kettle or bowl filled with candy, fruit, or a potted plant? A Griswold heat regulator? Breakfast skillet? Fajita pan with underplate? Look for some of our more esoteric pieces.
She is a collector, or only the best will do.
Do a product search on the site for the words “minty” “near-mint,” and “excellent.”Sometimes when I am listing hundreds of pieces, however, I get tired of using the same words as superlatives and I burst into “new word” mode, so not every single wonderful piece has those words in the listing, but many do. 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.”
In my opinion, Griswold is the most collectible, and most collected, of vintage cast iron cookware. If he is a collector or you think he will start collecting, I’d suggest that you purchase a Griswold piece unless he already has accumulated pieces from one of the other manufacturers, such as Wagner, Favorite, Lodge, Martin, or Wapak.
You might also consider something high-end such as the Griswold ERIE spider skillet, Griswold #13 slant logo skillet, set of Griswold large block logo EPU skillets, Griswold small logo skillet set, Griswold oval skillet with lid, Griswold French waffle iron, Griswold #20 hotel skillet, a #14 skillet, #2 skillet, Griswold sun dial, Griswold Heart & Star pan, set of Wagner skillets, Griswold turk head pan, Griswold cake mold set, or any of the other skillet sets we offer.
I don’t care about a name brand; I just want to get him 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 her a good “user.”
I hear this a lot. I know that the choices can seem overwhelming. See above info in the first section relating to “I know nothing about vintage cast iron and the choices on the site are overwhelming!” Read my article on selecting a vintage cast iron skillet.
If you do not care about the manufacturer, first narrow down the size (see the “I know nothing…” section). I frequently recommend starting with a size 8, though my friend Jan Z, who teaches cast iron cooking classes, recommends that her students start with a size 5.
Once you have settled on a size, consider the factors that have been previously discussed and the factors that may be important to you such as: age, aesthetics, logo, pitting or lack thereof, smoothness of cooking surface, price, heat ring or lack thereof. After you have considered these factors, you can do a search for skillet by size. Then, to the extent that your 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.
I have a tight budget.
You can sort 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 manufacturer. Additionally, smaller more common-sized skillets, such as 3, 5, and 6 are typically more budget-friendly than less common and larger skillets. You might also want to consider an accessory such as a chain mail scrubber, rack, or panhandler.
Also, 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 LLC); details are available from PayPal when you check out.
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 virtual gift card. We can turn that around VAVOOM. When you purchase it, the virtual gift card will be emailed to your recipient (or you, if you put in your email address instead of the recipient’s).
If you are purchasing a cast iron piece and … ooops you should have started looking earlier … you can upgrade handling and shipping for a hefty fee. Cast iron is very expensive to ship, of course, and rush shipping exponentially increases that cost. If you need rush shipping, you can select it at checkout. You may also email me at the time of purchase to inquire as to additional cost for upgraded shipping; I can always invoice you for the additional cost. Around the holidays, Linda and I put our Santa hats on and work pretty much around the clock to securely pack and ship your packages just as fast as we can; we will do our best for you!
Wrap it, please!
We offer two gift wrap options at checkout. One is for the “rustic” burlap with raffia and felted ornament; the other is for the a pretty gift bag with tissue paper, felted ornament, and raffia bow. Both are $15. 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 do our best, but if it the gift is being sent directly to the recipient, the wrap will need to be the burlap, as the gift bag would get all crumpled and yecch in shipping. Also note that sometimes the gift bag just will not work (i.e. the piece you selected is too large for the gift bag). In that case, we will automatically substitute.
You also will have the option at checkout to have us include an enclosure that identifies the piece gifted, talks about The Pan Handler LLC’s pans, and lets the recipient know just how collectible and valuable the piece is. This is especially nice when you are gifting to a vintage cast iron newbie; with all the effort and expense you undertook to secure this fabulous gift, you want them to understand just how very special it is!
Happy holiday hunting. Thanks for stopping and shopping!