A bad skimmer can turn even the most patient cook into a basket case.
Last Updated May 1, 2017. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Japanese-Inspired Favorites
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 about $10.00 to about $40.00—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.
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.
Our favorite spider, the lightweight Kuhn Rikon Spider Skimmer, Small, 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.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.