Thread Number: 41337  /  Tag: Small Appliances
Nostalgia purchase: GE Electric Skillet
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Post# 438359   2/8/2021 at 13:46 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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So I was out running errands earlier today and like an alcoholic wandering into a bar, I stopped by a Goodwill store and made an interesting find—a GE Electric skillet from probably sometime around 1960. It's heavy cast aluminum, about 12-14 inches in diameter, with the thermostat built into the handle instead of the cord. I don't think I've ever seen one that was round but it brought back memories, nonetheless. Mom had a larger, square one when I was a kid that also had the the thermostat in the handle. I swear I think Mom used that thing more than she used the stove top. She was famous for making one-pan meals to minimize cleanup, especially when Dad was out of town for business, which was two or three nights a week. I also remember helping her prepare dinner in it, sitting at the dinette table in our Winnebago while we were going down the road. My main job was to keep hold of the handle so the skillet wouldn't slide. Dad would want to cover as many miles as possible, so after Mom, my sister and I had eaten, then we'd make a quick stop at a rest area so Mom could fix Dad a plate and put the leftovers away, then take over driving while Dad ate.

The funny thing was when I first saw the skillet, the cord wasn't with it but there was loose plastic wrap around the handle, which told me the cord likely had been there. Looking around on the shelf to see if I could find it, or at least one that fit. I eventually spotted an off-brand coffee urn with a similar socket to the one in the handle of the skillet and inside was a GE cord. No doubt, someone had grabbed the cord from the skillet and then decided against purchasing the coffee urn.

When I got it home, I washed it and pan seared some hot dogs for lunch. It worked quite well. I don't know how accurate the thermostat is and I don't feel any 'click' when I turn it to the 'off' position; in fact, when I plugged it in with the thermostat turned to 'off', the indicator light came on and I could feel the pan heating up momentarily, but then the indicator blinked off after a few seconds. Definitely not something I'd want to walk away from for an extended period while I was cooking. I'm tempted to take the handle apart and at least spray the thermostat with some contact cleaner.

I don't know how much I'll actually use the thing but it's kind of cute and it only cost me $4.50. It was priced at $5.00 but Monday is senior day so I played the age card and took 10 percent off. The nostalgia of hearing it make that little 'plink, plink, plink' noise as it heated and cooled was worth the price of admission.

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Post# 438369 , Reply# 1   2/8/2021 at 18:44 by suckolux (Yuba City, CA)        

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I remember in the '60s, it seemed like everyone had one or two! I've never seen one with the control in the handle, I guess double use for your percolator cord! Cool find Edgar

Post# 438371 , Reply# 2   2/8/2021 at 20:49 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Nice find at a great price!
I have not seen the round ones either (until now).
I have my mom's old square one, along with the manual. I also have a larger Sunbeam one from a thrift store. I also have a couple pancake griddles with these same controls. None of these controls had detent for OFF, so that might be normal for them. The nice thing is that controls are still available. The only issue I find are with burned contacts in the thermostat. However a light filing often restores them.
Take reasonable care of it and it may serve you for a lifetime.

Post# 438373 , Reply# 3   2/8/2021 at 21:30 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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Yeah, this one's pretty unusual. I took the handle loose to spray contact cleaner on the thermostat. I was really surprised to find that the knob on the end of the handle isn't on a rheostat. It's connected to a long shaft that goes to a simple thermocouple up next to the pan. After I got it all back together, I decided to test its accuracy by turning the thermostat up to 250 degrees and testing it empty with the a digital multimeter I have that has a temperature probe. It registered closer to 270 but guess that's not bad and maybe it would have been a more accurate test had I put water in the pan and tested temperature of the water instead of the metal.

You may be onto something about the percolator cord. Using an existing standard part would reduce production cost but I'm sure this one was an early design before they figured out that putting the thermostat on the cord makes it easier to wash. But then, West Bend made electric woks in both configurations in the late '80s. I had one with the thermostat built into the base but my sister had one with the thermostat built into the cord. I think electric skillets were ultimately displaced by microwave ovens and then in more recent years by George Foreman grills. But you can't cook pancakes on a Foreman, which is what I think I may do with my electric skillet this weekend.

Post# 438433 , Reply# 4   2/9/2021 at 19:19 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Yes, that long probe is the temp sensor for the thermostat. It does not care what the appliance is, just what the temperature is.
This design is clever so that the control can be used for many different appliances - skillets, percolators, griddles, coffee urns...
Some designs were even shared along brands, like GE and Sunbeam so the controls interchanged. This saved us a few times when a control went bad at breakfast - just grab one from a different appliance.
And when the control was unfixable, you can get a new one and keep the appliance.
This is the way it should be - no wonder we still have them.

Enjoy your pancakes this weekend. Just don't touch the griddle when it is on... I remember doing that when I was about 5 and still remember they get HOT!! :o)

Post# 438460 , Reply# 5   2/10/2021 at 08:37 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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Yes, they do get very hot and they cool down very slowly. I used it last night to brown some ground beef for burritos for my friend's 11-year-old daughter, who was hanging out at my house while her mother worked. She found the idea of a frying pan with legs to be very disconcerting.

