Expert advice for saving and spending your money wisely.
If you like spending time in the kitchen, buying yourself brand new cooking tools can feel a little (or a lot) like Christmas morning. Yet the excitement over fresh-from-the-factory devices is often accompanied with a little (or a lot) of sticker shock. After all, excitement-worthy gadgets are typically not cheap. That’s where secondhand tools come in. These already-used items can be a great low-cost alternative, though they shouldn’t be your go-to for every purchase for safety and quality reasons.
So, how can you smartly split your bucks between brand-new tools versus secondhand? Here, two pro chefs break it down.
The Advantages of Buying New Kitchen Tools
The main advantage of buying new is that you’re guaranteed your tools have no history of abuse or wear and tear, says Nathan Lyon, Los Angeles-based professional chef. “Starting with new means (with proper care and maintenance) a long and productive life cooking in your kitchen.”
Another plus to brand new bigger ticket items, like appliances, is warranty. “A used item, unless refurbished, is unlikely to still be covered under warranty, which often translates to ‘buy at your own risk,’” says Lyon.
The Advantages of Buying Used Kitchen Tools
The obvious one: “Used kitchen tools can be an incredible deal,” says Lyon. “You can get great discounts when an item is used, and even if it’s a little scuffed up, many tools can be restored to ‘good as new’ condition.” Case-in-point: the last two high-powered blenders Lyon purchased were both refurbished (each came with a new warranty), which saved him more than 50 percent off retail cost.
Another perk is that most antique and thrift store kitchen tools come already beautifully aged, explains Lyons, which is “something you simply can’t purchase new.” Also, consider that some former models may actually be more efficient than the current model on the market, adds Claudia Sidoti, head chef at meal kit delivery service HelloFresh.
That said, if you are buying used items, particularly more costly things like large appliances, ensure that they are covered under warranty, advises Lyon. “The last thing you want is to pay hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars for used ‘big ticket’ items only to discover costly problems that aren’t covered under warranty,” he warns.
What Tools Should You Buy New?
Because of the warranty risks mentioned above, Lyon advises buying big appliances—like ovens, ranges, dishwashers, and fridges—brand new.
He also recommends purchasing Microplanes, box graters and vegetable peelers in their original state. “Once dull, these items are not easily sharpened,” he explains. Another good bet: silicone and rubber spatulas and spoons “as many used versions can have some cracking or even melting in places from heavy use,” he says. “If you do opt for used, be sure to thoroughly inspect them for signs of wear and tear before purchasing.”
Sidoti prefers purchasing cutting boards new—both from a food safety perspective and a flavor perspective. “Sometimes old cutting boards have absorbed strong oils from garlic, onion and herbs and if not cleaned properly, that flavor can be transferred into delicate ingredients when using the same board,” she explains.
What Tools Should You Purchase Secondhand?
Aside from the recommendations mentioned above, “as long as the original owner didn’t abuse the kitchen tools in question, practically anything can be purchased used,” says Lyon.
Examples include heavy, good-quality pots and pans of practically any material, from cast iron or aluminum to copper or stainless steel. “If they were well maintained by the prior owner, usually a deep cleaning will bring the cookware up to ‘good as new’ condition,” says Lyon.
Kitchen knives are another good secondhand bet. “A dull knife simply needs to be sharpened to bring it back to its prime,” says Lyon. Purchase a knife sharpener—either new or used—and your blades “will stay razor sharp.”
Mixing bowls, especially old vintage ones, can also be bought used, adds Sidoti. They’re typically sturdy enough to have withstood any damage from prior owners, and if they’re old enough, the vintage design can “dress up your kitchen,” she says. Rolling pins, which are similarly difficult to damage, are also okay as hand-me-downs, she adds.
Where to Buy Secondhand Tools
Visit your local Goodwill, antique stores, flea markets, garage sales, and online sites like Craigslist and eBay for great deals on used kitchen items, recommends Lyon.