Types of Spatulas and Their Uses
Of the many pieces of equipment required to outfit a restaurant kitchen, choosing the right spatulas may be the easiest and most fun decision of all.
These long-handled utensils come in many different shapes, sizes and materials. Before you start flipping through an online catalogue, sit down with your chef and your menu and visualize exactly what dishes you need a spatula for. Will you be flipping burgers on the grill or turning thin fish fillets in a non-stick pan? Scraping batter into cake tins or lifting delicate cookies from parchment paper? There’s a spatula for that!
Fortunately, some spatulas lend themselves to many different uses, saving you money and drawer space.
Like any kitchen tool, a spatula should feel comfortable in your hand and suit the task. Quality always wins over quantity.
To help you decide, let’s look at the more popular styles.
Spatulas for Flipping and Turning a.k.a. Flippers and Turners
The original kitchen spatula consists of a long handle and a wide-angled blade. It’s used constantly to flip and turn foods in a hot pan then transfer them to a serving dish.
The blade of a turner is usually thin with a tapered tip that slides easily under food without damaging it. The best are strong yet easy to maneuver,
A perforated turner, with its extra-long blade and small holes for draining grease or other liquid, is another good choice for heavy-duty cooking. Some cooks consider it the best spatula for turning burgers. Choose an extra-long handle to keep hands safe near a grill or barbecue.
For handling more delicate foods, or when you’re looking for a multi-tasking turner, slotted spatulas are a kitchen essential. Their long, graceful slits are designed to help the blade better slide underneath food without breaking it. Like the perforated turner, the slits also allow liquids to drain. Slotted spatulas can even be used to flip cake layers in the bakery.
Of all the slotted spatulas on the market, the trendiest and most versatile design, hands-down, is the long, sweeping metal fish spatula. While ideal for delicate fish, its thin, flexible blade and sharp slim edge can help you break up ground meat, flip pancakes in one piece, toss roasted vegetables and turn French omelettes like a pro. If you don’t have a slotted spoon handy, use your fish turner for frying. It’s even sturdy and sharp enough to scrape up the crusty bits stuck to your cast-iron or sheet pan.
Many Asian cooks prefer a wooden spatula with a flat head, often used in pairs to quickly toss fried rice or other food in a wok.
If you’ve got homemade pizza on the menu, check out the giant circular or square spatulas that could double as a bread paddle if the handle is long enough.
A scraping spatula is an essential tool for bakers, but its flexible rectangular blade with a rounded edge finds its way throughout the kitchen for mixing, spreading and scraping every last bit of food out of a bowl or jar.
These flat spatulas are also useful for sticky bread dough, stirring scrambled eggs and reaching into the corners of pots to prevent burning and sticking. Choose from silicone, rubber or plastic models in a variety of lengths and widths.
If you’re using a scraper anywhere near the stove, be sure it’s made of high-quality silicone so it won’t melt if it leans against a hot pan or pot. That include both the blade and handle. Save your favourite rubber spatula, which may melt in the heat and stain easily, for stirring, folding and scraping cold, wet ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Most of these scrapers are inexpensive and dishwasher-safe. They also come in a rainbow of colours.
A spoon scraper is a unique scraping spatula that has quickly become a favourite among bakers as it can scrape, spoon and spread. Also called a spoonula, this spatula uses the same materials for the blade, however the shape of the blade is formed into a spoon while keeping its flexible properties.
Spatulas for Spreading
A rubber spatula may be great for mixing cookie dough and folding in egg whites, but for serious baking you’ll need an offset spatula, designed to spread frosting on cakes and push batter in an even layer in a cake pan. Its long flexible metal blade is bent just below the handle to make it easy to use and keep your knuckles out of the icing.
The mini version, with its shorter blade, is ideal for frosting cupcakes, removing items from a crowded cookie sheet or even spreading even layers of mayo or mustard on sandwiches.
The offset’s cousin is the straight spatula, or palette knife. Its long flexible blade, usually metal, works well for frosting the sides of a cake and creating a smooth, level finish.
Both straight and offset baking spatulas can be used to serve slices of cake and pie, even flip pancakes. Their rounded end is great for scooping the perfect amount of cream cheese or creating a swoosh of purée under a main course. You can also use them to loosen the edges of cooked cakes and pies before turning them out and to transfer delicate cookies and bars from baking sheet to cooking rack.
Most spreader-style or icing spatulas are made of metal, such as stainless steel, but there are plastic and rubber versions.
A specialized spatula within this category is called a spreader, sandwich spreader or sandwich spatula. Unlike its cousins with long thin blades, this spatula has a stubby rounded blade usually one side is serrated. Perfect for spreading butter, mayonnaise or other condiments on bread or sandwich filling. Quickly flip to the serrated edge to cut sandwiches.
• Spatulas made of stainless steel or aluminum can handle tough jobs and heavy food with ease.
• They resist high temperatures and rarely lose their shape.
• Though more expensive than other spatulas, they should last forever and are easy to clean.
• Because metal spatulas transfer heat easily, choose a thick wooden handle or wear oven mitts while handling.
• Remember that metal utensils can damage the coating on non-stick pans.
• Wooden spatulas are non-toxic, eco-friendly and durable.
• Wood handles are comfortable to hold and don’t transfer heat. Just keep them away from flames.
• Clean immediately after use, as porous wood may attract bacteria. Dry thoroughly.
• Don’t leave wooden handles or utensils sitting in water, as the wood will split over time.
• Wash by hand, not in the dishwasher.
• Plastic spatulas are usually inexpensive and easy to clean. Just keep them away from high heat! They don’t tend to last long, and if you use them in hot pans the edge will wear off, making you wonder what you’re eating.
• Silicone, a hybrid between plastic and rubber, is much more heat resistant, up to 600°F/315°C. This makes silicone incredibly versatile in the kitchen. Some types are certified BPA-free, so there’s no worry about food contamination. And they’re easy on non-stick pans.
• Silicone does absorb strong smells easily, which can be difficult to remove.
• Rubber is soft and flexible, it won’t scratch your pans and it handles heat fairly well.
• It’s also easy to clean, though it does stain y.
Although the blade is considered the business end of a spatula, the handle is also an important factor to it's performance. What the handle is made of, how it's constructed and how the blade and the handle are attached all work together to provide stability, strength, comfort and safety.
• Length of the handle depends on the size of the pot, pan, bowl and/or the distance to the food on a grill, griddle or cooktop.
• More often found on scraping spatulas, you can find a rest on the handle (but can also be on the blade), these protrusions allow the spatula to be placed on the work surface without the blade touching and contaminating the counter.
• Holes in the end of the spatula handle allows these utensils to be hung up to dry and easily found..
• Some handles also have a hook on the end, to reduce the risk of the spatula falling into large vessels.
• Metal spatulas transfer heat easily and are paired with thick wooden handle or plastic heat resistant handles.
Whichever type of spatula works best for your kitchen, we have what you need to get cooking!
Written by Cynthia David