Nine times out of ten, we grab a metal or nonstick-safe fish spatula when we want to flip or transfer food: their heads are thin and flexible enough to get under the food without damaging it, and long enough to do a good job of supporting most foods once they’re off the cooking surface. But occasionally we find ourselves wishing we had a tool that was a bit bigger or beefier—something that could help pick up larger or heavier foods, like a roast or a cake, or that could corral and flip more pieces of food, like roasted vegetables, at a time.
The solution can be found on the short-order line at your local diner. Offset metal turners look like super-sized offset spatulas: their heads are broad and long, making them ideal for heavy-duty or high-volume tasks. And, as their name implies, there’s a large “offset” angle between the head and the handle, which can make it easier to scoop up lots of food at a time. We wanted to know whether these tools had a place in home kitchens, so we bought eight models, priced from about $7 to about $32, and put them to the test, using them to lift and transfer large, delicate tarts and heavy hams; to flip and transfer Roasted Cauliflower from How to Roast Everything and Sheet Pan Hash Browns; and to smash, flip, and transfer Griddled Smashed Burgers from The Ultimate Burger.
Offset spatulas are great for corralling lots of pieces of food, such as the brussels sprouts pictured here.
They're also good at flipping large pieces of food, such as these cauliflower steaks.
Short-order diner cooks love them because they're perfect for flipping and transferring burgers from a hot stovetop griddle, as seen here.
Their heads are offset at a steep angle from the handle, allowing you to effortlessly press granola into a baking dish, ensuring perfect, dense bars.
And because their heads are large and rigid, they can support and move big cakes and tarts around without dropping them, as a smaller or more flexible spatula might (see below).
We liked most of the turners, though some were better at certain tasks than others. As we’d seen in other spatula testings, the design of their heads was key. Testers liked heads with plenty of surface area—about 23 square inches was ideal—that could pick up a significant amount of food in a single pass without being unwieldy.
The dimensions of the heads mattered, too. We preferred models with long but relatively narrow heads measuring about 7.5 by 3 inches. These longer heads allowed us to easily flip large swathes of hash browns, smash two burgers at a time into thin, crispy patties, and securely pick up large tarts. These models also provided a little more distance between our hands and the surface of the screaming-hot stovetop griddle when we were flipping the burgers. Although turners with smaller heads were better at maneuvering in tighter spaces and a touch easier to control when flipping food, they took about the same number of passes to turn food as our favorite fish spatula, and they could only smash one burger at a time. Plus, transferring tarts with these smaller heads felt a bit precarious.
Models with broader, square-ish heads offered the greatest security when transferring tarts, owing to their large surface area. They were also good at smashing two burgers at a time.But because they were so broad and heavy (weighing nearly a pound), they were awkward to maneuver and tired our arms quickly.
The thickness of the heads was also important. Heads that were 1.6 to 2 millimeters thick were rigid and didn’t bend when picking up heavy items, such as an 8-pound ham. But these same heads were too chunky to get under food easily, instead chipping the edges of delicate tart crusts and pushing cauliflower florets around the baking sheet. Our favorite turners offered a good compromise, with head thicknesses that tapered from 1.3 to 1.5 millimeters at the back ends to 0.6 to 0.9 millimeters at the front ends. As a result, they were sturdy enough to support a whole tart, but flexible enough to wiggle under food easily. Most couldn’t support a whole ham, but we found this to be a small detractor.
Two final notes about the design of the heads. Heads with square corners did a good job of dislodging food from cooking surfaces, but those with sharper edges often nicked burgers and flaky tarts or gouged the aluminum foil under the cauliflower. Testers preferred heads with rounded edges, as they slipped under food more fluidly. And while the holes on one model’s head helped drain excess grease, they occasionally caught on the exteriors of soft burgers and cauliflower, tearing them; most testers preferred solid, unperforated heads.
A few other details helped determine our favorites. First, the “offset” angle between head and handle. We uniformly preferred models that had a large, nearly 90-degree angle between head and handle, as they gave us more leverage and kept our hands further from the hot cooking surface than did models with smaller angles.
Handles that were about 5 inches long were big enough to accommodate hands of all sizes and allowed for more control when flipping or lifting. Longer handles made the turners feel poorly balanced, forcing us to position our hands closer to the heads to get better control when flipping or transferring food.
We liked handles made from soft or textured plastics, as they were easier to grip than models with handles made of slicker, harder plastics, especially when they were wet or greasy. We also voted against wood handles; one was unpleasantly rough, and one of these turners had to be hand-washed—we prefer models that can be thrown in the dishwasher after use.
The Dexter Russell Steak Turner is our winner. Its solid head is long and spacious, so it can scoop up plenty of food at a time. While the back end of the head is thick and sturdy, helping it support large tarts easily, its front edge is thin, flexible, and rounded, allowing it to slip easily under food. And with a five-inch-long handle made from textured plastic and set at a steep angle, it’s easy to grip and allows for good control. For a less expensive option, we also liked the Mercer Culinary M18310 Hell’s Handle High Heat 8" x 3" Perforated Rounded Edge Turner; its head is perforated, causing it to occasionally tear delicate foods, but otherwise it’s an excellent choice.