We typically reach for 12-inch tongs to protect our hands from heat and messes, but we decided it was time to shine the spotlight on their shorter sibling.
Published July 1, 2018. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 19: Carne Adovada and Esquites
A good pair of tongs is a versatile and indispensable kitchen tool. We love our 12-inch tongs, which are great for keeping our hands safe during high-heat tasks such as frying foods in hot oil and rotating large roasts; they're also useful for messy tasks such as dredging chicken. But 12-inch tongs can feel too long for testers with smaller hands or for those who simply like the feeling of a shorter pair. So we decided to add a 9-inch pair of tongs to our arsenal.
To find out which model was best, we selected six products priced from $11.99 to $35.00 and used each pair to grip, rotate, and transfer heavy baked potatoes from a hot baking sheet; pluck tender, slippery hot dogs from boiling water; move delicate sliced fruit and small berries from platter to plate; stir and portion angel hair pasta; pick up a single rounded toothpick; and lift a heavy jar of salsa. Finally, we asked a diverse group of users to test each pair of tongs by portioning pasta and transferring fruit from platter to plate.
Most tongs had acceptable tension and required minimal effort to squeeze shut, but one model felt significantly more strenuous to keep closed. Our hands and wrists hurt while using this pair to transfer fruit, divvy up pasta, and remove hot dogs from boiling water. Our favorite tongs were comfortable to grip and hold, whether we were rotating bulky baked potatoes or grasping delicate fruit.
As for pincer design, uncoated and scalloped tong heads provided the best grip, mirroring our findings from our test of 12-inch tongs. Most of our lower-ranked models had smooth sides and/or coated pincers, including a product with rounded silicone heads that one tester said were “a little like mittens.” Testers dropped potatoes while using this model, and spaghetti slipped through the tong heads. Another pair had toothlike edges with ½-inch gaps between teeth. Compared with scalloped pincers, these pincers made less contact with the food and thus offered a less secure grip: Baked potatoes swung precariously from these silicone-coated tong heads. And while we appreciate coated heads for use with nonstick cookware, uncoated metal pincers offered greater precision and control.
Since timing matters in the kitchen, tongs need to open and be ready to use at a moment's notice and then quickly close tight for easy storage in a drawer or utensil holder. Our highest-rated tongs had smooth, simple locking mechanisms—push a tab to open, pull the tab to close—that testers found intuitive and easy to use. However, one seemingl...
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