Sizzling chicken, frying bacon, and burbling tomato sauce can wreak havoc on a clean stove, but splatter screens, designed to prevent this mess, don’t work that well. Shaped like small metal tennis rackets with mesh faces, the screens lie flat over the top of a pan while the food cooks, ostensibly to contain splatter. A good model, such as our previous winner, the HIC Stainless Steel Splatter Screen ($12.99), will reduce mess—particularly larger blobs of oil that can be painful if they hit you—but considering that the screen must be porous enough to allow steam to escape safely, quite a bit of oil still gets through.
Recently, a new splatter screen came onto the market with a radically different design aimed at solving the catch-22 of releasing steam while containing splatter. The Frywall Stovetop Splatter Guard (of “Shark Tank” fame) ditches the old tennis racket–like design in favor of one that looks like the protective cone a dog wears around its neck after surgery. It comes in 8-, 10-, and 12-inch sizes and sits on top of the pan, creating walls instead of a net to capture the splatter.
We were skeptical that this floppy (and pretty ridiculous-looking) cone would actually work. To find out, we lined tables with brown butcher paper and used a portable induction burner to fry bacon and sear chicken thighs in a variety of skillets, comparing the Frywall splatter guard to the HIC splatter screen.
In the end, we were surprised by how well the Frywall worked. Despite being so big and floppy, it unfurled and perched on top of each skillet in a satisfyingly secure way. Even more impressive: The paper around our burner showed hardly a speck of splatter; in contrast, our previous winner left the paper covered in a fine mist of oil. Reaching over the 12-inch Frywall’s 7.4-inch-high walls wasn’t as hard as we’d anticipated, simply requiring a re-angling of the elbow for shorter folks. Considering that you have to remove a traditional splatter screen any time you want to access the pan, the Frywall is actually easier to use despite its walls.
The Frywall also promises to be good for cooking down large amounts of greens because you can just pile them up and the walls will contain them. We tried this and found that the Frywall held an impressive 32 cups of kale in one batch, cooking it perfectly (compared with 9 cups in the same skillet sans Frywall). The Frywall isn’t for everyone; it’s a floppy thing that you have to clean and store (though it can go right in the dishwasher and rolls up pretty compactly for storage). Some in the more minimalist vein might rather just wipe down their stoves after frying. But if splatter really bothers you, the Frywall is a real innovation and a great option for keeping your cooking area clean. For that reason, we’re naming it our new winning splatter screen.