The Best Spatula

If I could only buy one spatula, I’d get the Mercer Hell’s Handle Fish Spatula. Forget that it’s got fish in its name—it’s a versatile, all-purpose slotted spatula with the right amount of flexibility and strength for only ~$15.

Last Updated: June 4, 2014
After six months of solid use, we still love the Mercer just as much as ever. The silicone GIR is also a pleasure to use and very easy to clean. See our Long-Term Test Notes for more detail.
Expand Previous Updates
December 13, 2013: Stock of our pick at the original Amazon vendor is temporarily out. In the meantime, we added an additional Amazon link for a different vendor who does have it in stock but is charging higher shipping costs.

But if I could get a couple more, I’d add three additional spatulas to my arsenal: if you cook on nonstick pans, the OXO silicone spatula; the GIR silicone spatula for batters and custards; and the LamsonSharp metal turner for smashing and lifting. And if I still had some cash, I’d pad out my collection with a few more specialty spatulas—a wooden stir-fry paddle and a small offset spatula.

We came to this conclusion after 21 hours of research, including discussions with six cooking experts: two magazine test kitchen editors from Saveur and Every Day With Rachael Ray, two chef instructors from the CIA and Le Cordon Bleu, and two restaurant pros. We stirred custards and batters; flipped eggs, fillets of sole, and pancakes; smashed burgers; and cut and lifted brownies.

spatula_lineup Why do I need this?

Every cook will need a spatula—more likely, several spatulas—in their toolkit.
Every cook will need a spatula—more likely, several spatulas—in their toolkit. Aside from knives, they’re probably the most often reached-for tools in the kitchen. Students at the CIA and other cooking schools are issued kits that include a few kinds of spatulas for turning things on a pan or griddle, folding batters, lifting pastries, releasing fond from the bottom of a pan and more.

A good spatula can actually make your food look and taste better because it won’t mangle delicate surfaces and it brings some of the delicious brown bits up as you cook. Different functions and pans should be paired with utensils of different materials and shapes. For some, like Epicurious’s Regina Schrambling, “You can never, ever have enough.”

What to look for

Spatulas are workhorses in the kitchen. They need to be able to lift and support heavy items while maneuvering around delicate foods in tight spaces. Tracey Seaman, Test Kitchen Director for Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine, said cooks should think about “what kind of pan you’re using and what you’re going to use as your tool.” While the thin, sharp edges of a fish spatula are perfect on cast iron or stainless steel, they can do damage to the coating on a nonstick pan. However, some of the plastic spatulas that work well on nonstick aren’t thin enough to slip easily under cookies. And neither of these can scrape down the walls of a saucepan with thickening pastry cream.

Spatulas start at $3 and can get as expensive as $70. You’re paying for better materials, construction and sharpening, which is overkill in some cases. But you should only buy the ones that match your cooking needs.

What type(s) should I get?

We talked to our experts about which spatulas they always have on hand. Judy Haubert, Associate Food Editor at Saveur, told us, “For flipping and turning foods while pan-searing or sauteing, I use at least 4 different kinds of spatula, depending on what I’m cooking.” Our experts were specific about which spatulas were appropriate for which situations, and after discussions with them, we were able to narrow it down to four key types (with a few honorable mentions).

  • Metal fish spatula – this is the platonic ideal of a spatula, with a sharp, slim edge to slip under browned foods easily, a flexible, curved offset and slots that distribute tension so food doesn’t fall off.

  • Plastic spatula – for cooks who work with nonstick pans, plastic spatulas are a necessity in order to keep pans scratch-free (and food teflon-free).

  • High-heat silicone spatula – custards and batters require these for scraping the sides of the vessel down.

  • Offset metal spatula – these sturdy spatulas can help smash burgers down for beautifully crisped edges or cut and lift bar cookies and lasagne with ease.

Honorable mentions: Bolognese and stir fries need a sturdy implement that can cut through chunky, saucy foods while withstanding strong thwacks against a pan’s lip; while a wooden spoon is nice for getting into curved edges, a straight-edged wooden spatula is better for its ability to scrape up brown bits. Many bakers adore small offset spatulas for dainty work like icing cakes and lifting small, thin cookies.