I know what you mean about the interchangeability of those thermostat cords. Just for fun one time, I used one from an old GE frying pan on a West Bend electric wok. It worked just fine. Of course, manufacturers today would each make theirs just enough different that it would prevent interchangeability.

Post# 438657 , Reply# 6   2/13/2021 at 14:55 by human (Pines of Carolina)        
Pancake Breakfast...

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As promised, I celebrated the weekend this morning with pancakes made in my GE electric skillet. All I can say is that's the best thing I've made in it yet. It took a little time for the skillet to heat up to the desired temperature but then they cooked very fast but nothing got burnt and I had less of a problem with things sticking than I do in my non-stick pans. Honestly, these were some of the best pancakes I've ever made. I'm sure my blood sugar has been outrageous today but it was worth it. Sorry I didn't get pictures but I was too busy making and eating them to even think about grabbing a camera. We've been having an ice storm the past two days and I finished breakfast just in time for the power to go out. I'm over at a friend's, using their Internet to grade papers online.

Post# 438700 , Reply# 7   2/14/2021 at 03:32 by kirbyklekter (Concord,Ca.)        
I have two

Sunbeam fry pans handed down from family and they have always been handy when I need to free up a burner on the stove. What's different about cooking with these is that they cycle on and off a lot, much like a toaster oven. Not a lot of "space" to store residual heat like an oven has, so if your needing constant heat while cooking,best use the stove top.

You can't get to the heating element because it's molded into the underside of the pan,but that's alright, there's been no need to in the 60 plus years we've been using it! They are heavy like a cast iron pan, a lot heavier than the new pans of today.

Post# 438770 , Reply# 8   2/14/2021 at 22:38 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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I had a conventional square electric frying pan once before, probably made in the '70s or maybe early '80s. My grandmother gave me. I think someone had passed it on to her but she wasn't using it. I don't remember the brand. It was yellow, Teflon coated and not nearly as solidly constructed as the one I just got—much thinner metal. I kept that one a few years but only used it a handful of times since I was really more into stir frying with my electric wok back then. It eventually got donated. This one is definitely a keeper but while it's fun to use, I agree it's best for when I need the proverbial fifth burner—or if just I want to make really good pancakes.

Post# 439686 , Reply# 9   3/12/2021 at 10:47 by human (Pines of Carolina)        
Got another one!

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So I was in a Goodwill store this evening on the opposite side of town from where I live and never go into and I found another electric frying pan. This one is a Sears Kenmore, probably from the late '70s or early '80s and in pristine condition. It's almond and chocolate brown color schem, in a more conventional square configuration with the thermostat built into the cord. The plug is not polarized, which sort of dates it. The pan itself has a non-stick coating, inside and out, which has not a single scratch. It looks like somebody maybe used it just once or twice and then put it away. The whole thing is far lighter weight than the vintage GE pan I got last month. The lid is only slightly heavier than a beer can. I plugged it in for a minute when I got it home, just to verify that it works, but since I'm off from work tomorrow, I may have to wash it before I go to bed tonight and then make some pancakes for breakfast. I'll post photos of it tomorrow.

Post# 439697 , Reply# 10   3/12/2021 at 14:00 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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As promised, here are some photos of the Sears electric frying pan I bought last night. Except for the flimsy lid, the thing is as 'solid as Sears (used to be)'. And best of all, it's made in USA.

Full disclosure, I didn't make pancakes this morning. I woke up feeling a bit lethargic, probably due to having received my first COVID shot last night, which is what put me on that side of town. I did wash it last night and plugged it in to confirm it works. It does so I may make pancakes tomorrow.

I have to say I do like the almond and brown color scheme. That's one I wish would come back. I had a girlfriend about 15 years ago or so, who bought a house that had a mongrel mismatch of appliances--almond refrigerator, avocado stove, black dishwasher, stainless sink. She found an almond (bisque) gas stove brand new at Habitat ReStore for very little money and I found the dishwasher had interchangeable color panels so I swapped those around to almond and she added a matching over-the-stove microwave and sink to complete the ensemble. Matched up with some new countertops in a brownish gray, the end result was quite warm and elegant looking.

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Post# 439704 , Reply# 11   3/12/2021 at 16:18 by human (Pines of Carolina)        
Minor Update...

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So I went back to that Goodwill store today, to buy a Kirby Ultimate G, Diamond Edition, I noticed another electric frying pan on the shelf. I didn't buy it but the design of the handles with integrated legs was similar enough that I'm pretty sure the Sears Kenmore pan I bought last night was made by West Bend. It was in pretty rough shape and was missing the cord/thermostat assembly but I may regret not buying it one someday, just to have a spare set of handle/legs but realistically, I don't have room for it, nor do I really have room for the Kirby I just bought.

Post# 439724 , Reply# 12   3/12/2021 at 21:39 by fan-of-fans (USA)        

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Yeah, I'm pretty sure that Kenmore is a West Bend. I think I've even seen a West Bend of that somewhere with those same colors and stripes, but I can't place where I saw it.

