Pasta Forks

Published March 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.

Pasta forks are designed primarily for serving long-stranded pastas like spaghetti. But are they just a one-trick pony?

Overview:

Pasta forks, or “spaghetti servers,” resemble large slotted spoons surrounded by prongs. They’re designed primarily for serving long-stranded pastas like spaghetti, but we wondered if they might also be up for other tasks, and if a basic pair of kitchen tongs could perform those tasks equally well.

To find out, we tested eight models (priced from $3.99 to $22) against our favorite 12-inch OXO tongs, using them to prepare and serve slippery spaghetti; delicate, clump-prone angel hair; and short penne. We found that the pasta forks were useful not just for serving but also for stirring and separating pasta during cooking, snagging a piece to test for doneness, and tossing the noodles with sauce. We quickly ruled out two: the priciest, a stainless steel model that was too heavy to use comfortably, and a bamboo version whose flat head and stumpy tines failed to grip pasta. The rest ably stirred and unclumped pasta during cooking, but extracting small amounts to test for doneness yielded mixed results. Angel hair and spaghetti were… read more

Pasta forks, or “spaghetti servers,” resemble large slotted spoons surrounded by prongs. They’re designed primarily for serving long-stranded pastas like spaghetti, but we wondered if they might also be up for other tasks, and if a basic pair of kitchen tongs could perform those tasks equally well.

To find out, we tested eight models (priced from $3.99 to $22) against our favorite 12-inch OXO tongs, using them to prepare and serve slippery spaghetti; delicate, clump-prone angel hair; and short penne. We found that the pasta forks were useful not just for serving but also for stirring and separating pasta during cooking, snagging a piece to test for doneness, and tossing the noodles with sauce. We quickly ruled out two: the priciest, a stainless steel model that was too heavy to use comfortably, and a bamboo version whose flat head and stumpy tines failed to grip pasta. The rest ably stirred and unclumped pasta during cooking, but extracting small amounts to test for doneness yielded mixed results. Angel hair and spaghetti were easy to snag, but smaller penne slipped through the oversize central drainage holes on most forks; only two featured smaller holes that drained cooking water while still holding on to pasta. Almost all of the forks worked well for combining cooked and drained pasta with sauce, though one model with a squishy silicone head felt too flimsy for this task.

As we dished the finished pasta into serving bowls, we were again impressed by the overall effectiveness of these tools. Very little pasta was dropped, and the countertop was spared from sauce drippings. Design details ultimately made the difference: The top performers featured handles at least 10 inches long—long enough to scoop pasta out of tall pasta pots and keep our fingertips far from the boiling water. Their heads were gently angled, which made it easy to scoop pasta with a smooth motion; heads that were either flat or too steeply angled felt awkward. The best models also had deep bowls that could hold more pasta and deliver a full serving in one or two scoops.

And what about tongs? For stirring long pastas in boiling water and mixing with sauce, tongs performed just as well as the top pasta forks. But when we tried to serve small pasta tubes, tongs grabbed such tiny amounts that we had to go back and forth repeatedly to dish out just one portion. When plating, however, tongs can perform one task that the forks cannot: twirling strands of spaghetti into a tidy mound—a nice touch for company, but not necessary every day.

In the end, we felt that a well-designed pasta fork is a helpful—although not indispensable—tool. It combines the actions of tongs and a serving spoon, simplifying kitchen tasks and maximizing time at the table. Our favorite features a long handle, small drainage holes, and a gently angled head, making it comfortable and easy to maneuver. We’ll reach for it the next time we prepare pasta.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Recommended - Winner

    OXO Nylon Spaghetti Server

    This server’s small perforations drained water without losing pasta; its long teeth grabbed and held long strands with ease (their slightly wide placement meant smaller pasta sometimes slipped out, but this was a minor issue). Its long handle with comfortable silicone grip kept hands a safe distance from hot water, and the gently angled head was just right for easy control.

    • Ease of Use ★★★
    • Performance ★★★

    $7

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Calphalon Nylon Pasta Fork

    This was a good performer overall, with a sturdy, long handle. But the flatter handle was a bit less comfortable, and its head was at a slightly less efficient angle compared with that of our leading server. Its single large drainage hole occasionally acted as an escape hatch for smaller pasta.

    • Ease of Use ★★½
    • Performance ★★★

    $6.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    OXO Stainless Steel Spaghetti Server

    Sturdy and well shaped, this tool was great for serving large scoops of pasta. Minor detractions: Its stainless steel handle grew hot when left in the pot a little too long, its rough-edged steel teeth could potentially scratch nonstick surfaces, and the oversize drainage hole let small pasta slip through now and then.

    • Ease of Use ★★
    • Performance ★★★

    $12.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Good Cook Black 12 1/2” Epicure Nylon Spaghetti Server

    This economical choice performed well, but it felt cheaply made and the stainless steel shaft discolored during testing, raising concerns about this server’s durability.

    • Ease of Use ★★
    • Performance ★★★

    $3.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Joseph Joseph Elevate Spaghetti Server

    This plastic server features an innovative weighted handle with a bottom ridge that prevents the head from touching the countertop when you set it down. We liked this useful feature but didn’t like the short handle, which put our fingers uncomfortably close to boiling water and steaming pasta.

    • Ease of Use ★★
    • Performance ★★

    $8.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Le Creuset Pasta Fork

    The soft, flexible head on this fork easily scraped up sauce from a skillet, but scooping pasta with it was nerve-racking: It felt as though it could drop the noodles at any moment. Its rounded wood handle was comfortable but short, and the small bowl held less than our top performers did. We did like the fork’s small drainage holes and grippy silicone surface, which grasped noodles better than slippery steel models did.

    • Ease of Use ★★
    • Performance ★★

    $11.99

  • Not Recommended

    All-Clad Tools Pasta Ladle

    Expensive and, at 2 pounds, too heavy for comfortable use, this tool’s circular, angled head is shaped more like a ladle than like a spoon or a fork. But while a ladle shape may be handy for serving soups, we found it awkward and impractical for preparing and serving pasta. The sharp steel teeth scraped against our skillet as we scooped.

    • Ease of Use
    • Performance ★★

    $21.95

  • Not Recommended

    Totally Bamboo 14-Inch Spaghetti Server

    Although it had a nice long handle, this model’s flat head and stubby teeth meant that it was incapable of scooping and holding pasta. It’s basically a functionless slotted wooden spoon with a spiked edge.

    • Ease of Use
    • Performance

    $6.65

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