The choice between plastic and wooden spatulas is largely a matter of personal preference. They are both preferred over metal utensils for use on non-stick coated pots and pants, as they are less likely to damage the non-stick coating. Before deciding whether to use wooden or plastic spatulas, consider the pros and cons of each material.
When it comes to durability, plastic is superior to wood. Plastic absorbs less of the oils and liquids that you cook with. It also absorbs less of the soap and detergent you use to clean with. As such, most plastic spatulas will hold up substantially longer than their wooden counterparts when used comparably.
Cleaning wooden spatulas can be a hassle. The porous surface of the wood gives food particles a good start sticking to the utensil. When used with starchy foods, such as pasta, the starch coats the wooden spatula, making it difficult to scrub clean. Dispose of any wooden utensil that emits an odor, as bacteria or fungi may have already gained a hold on the utensil and can cause illness if used to prepare food.
Many chefs prefer wooden spatulas because they feel they are gentler on the food they are cooking. Some perceive a more tactile feel to using a wooden spoon that enables the cook to be gentler, while others believe the wood is less abrasive to the food. It may simply be the case that wooden spatulas are typically broader-edged, and so are less likely to harm fragile food items such as scallops and egg yolks.
Plastic and wood are both relatively poor heat conductors, and so are unlikely to become uncomfortably hot when used on the stove. All the same, plastic is a slightly better conductor of heat than wood, and a plastic spatula can, in theory, become hotter to hold than its wooden counterpart.
Choosing Your Spatula
Finding a spatula that works for you means weighing the pros and cons of each material. For everyday use, plastic spatulas are superior to their wooden counterparts because they function well, are safe for non-stick cookware, and can be quickly and easily cleaned. If, however, you are cooking professionally, wooden cookware may provide you with a level of tactile feedback that is worth the added difficulty in cleaning. Plastic and wooden spatulas are about equally affordable, so owning one of each may be helpful.
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