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Spatula-Spoons (Spoonulas)

From Summer Dinner Party

How we tested

We use a stiff wooden spoon to scoop foods and scrape up flavorful browned bits when making soups, stews, and pan sauces, and we use a flexible spatula to fold ingredients and swipe bowls clean. A spatula-spoon (or “spoonula”) promises to serve both functions in one handy item. But can it really replace two must-have kitchen tools or is it just a clever gimmick? To find out, we purchased eight models (priced from $7.51 to $14.95) and tested their versatility and compatibility with an assortment of cookware in a battery of tasks. We stirred thick tomato jam, scraped up caramelized browned bits (or “fond”) in ground beef chili, tossed together a stir-fry, and folded delicate scrambled eggs, pausing after each recipe to scoop the food with our spoonula into a serving or storage container. We also tested stain- and odor-resistance by submerging the tools in a bubbling pot of chili and then washing them according to manufacturers’ directions.

 

Most of the spoonulas looked like traditional spatulas with concave silicone heads designed for scooping. The best heads were roughly 3½ inches long and curved gently; these were able to lift and transfer generous amounts of food without anything tumbling off. We also preferred models with thin, straight sides that could glide along skillet edges and stir without squishing delicate ingredients or breaking up browning meat more than we wanted. By contrast, models with thicker sides bumped and skidded against our cookware and felt cumbersome when we held them horizontally to fold ingredients. As for scraping up fond, rigid models with firm, blunt top edges were most effective. Flimsier models folded in on themselves, while one with a rounded top edge didn’t make enough contact with the pot and pan surfaces.

Size differences among the handles were more important than the materials they were made from. Wood, silicone, and plastic were all acceptable, but our panel found that fairly wide handles (upwards of 2 inches in circumference) offered the most secure grip. Finally, we considered the models’ stain- and odor-resistance. None had unsightly stains or looked damaged at the end of testing, but we noticed a faint lingering odor on several models even after several rounds of washing. Ultimately, two models combined all our desired qualities and cleaned up easily and thoroughly. They have generously sized scoops, thin sides, a blunt top edge, and firm-yet-flexible material attached to comfortable, easy-to-grip handles. We still consider our favorite wooden spoon and silicone spatula essential, but we’ll reach for either of these spoonulas when making a chili, thick stew, or other recipe that requires both a wooden spoon and spatula.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*