This essential tool can be a cook's best friend—but only if you choose the right one.
Published Nov. 1, 2018. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Butter-Basted Fish and Succotash
A good metal spatula is an essential component of any cook's toolkit. Often referred to as a turner or flipper—likely to avoid confusion with thicker silicone spatulas that are used to fold and scrape—it's used to flip or transfer foods whenever we're working with metal cook- or bakeware. (When cooking in more delicate nonstick pans, we prefer plastic spatulas.)
It had been a while since our last review, and we wanted to know if our old favorite, the Wüsthof Gourmet 7” Slotted Fish Spatula ($49.95), still held up to the competition. We bought 10 models priced from $4.53 to $49.95, including our previous winner, and put them through their paces, using them to flip and remove eggs, pancakes, burgers, fried fish, and home fries from a variety of cooking vessels and to transfer sugar cookies from a baking sheet to a wire rack. Five models were conventional spatulas, featuring sturdy square or rectangular heads, some slotted and some solid. The other five, including our former winner, were fish spatulas. Often found in restaurant kitchens, these spatulas feature long, tapered, slotted heads; as their name implies, they were traditionally used to lift and support slender fish fillets.
The good news? All the spatulas performed reasonably well and were able to get the food from point A to point B more or less intact. Still, a few factors made certain models easier, more comfortable, and generally more pleasant to use.
There's a reason that professional cooks swear by fish spatulas. The spatulas' unique head shape makes them versatile, allowing them to excel at flipping and moving not only delicate pieces of fish, but foods of different shapes and sizes. For one thing, the heads are roomy—on average, about 12 square inches, compared to 11 for the conventional models. They are also long and slim, tapering out from the base, so they can nimbly navigate even the tightest spaces, such as the 8-inch cast-iron skillet we used to make over-easy eggs. The length of the fish spatulas' heads—5.5 inches on average for the models in our lineup—was particularly important. Longer heads act as more extensive landing strips for food to travel along, so food didn't fall right off or get squashed when we shoved a little too forcefully to get the spatula under the food.
By contrast, the heads of the five conventional metal spatulas in our lineup were squat and rectangular, which made them a little awkward to maneuver in confined spaces. Because the heads are shorter than a fish spatula's (most were less than 4 inches long), fragile foods such as pancakes and soft cookies sometimes hit the bac...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.