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Pasta Forks

Published March 2012

How we tested

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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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*