Silicone Spatulas

From America's Test Kitchen Season 9: South-of-the-Border Supper

Overview:

Update: November 2014

We have received a few complaints from readers that our Best Buy silicone spatula, by Tovolo, has had some problems with silicone crumbling and breaking along the edge of the head. A representative of Tovolo assured us that the spatula has now been retooled to solve this problem, and further stated that "Tovolo stands behind all of its products 100% and will replace items for customers at any point." Contact Tovolo customer service at (206) 633-6066 (staffed 9 am to 5 pm, Pacific time), or email sales@tovolo.com for more information.

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Every spatula has its issues. Some melt in high heat, others come in designs that are more gimmicky than useful. Some are so stiff they can’t fold egg whites. Others are so flexible they bend when confronted with thick cookie dough. We singled out 10 silicone heat-resistant contenders with features promising greater convenience, versatility, or comfort to answer our question: Can manufacturers design a better spatula?

read more

Update: November 2014

We have received a few complaints from readers that our Best Buy silicone spatula, by Tovolo, has had some problems with silicone crumbling and breaking along the edge of the head. A representative of Tovolo assured us that the spatula has now been retooled to solve this problem, and further stated that "Tovolo stands behind all of its products 100% and will replace items for customers at any point." Contact Tovolo customer service at (206) 633-6066 (staffed 9 am to 5 pm, Pacific time), or email sales@tovolo.com for more information.

___________________________________________________________

Every spatula has its issues. Some melt in high heat, others come in designs that are more gimmicky than useful. Some are so stiff they can’t fold egg whites. Others are so flexible they bend when confronted with thick cookie dough. We singled out 10 silicone heat-resistant contenders with features promising greater convenience, versatility, or comfort to answer our question: Can manufacturers design a better spatula?

Heads Up

The business end of a spatula, the head, is its single most critical feature. We discovered certain preferred characteristics. First was the character of the silicone. Our favorite spatulas had heads that were not only soft and flexible enough to sweep all traces of batter out of a mixing bowl but stiff enough to remove sticky brown bits, or fond, from a skillet. We also decided that the top edge of the head had to be flat, fairly rigid, and squared off (in other words, not unlike the design of the traditional rubber spatula). Spatulas with pointed, floppy, or particularly curvy tips just made us work harder to scrape up food. The edge of the tip and sides also had to be thin enough to maneuver into hard-to-reach corners, rounded bowls, or the edges of a skillet.

We learned that the face of the spatula head should be as flat as possible, so it would scrape clean in one stroke against the rim of a pot or bowl. Flat “cheeks” also came in handy for swirling and blending pan sauces or slipping under the delicate edge of an omelet. A number of models have a central ridge where the handle is attached, which left batter stuck on either side, requiring multiple swipes.

Getting a Grip

With spatulas, handles are nearly as important as heads. They can help or hurt when you’re stirring for an extended time or pushing against stiff dough. And after folding dozens and dozens of whipped egg whites into batter for angel food cake and stirring pot after pot of steaming-hot risotto, we concluded that we liked a long handle on our spatulas to keep our hands a safe distance from the food. But length alone wasn’t enough—handles also had to be rigid enough to provide leverage: A few of our models had handles that literally flopped like a wet noodle just when you needed them to have a backbone.

Comfort was equally important. One spatula cut into our fingers with its hard plastic edge, making it a little painful to push through cookie dough. Another sported such an extreme curve that it forced our wrists to twist unnaturally as we stirred our way around a pan sauce. Others, however, felt comfortable and easy as we shifted hand positions for different tasks.

And while flat, Popsicle-stick-style handles are the classic choice in a rubber spatula, we broke with tradition by preferring rounded handles, whether smooth like a dowel or with indentations for the thumb. We also liked our spatula handle to be as heat-resistant as the head—one handle actually melted as it rested on the edge of a hot skillet.

Tough Enough

But what good is a spatula if it can’t hold up for years of hard cooking or stains and smells like the last thing you cooked? We concocted a witches’ brew of curry and tomato sauce—the worst offenders—and tossed in all the spatulas for an hour-long simmer. Then we ran them through a home-style dishwasher twice. The dark-colored spatulas came clean, while lighter models stained. Depending on the formulation of the silicone in each brand, some spatulas absorbed odors, while others didn’t.

Putting the claims of heat resistance to the test, we also tried to melt the spatulas in a cast-iron skillet by firmly pressing their tips against the bottom of a hot pan for two minutes (using a thermocouple to monitor temperature). None of the spatulas lost their shape or showed signs of disintegrating, but a few turned brown or lost color at the point of contact. None gave off fumes or odors.

And after all the flipping, folding, scraping, and stirring was done, we declared a pair of winners.

Methodology:

We evaluated 10 silicone spatulas, all dishwasher-safe, running each through nine tests, including:

PERFORMANCE

We tested each spatula by lifting omelets, scraping the bowl of a food processor, hand-mixing nuts and other ingredients into stiff cookie dough, folding whipped egg whites into cake batter, making a pan sauce, and stirring risotto.

CLEANING

We simmered the spatulas in a pot of tomato-curry sauce for an hour to see if they would stain and absorb odors and ran them through the dishwasher twice to see if they would come through clean and odor-free.

