Let's talk about spatulas. More specifically, what spatulas are. Because not everybody realizes that "spatula" doesn't refer to a single specific cooking utensil, but rather a category that includes various kitchen tools used for spreading, scraping, stirring, mixing, folding, flipping and more.
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Are you picturing the implement with an extended handle and a wide, flat head you use for turning food over while it cooks and removing it from a pan, grill, baking sheet, etc.? That tool is properly known as a turner (and is sometimes called a flipper). It's a kind of spatula, but not the only kind. And there are of course different types of turners of varying materials, sizes, shapes, and styles.
But traditionally, spatulas are used first and foremost for scraping and spreading, particularly when baking. They include scrapers, which have a handle and a rubber, silicone or plastic head for tasks like scraping batter or icing out of a bowl, and spreaders, which are those long, flat metal blades for spreading icing on a cake.
Clearing up the difference between a spatula and a turner is a good start, but there are other cooking and baking tools that are types of spatulas, too. We'll cover a variety of spatula styles and tasks. Any well-equipped kitchen has multiple spatulas for different tasks. At the very least, start with one for turning and one for mixing and scraping.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Spatula
Style: If you've been following along so far, you can see the most important consideration is simply determining what type of spatula you need. Are you looking for a turner? What do you want to turn with it? Fish? Eggs? And should the head be slotted to let liquids drain, or solid to support crumbly food and retain small morsels? Do you need a scraper or a spreader for baking purposes? Do you want something to stir the food you're sautéing?
Material: Consider the material a spatula is made of, and whether it offers the right characteristics for your intended uses. For example, metal turners are durable and offer high heat resistance, but they'll scratch the surface of nonstick cookware. Silicone and nylon turners are compatible with nonstick cookware, though. And a plastic or rubber scraper isn't heat resistant at all, so don't use it to stir food in a pan or to scoop a chicken wing off the grill. Do you want a dishwasher-safe spatula? Metal (except for cast iron and carbon steel) and silicone can generally go in the dishwasher. But if you have a wooden spatula, you're better off hand-washing it. And if you really want it to last, it benefits from being wiped down with food-grade mineral oil once every month or two.
Price: You can spend about a buck on a spatula, you can spend $50+ on a high-end spatula and you can spend anywhere in between. Generally, there's not a whole lot of difference in performance, given that spatulas' tasks are pretty simple and straightforward. But sometimes, pricier products are a bit more thoughtfully designed (e.g., a more user-friendly handle, a broader or smartly angled head, etc.). The main difference is that costlier products tend to last longer; the cheapest ones are often made of less durable materials and usually wear out faster. But there are certainly products that are both high-quality and budget-friendly. So, think about what you're willing to spend and whether you're looking for something highly durable, or something that costs less that you'll just replace sooner.
These considerations will help you select the best spatula for your needs and preferences.
The Best Scraper Spatula
This is a high-quality, BPA- and BPS-free scraping spatula even the most avid baker will love working with. It's unyielding where it needs to be and just the right amount of flexible where it needs to be, easy to use even for stiff cookie dough. It's an exceptionally durable piece, made of high-grade, stain-resistant, nonstick silicone with a heat-resistant fiberglass core. The entire spatula is a single piece, so there's no crevice between the head and the handle to get gunk in, and no risk of two segments coming apart. The handle is comfortable and non-slip, and the whole dishwasher-safe piece is heat resistant up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, eliminating the worry of a melted spatula if you leave it sitting on a hot pan.
The Best Spatula Set
OXO Good Grips 3 Piece Silicone Spatula Set
This set includes three durable spatulas made from nonstick silicone. The small 9-inch scraper spatula is great for getting down into jars and for use in smaller saucepans and mixing bowls. Then there's a 12-inch scraper spatula for bigger mixing, stirring and scraping jobs. Both scrapers have a rounded edge for running along the contours of a bowl and a squared corner for getting into crevices. You also get a 12-inch spoon spatula that can handle all those tasks as well as scooping. Their flexible, polished, beveled edges are highly effective for scraping out every last bit, and the tools are easy to clean and can even go right into the dishwasher. All three spatulas are heat resistant up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, so there are no concerns with melting, and they're safe for use with nonstick cookware. The pieces also have convenient hanging holes at the end of the handles.
The Best Spreader Spatula
Ateco Straight Spatula with 8-Inch Blade
If you need to stock your kitchen with a spreading spatula, this is a budget-friendly selection that gets the job done and looks nice, too. This is the medium-sized option with an 8-inch, mirror-finish stainless steel blade and an elegant, comfortable, natural wood handle. There are also two smaller sizes (4.5-inch and 6-inch blades) and two larger sizes (10-inch and 14-inch blades) available. Additionally, three sizes of similar offset spatulas are available. The offset style is great for icing cakes, angled for more precision and to prevent your knuckles from rubbing against the cake as you spread and smooth the icing. They're good for more, though, like spreading brownie batter in the pan or removing cookies from a cookie sheet.
The Best Slotted Spatula (Slotted Turner) & The Best Nonstick Spatula (Nonstick Turner)
Anolon SureGrip Slotted Turner
This very budget-friendly but durable turner wins out in two key spatula categories: The best slotted spatula for general use and the best turner you can safely use with nonstick cookware (because the head is made from nylon). The slotting in the head is smartly designed, with ample holes to let liquids drain but enough solid material to provide adequate support under most foods. Plus, the head is wide, which makes it more useful for fish and other larger food. It also features a unique beveled edge that may not look like much, but it's quite useful for lifting food. This spatula is heat-safe up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and dishwasher-safe, and the handle is comfortable to grip and non-slip with a hanging hole at the end.
The Best Wooden Spatula (Wooden Turner)
OXO Good Grips Wooden Turner
A wooden spatula is a great multipurpose cooking utensil every kitchen should have. Use it to mix, stir, toss, turn and more. This solid beechwood spatula is affordably priced, well made, safe for use on nonstick cookware and protected by a natural oil finish (which should be preserved by hand-washing only). The head is slightly angled to facilitate flipping, moving things around as you cook and scraping things up from the bottom of the pan. The handle is pleasant to hold and has a convenient hanging hole at the tip, and it's long enough to keep your hand comfortably distanced from the heat as you work at the stove.
The Best Spatula for Fish (Fish Turner)
Victorinox Slotted Fish Turner
If you cook a lot of fish—especially on the grill—it's well worth it to invest in a quality turner specially designed for handling it. This fish spatula has a flexible, extra-thin blade that's perfect for sliding right under delicate foods like fish fillets, but sturdy enough to support them securely. There's ample slotting to let excess oil drain away quickly. The piece has an elegant look between its high-carbon stainless steel blade and its compact, comfortable wood handle. And you can certainly get more use out of this cooking utensil than just lifting and flipping fish; it'll work well for all sorts of foods, and it's also particularly well suited to flipping pancakes.
The Best Spatula for Eggs (Egg Turner)
DI ORO Chef Series Standard Flexible Silicone Turner
Egg lovers know that this food can be a little finicky in the pan, even when you have a quality nonstick piece of cookware. And when you're making eggs over easy or an omelet, the flipping is a delicate, high-stakes procedure. This spatula features a design that's very helpful for turning eggs. It has a widely angled, flexible, ultra-thin silicone blade (safe for use with nonstick pans, of course, and heat resistant up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit) that slides easily under your food, but that's sturdy enough to support it. The ergonomic handle with thumb indentation is comfortable to hold and has a hanging hole, and this tool can go in the dishwasher when you're finished with it. You'll also find it's great for pancakes, hash browns, burgers and plenty more.