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Metal Spatulas

Published November 2018

How we tested

A good metal spatula is an essential component of any cook's toolkit. Often referred to as a turner or flipper—likely to avoid confusion with thicker silicone spatulas that are used to fold and scrape—it's used to flip or transfer foods whenever we're working with metal cook- or bakeware. (When cooking in more delicate nonstick pans, we prefer plastic spatulas.)

It had been a while since our last review, and we wanted to know if our old favorite, the Wüsthof Gourmet 12″ Fish Spatula ($49.95), still held up to the competition. We bought 10 models priced from $4.53 to $49.95, including our previous winner, and put them through their paces, using them to flip and remove eggs, pancakes, burgers, fried fish, and home fries from a variety of cooking vessels and to transfer sugar cookies from a baking sheet to a wire rack. Five models were conventional spatulas, featuring sturdy square or rectangular heads, some slotted and some solid. The other five, including our former winner, were fish spatulas. Often found in restaurant kitchens, these spatulas feature long, tapered, slotted heads; as their name implies, they were traditionally used to lift and support slender fish fillets.

The good news? All the spatulas performed reasonably well and were able to get the food from point A to point B more or less intact. Still, a few factors made certain models easier, more comfortable, and generally more pleasant to use.

Fish Spatulas versus Regular Spatulas: What's the Difference?

There's a reason that professional cooks swear by fish spatulas. The spatulas' unique head shape makes them versatile, allowing them to excel at flipping and moving not only delicate pieces of fish, but foods of different shapes and sizes. For one thing, the heads are roomy—on average, about 12 square inches, compared to 11 for the conventional models. They are also long and slim, tapering out from the base, so they can nimbly navigate even the tightest spaces, such as the 8-inch cast-iron skillet we used to make over-easy eggs. The length of the fish spatulas' heads—5.5 inches on average for the models in our lineup—was particularly important. Longer heads act as more extensive landing strips for food to travel along, so food didn't fall right off or get squashed when we shoved a little too forcefully to get the spatula under the food.

By contrast, the heads of the five conventional metal spatulas in our lineup were squat and rectangular, which made them a little awkward to maneuver in confined spaces. Because the heads are shorter than a fish spatula's (most were less than 4 inches long), fragile foods such as pancakes and soft cookies sometimes hit the back end and got dented if we slid the spatula under them too vigorously; heavier foods such as pub burgers sometimes fell backward onto the cooking surface. And these spatulas' smaller surface areas meant that long fish fillets and large pancakes sometimes draped over the sides a bit precariously.

In addition, most of the conventional spatulas in our lineup had heads that were either too rigid and thick (more than 1 millimeter), making it harder to get under food without damaging it, or too flexible and thin (0.2 millimeters), buckling slightly when we lifted the ½-pound pub burgers. Fish spatulas hit the sweet spot: At 0.8 to 0.9 millimeters thick, their moderately flexible heads hugged the cooking surface and slipped easily under all foods without tearing or bumping them, but they were still substantial enough to support heavier foods and do a little scraping when foods stuck.

The Best Type of Spatula Handle

Fish spatulas had advantages on the other end as well. Their handles—all 4.5 to 5 inches long—moved our hands closer to the action and gave us more control for flipping and scooping. By contrast, the handles on conventional spatulas were simply too long—8 to 9 inches on the most unwieldy models—leaving us to poke clumsily at the food from afar.

More generally, we preferred handles of moderate thickness, about 2.5 to 3.25 inches around. Thinner, flatter handles cramped our hands after extended use, and thicker handles were hard for smaller-handed users to hold. We also liked handles made of textured wood or plastic, as these were easier to grasp than smooth metal, especially when wet or greasy.

Our Favorite Metal Spatula: Wüsthof Gourmet 12″ Fish Spatula

By the conclusion of testing, one thing was clear: We significantly preferred fish spatulas to conventional models. Two products swam to the top of our rankings. They are nearly identical, with moderately long, medium-thick handles made of easy-to-hold plastic. Both also have large, long heads that could lift any food without damaging it and just enough flexibility for good control. There was just one small critical difference between the two models: the curvature of the head. Once again, our old favorite from Wüsthof had the edge—literally. The end of its head curves upward with a pronounced swoop, affording more leverage for prying up roasted potatoes or lifting the corner of a pancake to check its browning. The curved head also positions hands higher, putting them at a safer distance from hot pans. At $49.95, it's not cheap, but we think it's a worthy investment, considering how frequently we use it. That said, our Best Buy, the MIU France Flexible Fish Turner—Slotted ($16.57), was a very close second. Its head is nearly flat, so it can't command quite the same amount of leverage as our winner and it brings your knuckles a little closer to the hot pan. But it performed almost as well—and at a third of the price.

Methodology

We tested 10 metal spatulas priced from $4.53 to $49.95, using them to flip and remove eggs, pancakes, burgers, fried fish, and home fries from a variety of cookware and to transfer sugar cookies from a baking sheet to a wire rack. We also had users of different dominant hands and hand sizes flip and transfer pancakes with each model. We measured the spatulas' heads at their widest points. Models were evaluated on their overall performance, as well as their head design and handle design. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

RATING CRITERIA

Performance: We evaluated how well the spatulas flipped and removed different types of food from a variety of cookware.

Head Design: We evaluated the design of the spatulas' heads, giving more points to those that maneuvered well in tight spaces but provided plenty of room to hold food securely and to those that were able to get under food easily without damaging it.

Handle Design: We evaluated the design of the spatulas' handles. Those that felt comfortable, grippy, and easy to control for testers of all hand sizes earned full marks.

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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*