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Flipping for a Grill Spatula

By Lisa McManus Published

A good grill spatula should be agile and sturdy and should keep cooks’ hands cool.

When you’re cooking on a hot grill, you need a grill spatula that’s not going to let you down. It should be agile enough to slip between wall-to-wall burgers and get right under the one you want to flip. It should feel balanced and not too heavy, and it should be long enough to reach all the way to the back of the grate without roasting your forearms. It should be thin enough to slide under fish fillets but strong enough to help you hoist a big turkey or pork butt off the grill without dropping the food. It should wash up easily and stay in good shape so that it’s ready for your next cookout.

When we last tested grill spatulas, we chose a Weber model that we found comfortable, secure, and maneuverable enough for any job. But when that spatula was relaunched under a new name and model number, we took the opportunity to compare it with new competitors and bought a total of seven, priced from about $8.50 to about $37.00. We grilled dozens of burgers, flipped skin-on salmon fillets, and grilled pizzas to see how the spatulas fared with a variety of recipes, rating them on their performance, ease of use, cleanup, and durability. To evaluate how sturdily they were constructed, we dropped them onto the pavement from grill height, and then, to simulate lifting heavy roasts, we used them to lift bags of flour. We washed those that were dishwasher-safe in the dishwasher and hand-washed the rest to see how easy they were to keep clean and in good condition.

We packed burgers close together on the grill to compare the agility, precision, and comfort of using each grill spatula (top). We also grilled pizza dough (lower left) to see if the spatula heads could support the floppy, wide discs of dough. We used each spatula to flip skin-on salmon fillets (bottom right). Some thicker, clumsier spatulas couldn't slide under the delicate fish without ripping and breaking up the fillets.

We wondered if we could skip buying a grill spatula and just use one of our regular spatulas instead so we tested it and found we could not—the grill spatula's longer handle was necessary to keep our hands and forearms comfortably cool.

Do You Really Need a Grill Spatula?

We tried our favorite “indoor” metal spatula and our favorite offset turner on the grill, and while we loved their agility, we quickly gave up that notion when our hands and arms felt scorched. All the long-handled, dedicated grill spatulas in our lineup did a better job keeping us comfortable, especially while reaching toward the back of the grill. So unless you plan to wear heatproof elbow-length grill gloves all the time, get a grill spatula. Our lineup ranged in overall length from 16¼ inches to 21 inches. The 21-inch model sometimes felt slightly too long, giving us a bit less leverage and control. The rest were all acceptable and helped keep us cooler over the heat.

The Best Shape and Weight

The biggest determinant of success in a grill spatula was the shape and flexibility of its head. The front edge of the spatula with the widest head measured 4 inches across, and it was a challenge to get it under a single burger without knocking into its neighbors. On the other hand, its breadth came in handy when we were lifting wider pizzas and supporting fish fillets.

Spatulas with a narrow front edge (left), made it easier to get between closely packed burgers on the grill to flip only the one you want, while spatulas with wider front edges (right) gave us less precision and control.

At the other end of the spectrum, the spatulas with the narrowest heads (less than 3 inches across) certainly felt more agile than the widest models when flipping burgers, but they couldn’t support 8- to 9-inch pizzas and felt precarious under the salmon. One of the narrowest heads was also too floppy; it often slipped down between the grates instead of sliding under the food. 

The most successful spatulas had heads that were at least 3 inches across at the front edge. At this size, they were just broad enough to support wide foods but narrow enough to get into tight spots. The head of our favorite spatula was also the only one that tapered: Its front edge narrowed to just 3 inches, which made it agile in tight places, and then it broadened to 3½ inches nearest the handle, which helped it support food. Its shape struck the best balance for an all-purpose grill spatula.

They Should Be Tough and Strong

We like to use a grill spatula to help lift and transfer heavy barbecued foods, such as pork butts or briskets. To be sure that the spatulas would be sturdy enough to do this without bending out of shape or threatening to drop food, we used 5-pound bags of flour as stand-ins, using each to lift one bag before stacking on a second bag. Our previous winner by Weber failed; it bent permanently at the neck and dropped the first bag of flour. We bent it back into shape, dismayed by this updated model’s soft steel and weak structure. A second copy of this spatula behaved the same way. 

We attempted to lift up to 10 pounds of flour with our spatulas to see whether they could handle a heavy roast, starting with a single 5-pound bag and adding a second. The best models lifted 10 pounds easily, while flimsier spatulas flexed and dumped even a single 5-pound bag (and one even stayed permanently bent).

The long, narrow head of another model made by RSVP International flexed excessively on the grill and also failed under the flour's weight, letting the first bag slide right back onto the countertop (but it bounced back to its original shape). In this weight-bearing test, the spatulas with the biggest, widest heads excelled, but our moderate-width front-runner in the cooking tests also stood up to this challenge, holding up 10 pounds with ease. Most of the spatulas survived being dropped to the ground three times with minor dings; only one showed slightly more damage.

Handles and Balance Matter, Too

The handles on our grill spatulas were made of wood, steel, or steel and silicone. They all felt reasonably comfortable to hold as we cooked, until we made grilled pizza, where we had to stretch out the dough in a pool of olive oil on a baking sheet before dropping the dough onto the hot grates. With residual oil on our hands, some of the spatula handles were difficult to hold securely. Here, the rougher wooden handles did well, but our front-runner’s steel handle with a textured silicone insert also stayed secure in our grasp. The downside of wooden handles is that they are not dishwasher-safe, but the model with the steel and silicone handle could be washed in the dishwasher, a nice bonus. Another steel model that claimed to be dishwasher-safe rusted after just one cycle, a real disappointment. 

Balance is an attribute of a good cooking tool, especially when it comes to grill spatulas, which are often comically oversize and heavy. A few models in our lineup felt “head heavy” and out of balance, which was fatiguing as we worked for extended periods over the grill. Our spatulas ranged in weight from 6 ounces to 10¼ ounces; surprisingly, the heaviest one, by Lamson, felt lighter than a very similar model by TableCraft that weighed ¼ ounce less. The TableCraft model had a noticeably heavier head, which dragged downward as we held its handle. We noticed that its tang (the portion of the metal head that extends into and is enclosed by the handle) was much shorter than that of the Lamson. A longer tang helps balance the overall weight of the spatula and make it more comfortable.

The Best Grill Spatula: Char-Broil Comfort Grip Grill Spatula

After grilling plenty of burgers, fish, and pizza, we had a clear picture of what makes a great grill spatula. Our winner, the Char-Broil Comfort-Grip Grill Spatula, had all the characteristics we sought. Agile and just narrow and slim enough at the front edge to fit between closely packed burgers on the grill, it was also the best model for turning delicate salmon fillets. It hoisted 10 pounds with ease and was wide enough to support floppy grilled pizza as we flipped and transferred it from the hot grate. Well-balanced in our hands and sturdy but not too heavy, with a comfortable handle that felt secure and didn’t become slippery when our hands were coated in oil, it was durable and cleaned up well, whether we washed it by hand or in the dishwasher. It’s our new favorite grill spatula.

Equipment Review Grill Spatulas

A good grill spatula should be agile and sturdy and should keep cooks’ hands cool.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.