Nonstick-safe spatulas are gentler on your cookware than metal versions. But are they any good at flipping food?
Published June 10, 2019. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Simple and Elegant Dinner
Metal spatulas are great for flipping food in—or transferring food from—metal cookware and bakeware. But when we’re using nonstick cookware, we prefer to use spatulas made from nylon, silicone, or other nonmetal materials because they’re gentler and less likely to scratch nonstick surfaces. It had been a while since we last tested nonstick-safe spatulas, and we wanted to know how our previous favorite, the Matfer Bourgeat Exoglass Pelton Spatula, measured up against newer models. So we bought eight models, priced from about $7.00 to about $25.00, including our previous favorite, and used them in a variety of nonstick cookware to flip and transfer eggs, pancakes, salmon steaks, sole fillets, and veggie burgers.
A fundamental problem emerged immediately: Many of the spatula heads were just too thick. While none of the spatula heads was as thin as that of our favorite metal spatula (which is less than a millimeter thick), we preferred models that were on the thinner end of the spectrum, with heads that measured from 1.3 to 1.8 millimeters at their thickest. Models with thicker heads struggled to slip under pancakes, pushing them into each other or around the griddle; dented soft veggie burgers and tore off their fragile crusts; and gouged or mashed delicate sole fillets instead of flipping them. Some models had heads that were beveled, with a front edge that was a bit thinner than the rest of the head. While this beveled edge did help us to get the head under the food initially, the advantage was limited by the fact that we still had to push the rest of the thick head under the food, sometimes squashing or denting it in the process.
As we soon realized, the material of the head was largely to blame for its thickness, not to mention several other issues. Heads made from nylon and resin/fiberglass were almost always thinner and more flexible than heads coated in silicone. Why? Silicone is too soft and floppy to support food on its own, so manufacturers instead make a metal or fiberglass frame and cover the entire thing with silicone. The metal frame adds substantially to the thickness and rigidity of the head; silicone spatula heads measured between 2.5 and 7 millimeters at their thickest and couldn’t hug the cooking surface quite as closely as nylon or resin/fiberglass heads.
In addition, testers found that silicone heads were a bit too grippy, dragging more on nonstick surfaces and making it even harder to get under food. Smoother nylon and fiberglass/resin heads slid under foods much more easily.
Silicone does have one advantage: It can withstand much higher temperatures than nylon or fiberglass/resin. When...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.