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Spider Skimmers

Published July 2016
Update: May 2017
Our winning spider skimmer, the Kuhn Rikon Spider Skimmer, Small, has been discontinued. In its place, we recommend the the Rösle Wire Skimmer, $41.68. Our new Best Buy is the WMF Profi Plus Spider Strainer 14" (5" dia.), $19.95.

How we tested

When we’re deep-frying, blanching, or boiling, we use a spider skimmer—a long-handled stainless-steel wire basket—to remove food from the pot. Spiders have larger capacities than slotted spoons and more open area for faster, safer drainage. There are two basic spider basket designs; the traditional design is made from thin wire mesh, and the more modern style has a spiral (or concentric circles) of smooth, slightly thicker wire. To find the best spider, we tested six models—three of each basket style, priced from $11.99 to $41.68—while boiling ravioli and deep-frying French fries and chicken pieces.

All of the spiders functioned adequately, but certain factors made some safer, quicker, and more comfortable to use. In general, we preferred spiders with longer handles (for more protection from boiling water and hot oil) and larger grips (which were more comfortable for users of varying hand sizes). While testers had a slight preference for lighter spiders, balance was more important than total weight—models that felt basket-heavy were awkward and less comfortable to use, seeming heavier than they really were.

The optimal basket depth was 1 to 1½ inches. Shallower baskets couldn’t hold as many smaller items, requiring more passes to clear the pot, and didn’t securely hold larger items. Baskets deeper than 1½ inches held plenty but felt unwieldy and were more difficult and time-consuming to empty.

We found that the smooth wires of spiral-style baskets handled the delicate ravioli with a lighter touch than the mesh baskets, on which food often snagged. In the end, we deemed basket style less important than basket size—and most of the spiders that met our preferred basket dimensions had mesh-style baskets.

Our favorite spider, the lightweight Kuhn Rikon Spider Skimmer, Small ($19.69), has a long, 10.5-inch handle that kept us safely away from the heat; a large, comfortable rubberized grip; and a medium-depth webbed basket that made it quick and easy to extract food of all sizes and shapes.

Methodology

We tested six spider skimmers, priced from $11.99 to $41.68 and purchased online. All measurements were taken in house. Items appear in order of preference.

COMFORT: We gave higher marks to well-balanced spiders with grips that were at least 4.5 inches long and had a rubbery texture or nubs that let us hold them more securely.

SAFETY: Spiders with handles at least 10 inches long kept our hands just far enough from the hot oil and water without sacrificing maneuverability.

BASKET: We gave more points to baskets of moderate depth (1 to 1½ inches), which allowed for both maneuverability and good security while scooping and releasing foods of all sizes.

FOOD HANDLING: We had several testers use each skimmer to scoop ravioli out of boiling water and fried chicken and French fries out of hot oil. We gave points to baskets that were able to pick up and deposit the delicate ravioli without tearing or scuffing them. We deducted points from baskets with large gaps that trapped fries or ravioli.

CLEANUP: We repeatedly washed each spider in the dishwasher and by hand. While the dishwasher easily removed any remnants of fried chicken batter or ravioli skin, we gave extra points to spiders with smooth wire baskets that caught and retained less food and were thus easier to clean by hand.

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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*