The Spatula: Which One to Use and WhenFebruary 7, 2023
There are countless recipes that call for a spatula. But with so many types out there, with different shapes, sizes and materials, which one should we be reaching for when? Also, do we really need them all?
The short answer: Yes, yes we do.
Spatula vs. Turner
Stumbled across a recipe asking you to use a turner and have no idea what they’re talking about? You’re not alone! While Aussies don’t tend to use this word, it’s actually just a type of spatula. However, there are two distinct tools at play here. Simply put, if you fry an egg, flip a burger, stir a sauce, mix a batter or spread some frosting, you’ll need some kind of spatula or turner. But which one? And what should it be made out of: metal, wood, rubber or silicon?
Depending on what you get up to in your kitchen, you’ll likely need a number of different types — but they’ll earn their keep. When buying, look for sturdy, ergonomic handles, high-quality, heat-resistant materials, and a loop or hole in the handle for hanging and storing both of these keepers at the ready.
What Is a Turner, and How Do You Use It?
A turner, which some people call a flipper, is often made from stainless steel or another metal, or sometimes rubber or silicone. This kitchen tool can be flexible (preferred for many jobs) or quite stiff (genius on the grill). A turner’s core purpose is to flip things (thus, turner, or flipper) while cooking, such as an omelet, a crêpe, or a piece of fish. It is also often used to remove something from a hot pan and transfer it to a plate.
Different Types of Turners
A metal turner generally has a long handle, as is useful for getting burgers off a grill or moving extremely hot items that require a steady tool. It is also safe to use on sturdy pans like cast iron or untreated stainless steel.
A flexible turner, made from heat-proof silicone, may be long- or short-handled, and can be useful for baked goods and eggs. Since the silicone won’t scratch the pan, it’s the ideal turner to use with a nonstick pan. It’s important not to use metal on non-stick surfaces, as you’ll scratch the protective coating. A perforated or slotted turner is similar to a solid turner in construction and uses, but with holes or slots for liquid or fat to drip through.
What Is a Spatula, and How Do You Use It?
Spatulas, (and sometimes called scrapers or spoons), are very often made of rubber, silicone, or wood. The core job of a spatula is to mix, fold, stir, or scrape food out of a container or mixing bowl—for example, removing the last drop of peanut butter from the jar, folding egg whites into melted chocolate for mousse, stirring a auce as it simmers, or collecting the last bits of cookie batter from the bowl.
Different Types of Spatulas
A rubber spatula is thick, flexible, and often has one curved and one straight edge. It can be made of rubber or silicone, and higher-end models can often withstand extreme heat (look for the “heat-proof spatula” distinction). It can be used for scrambling eggs or, say, scraping warm pudding from a sauce pot when making it from scratch. Thanks to their flexible nature, these spatulas are great at mixing and scraping to reach every last drop of a sauce or batter.
A wooden spatula (often referred to as a wooden spoon), is sturdy, durable and excellent for mixing sauces, soups, batters and more. Wood does not conduct heat, so these utensils are excellent for stirring hot foods as the handle will not overheat, ensuring no burnt fingers!
An icing spatula (which can be straight or offset—called an offset spatula) is generally long, thin, and made of metal, with a wooden or plastic handle. This is used to expertly apply and spread frosting on cakes and cupcakes, and is sometimes referred to as a palette knife.