HEAT-SAFETY

We tested their heat-safe claims, trying to melt them in a cast-iron skillet as hot as we could get it—up to 674 degrees Fahrenheit.

COMFORT

Finally, we asked a variety of test cooks to weigh in on the spatulas’ comfort.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    Rubbermaid Professional 13-1/2-Inch High-Heat Scraper

    A practical, no-nonsense spatula that aced every cooking test, with a great balance of flexibility and firmness for both the head and the handle; however, the head did become slightly discolored by the turmeric in the curry test, and if we were going to quibble, the handle, while providing a great grip, could be a bit more cushy. But all around, a terrific choice for nearly any job in the kitchen. (We also went beyond its top recommended temperature with no sign of damage.)

    • Head ★★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Overall Performance ★★★

    $18.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Highly Recommended - Best Buy

    Tovolo Silicone Spatula

    This sleek spatula has curves in all the right places. It may look like it’s just going to be decorative—until you use it. Then it passes every performance test, scraping, stirring, folding, and sautéing like a champ. It also withstood our attempts to stain and melt it.

    • Head ★★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Overall Performance ★★★

    $8.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Le Creuset Super Spatula

    Perfect for scraping down a bowl, folding whipped egg whites into batter, or slipping under an omelet, this well-shaped spatula also has an exceptionally comfortable round wooden handle that offers good resistance when stirring. A too-soft tip and edge that couldn’t scrape up fond or easily stir nuts and chips into thick cookie dough kept this spatula from a top spot, and a raised ridge down the length of the head (containing the handle) made it impossible to scrape batter off in one stroke. Tip darkened when we tried to melt it.

    • Head ★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Overall Performance ★★★

    $13.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Trudeau Silicone Spatula, Orange 12-inch

    With a "huge" head, slightly stiff texture, and rigid handle, this solid spatula was ideal for stirring thick, resistant ingredients like cookie dough and risotto, and moved great volumes with few strokes when folding in whipped egg whites. It was also just soft enough and well-shaped for scraping bowls or swirling pan sauce and had a good stiff tip for scraping fond. Withstood staining and high heat. Some testers found it a bit "clunky."

    • Head ★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Overall Performance ★★★

    $9.99

  • Recommended

    Mario Batali Silicone Risotto Spatula

    A handsome spatula with a very comfortable, long wooden handle, its fairly firm, bouncy, curved head did well scraping bowls clean, but the pointed, floppy tip got in the way more than it helped, even when making risotto (and despite the spatula’s name). Resisted stains, odor, and melting to look new at end of testing.

    • Head ★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Overall Performance ★★★

    $7.95

  • Recommended with Reservations

    OXO Good Grips Medium Silicone Spatula

    A too-small head (and slightly too-short handle) took points off this otherwise decent spatula—these flaws made testers work harder when stirring and folding. Stained and held curry odor, blackened slightly under high heat, but retained its texture. Rubber handle was comfortable, but melted when left leaning briefly on rim of hot skillet.

    • Head ★★
    • Handle ★★
    • Overall Performance ★★

    $7.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Kuhn Rikon Bakers' Silicone Spatula

    Slightly too small and short to be ideal, this lightweight spatula did well scraping mixing bowls, sliding under an omelet, or scraping fond and swirling pan sauce, but for a so-called "baker’s" spatula it was too wimpy to mix chocolate chips and nuts into stiff cookie dough, and disappeared into whipped egg whites for angel food cake. Plus its hard, curved plastic handle cut into fingers and made stirring uncomfortable. Hung onto curry odor and browned slightly at tip under high heat.

    • Head ★★
    • Handle
    • Overall Performance ★★

    DISCONTINUED

  • Not Recommended

    SiliconeZone Large Folia Spatula

    This flat paddle-like spatula reinforced with enclosed steel wire would be much better without its extreme curving shape that made testers complain about being forced into "unnatural" and fatiguing arm positions. Metal insert heated up while making risotto. Discolored in curry test, and tip of spatula turned brownish when left too long on a searing-hot skillet, though the texture was unchanged.

    • Head ★★★
    • Handle
    • Overall Performance

    $13.95

  • Not Recommended

    Zyliss Does-It-All Spatula

    While the head of this spatula is very well-designed, the handle is much too short. We had to reach into a saucepan of hot risotto to grab it, and got batter on our hands while making angel food cake. The silicone extends up the handle, but is too bendy, especially as it gets warm, making you work too hard when stirring stiff ingredients. Stained "like tie-dye" in the pot of curry, and retained odor. Metal logo on handle became hot during cooking.

    • Head ★★★
    • Handle
    • Overall Performance

    $7.99

  • Not Recommended

    Chef’n Switchit Dual Ended Long Spatula

    This "bendy, floppy-tipped" spatula was little better than a wet noodle when tackling food that offered the least bit of resistance, such as cookie dough or risotto. Partly reinforced with a too-short, enclosed steel strip, its too-skinny head couldn’t scrape up fond and was poor at folding whipped egg whites, requiring many extra strokes. Too short for large-handed testers, and too flat to be really comfortable. Resisted stains and odors, but tip discolored under high heat. Metal insert heated up while making risotto.

    • Head
    • Handle
    • Overall Performance

    $10.99

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