To me from the looks of it I'd guess early/mid 1980s, especially given the almond/brown colors.

Post# 439726 , Reply# 13   3/12/2021 at 21:40 by fan-of-fans (USA)        

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Also, I've said it before but I really like your Lady Kenmore range! It's a looker.

Post# 439735 , Reply# 14   3/13/2021 at 09:35 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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So I gave the Sears electric frying pan its maiden (with me, at least) voyage this morning with a batch of pancakes. They were delicious and cleanup was a breeze with the non-stick coating working exactly as it's supposed to. I don't know how much I'll use it but it's a keeper.

I agree on it being from the early '80s, especially given the Sears logo on the handle.

Post# 439742 , Reply# 15   3/13/2021 at 15:29 by fan-of-fans (USA)        

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According to "Logopedia", that uppercase SEARS logo came out in 1984, so it's in there.

Post# 439833 , Reply# 16   3/15/2021 at 15:25 by JustJunque (Western MA)        

Hey Edgar,

Congratulations on the new-to-you skillets! My obsessive personality gets the best of me on a pretty regular basis, and I went through an electric skillet kick a little while back.
I ended up buying two of them myself, plus I grabbed an old Sunbeam from the apartment where my grandmother used to live. I guess it must have been hers, but I don't have any memory of her using it.
That one is in pretty rough shape, but does seem to work.
As I write this, I haven't tried cooking in any of mine yet.
One of mine is probably about the same vintage as your Sears, and the color combination is very similar, but mine is a Presto. Side note; I still have such an affection for Sears/Kenmore stuff. It's such a shame what happened with that once great store.
I'm glad you've used and enjoyed your skillets. If you get a chance, post some pics of them in use!


Post# 439839 , Reply# 17   3/15/2021 at 18:05 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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I know what you mean about obsessiveness. I've been thinking the past couple of days about that rather forlorn looking—but intact—West Bend skillet at that Goodwill across town for $3. I can't get past the idea that it would be worthwhile to get just for 'handlegs' in the event one on mine were to break. It would be cheap insurance. I guess I should go ahead and do it if I'm going to because it'll eventually get gone. Besides, today is 'senior day' and that $3 item would be $2.70. What the hell am I doing? I'm sitting here thinking/typing myself into it!

I also agree with you about Sears. It was our go-to for almost everything when I was growing up. We still have one in town. It's in a busy, upscale shopping center and I guess it gets some decent foot traffic. They remodeled a few years ago and carved out more than half of the ground floor—including what had been the front entrance—and leased it out to Whole Foods. The main entrance to Sears is now on the side of the building and they still have the upstairs. It's been awhile since I've walked in there but it was not all that well stocked the last time I saw it. I guess it's only a matter of time...

Post# 439846 , Reply# 18   3/15/2021 at 19:48 by JustJunque (Western MA)        

Lol. I would be such a bad enabler. Well, I guess it would be more accurate to say I'd be a good enabler!
I'd be telling you, "if you have room to stash a spare one, go for it. If you did have to try to find replacement handles/legs at some point down the road, they'd surely cost you more than $3...if you could even find them".
Or, you might find that the sad looking one would clean up better than expected, and have more life left in it.
I'm weak. I probably would have dragged it home when I first saw it.


Post# 439870 , Reply# 19   3/16/2021 at 09:42 by gottahaveahoove (Pittston, Pennsylvania, 18640)        
One problem is.... space.

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If you have a LOT of it, it can be bad, take cellars, for example. If you have the space, you can fill it. I make a lot of iced tea. One day, the 'carafe' fell and broke. At a thrift store, I saw a brand new, never used one, $10.00. So, it came home. Then, I saw another, exact one. Now, I can make multiple pitchers at one time. Those skillets are great. They were made to last.
So, if you see one, especially on 'senior day'.............. why not? You'll always have a 'spare'.
I have several, OK, too many things in my cellar(s). There are 4, and I'm trying to get rid of things every garbage day.Last night, an extra bag went out. Feels good.

Post# 439877 , Reply# 20   3/16/2021 at 11:01 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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My space is very limited because I have so much of my late father's stuff. He had a basement crammed with antique toys and most of it is now at my house and in a rented storage unit that is costing me $170 a month. I was just beginning the process of getting my house in order, two years after moving in when Mom and Dad decided to downsize. I had wanted to set up a little workshop in my barn where I could tinker on projects like vacuum cleaners and such, but that has all been taken up with his stuff. I need to get back to selling it on eBay but it takes so much time and effort. Part of me wants to just have a massive auction and get rid of a big chunk of it in one go, even if I don't make as much. I have nothing invested in it so it's 100 percent profit, any way I slice it. As a result, I am forcing myself to be somewhat selective about what I accumulate and I am often hard on myself about purchasing things I don't need.

Post# 439887 , Reply# 21   3/16/2021 at 13:37 by gottahaveahoove (Pittston, Pennsylvania, 18640)        
I know what

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you mean.

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