The Tests

  • Remove fried chicken from hot oil

  • Remove French fries from hot oil

  • Remove delicate ravioli from boiling water

  • Time and record number of passes needed for each food test

  • Wash by hand between tests

  • Run through the dishwasher seven times

  • Measure handle length, grip length, basket depth, and gaps between wires

When we’re deep-frying, blanching, or boiling, we use a spider skimmer—a long-handled stainless-steel wire basket—to remove food from the pot. Spiders have larger capacities than slotted spoons and more open area for faster, safer drainage. There are two basic spider basket designs; the traditional design is made from thin wire mesh, and the more modern style has a spiral (or concentric circles) of smooth, slightly thicker wire. To find the best spider, we tested six models—three of each basket style, priced from $11.99 to $41.68—while boiling ravioli and deep-frying French fries and chicken pieces.

All of the spiders functioned adequately, but certain factors made some safer, quicker, and more comfortable to use. In general, we preferred spiders with longer handles (for more protection from boiling water and hot oil) and larger grips (which were more comfortable for users of varying hand sizes). While testers had a slight preference for lighter spiders, balance was more important than total weight—models that felt basket-heavy were awkward and less comfortable to use, seeming heavier than they really were.

The optimal basket depth was 1 to 1½ inches. Shallower baskets couldn’t hold as many smaller items, requiring more passes to clear the pot, and didn’t securely hold larger items. Baskets deeper than 1½ inches held plenty but felt unwieldy and were more difficult and time-consuming to empty.

Tastings and Testings assistant editor Miye Bromberg uses a spider to remove french fries from hot oil.

We had several users handle and rate the comfort of each skimmer.

We found that the smooth wires of spiral-style baskets handled the delicate ravioli with a lighter touch than the mesh baskets, on which food often snagged. In the end, we deemed basket style less important than basket size—and most of the spiders that met our preferred basket dimensions had mesh-style baskets.

Boiled ravioli are delicate; the best spiders don't best them up.

Our favorite spider, the lightweight Kuhn Rikon Spider Skimmer, Small ($19.69), has a long, 10.5-inch handle that kept us safely away from the heat; a large, comfortable rubberized grip; and a medium-depth webbed basket that made it quick and easy to extract food of all sizes and shapes.

Winning Traits

  • Well balanced

  • Long handle

  • Moderately deep basket

  • Rubbery, easy-to-hold grip