Townecraft 17450 oil-core electric skillet, $10.

Saladmaster, Regal Ware, All Clad, Lustre Craft, Miracle Maid, Cuisinart, Maxam and of course Townecraft, are great named to know when it comes to electric skillets. Townecraft is a name you must keep in mind, because their skillets are relatively easy to come by! Learn the expensive names in cookware and you will make money!

Electric skillets like this Townecraft all share certain characteristics. The handles and other attached parts and pieces may look different, but the skillets themselves all have that same general look to them. I believe this is because despite all the different brand names they end up getting stamped with, there are actually only a couple of companies who do the actual manufacturing. Regal Ware, for example, makes the stuff for Saladmaster because they own the company. Regal Ware used to own West Bend.

I'm no expert in the corporate heirarchies of stainless steel cookware, and it's certainly not important. The important thing for you to know is that there are only a few companies who actually manufacture these skillets.

Electric skillets like this Townecraft aren't just pieces of stainless steel with heating elements stuck to the bottom. They're known as oil core skillets, because they're made from two layers of stainless steel, with oil trapped in between. As the electric element on the inside bottom of the skillet heats the oil, the heat is distributed evenly around the pan.

Since oil core skillets are not by any means new, you're likely to encounter both the haggard, scratched-up oldies, as well as the shiny new models with their fancy digital heat controls. Since prices for these skillets are are all over the board on eBay, the key is to be a cheapo miser until you're familiar with the market for these skillets. For example, although I'd have no problem paying $50 or so for a Saladmaster Titanium skillet in excellent condition, I'd be wary to spend even $10 for a scratched-up old Lustre Craft skillet.

Here are a few common sense tips that you should keep in mind about these skillets.

First of all, always make sure that the lid and the heat regulator are not only present, but are the ones intended for that particular skillet. Be sure the heat regulator actually plugs into the skillet and has the same brand name. Be sure that the lid not only fits, but is the one that actually came with the skillet. This may sound silly, but I learned this lesson from experience. Years ago, I bought a really nice Saladmaster skillet, only to get home and discover that not only was the lid from some other cheapo brand of frying pan, but that the the heat regulator attachment didn't even fit into the skillet! The seller had obviously and haphazardly thrown together a skillet, heat attachment and lid, hoping that nobody would notice that they weren't supposed to go together. Don't let this happen to you!

Second, stay away from no-name skillets. The 'generic' versions of these skillets are dismally poor sellers on eBay. Always look for a brand name like those listed above stamped into the bottom of the pan. Look for the brand name on the lid handle. If there's no discernible brand name on the skillet, don't buy it.

Finally, don't let the usual caked-on grime scare you away from a skillet that's in otherwise great physical condition! The solution lies in a screwdriver and a can of Easy Off oven cleaner. I remove the handles and the base, and then hose everything metal with the Easy Off and let it sit a while. Repeat if needed. Be very careful using Easy Off on the plastic pieces. I then put everything back together, and revel in the immaculate beauty of my newly-clean electric skillet!

This Townecraft oil-core electric skillet sold on eBay for $89.

Photo of Townecraft electric skillet