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?
Published Nov. 1, 2015. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 17: Summer Dinner Party
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 (all under about $25) 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 bot...
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