How we picked

Everyone and their mother is in the spatula business, including many of the knife and pan manufacturers. On the high end, you have Williams-Sonoma, Le Creuset, All-Clad, Global, Wusthof, LamsonSharp, Rösle, Kuhn Rikon, and more. In the mid-range, there’s OXO, Tovolo, Calphalon, Dexter-Russell, MIU France, Rachael Ray, Kitchenaid, iSi, Zyliss, and more. On the cheap end, there’s Amco, Norpro, Good Cook, Farberware, Winco, and more. Seriously, everybody and their mother.

To start to winnow things down, we considered over sixty options. Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) has done some great reviews of spatulas. Real Simple and The Kitchn have done multiple roundups of their favorite spatulas. Because reviews were light and the category is enormous, we really wanted to get experts to weigh in on what was best.

We also tried to find kits that would fulfill all of your cooking utensil needs, but they suffered from overkill or homogeneity…
We also tried to find kits that would fulfill all of your cooking utensil needs, but they suffered from overkill or homogeneity (and sometimes both). This $450 Williams-Sonoma 15-piece set offers four different wire whisks, which most cooks won’t touch very often. Other kits are made exclusively of nylon—fine if you only cook on nonstick, but not good if you ever want to cook at higher heat on cast iron or stainless steel clad cookware.  Ultimately, we found the best bang for your buck comes from starting with a good all-purpose spatula, then buying additional pieces for each job.

How we tested

We designed our tests to cover some common use cases using a few types of pans and vessels to test for dexterity, strength, flexibility, heat resistance and ease of use.

For the metal fish spatulas, we sauteed flour-dusted sole in butter on an All-Clad saute pan to test how the spatulas performed a delicate task. We also slipped each spatula under a large juice box that weighed 2.5 lbs. to test the spatulas’ flexibility, strength and the effectiveness of their curved edges.  We used each spatula to lift cookies baked on a standard metal cookie sheet to test lift on a potentially brittle item. And we cut and lifted brownies to test the thin edge’s ability to cut.

But metal spatulas don’t work on nonstick pans as they scratch the teflon surface. Many of our experts told us that they don’t really cook on nonstick pans, which are really a convenience item for civilian kitchens, not professional kitchens. Since a metal spatula would be your best bet for most other pans, we only tested the plastic spatula on nonstick pans, flipping pancakes and eggs.

For the metal turner, we smashed down a ⅓-lb. ball of ground beef into a patty, Shake Shack-style, then flipped it. We also used the turners to cut and lift brownies from a disposable sheet pan.

For the silicone spatulas, we stirred pancake batter and scraped it out of a glass measuring cup. We also cooked the custard base of a coconut cream pie, for which it’s essential to scrape the sides of a saucier so the egg yolks don’t curdle.

thermapen_temperature

We also heated a pan over our hottest burner and rested the handles against the side of the pan for 15 seconds (although some of them didn’t last that long.) For the plastic or silicone items, we pressed the heads against the bottom of the hot pan to see if they really could withstand heat.

The all-purpose spatula

All of our experts agreed on one thing—if you have one spatula, make it a fish spatula.
All of our experts agreed on one thing—if you have one spatula, make it a fish spatula.

“I’d say that the majority of our guys use fish spatulas, slotted so it looks like a rake. I think everyone has that in their bag. It’s probably the most used savory spatula,” said chef Brian Huston of Chicago’s The Publican. And not just for fish. “We do tend to use it for burgers and protein on the grill if we’re searing,” he said.

So-called fish spatulas are made of a quadrilateral piece of stainless steel that’s stamped with long, popsicle-stick-shaped slots. The metal is thin and sharp enough to glide under a piece of seared meat, and the slots provide a way to drain grease. Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) says, “[i]t turns out that the slots actually perform a more important function: They break up the surface of the spatula, reducing the friction of the food across the head and making it easier to slide under food.” A 10-15 degree angle at the tip gives you a triangular corner with which you can easily maneuver in and around tight spaces. While flexibility is key for sliding under foods without mangling them, as Judy Haubert told us, “Spatulas that bend too easily tend to have what I think of as the ‘diving board effect’—food isn’t properly supported and slips off the end of the spatula (usually back into the pan, or onto the floor), while the spatula itself springboards up and down, splattering hot grease and/or food particles every which way.”

Chef Howie Velie, Associate Dean of Culinary Specializations at the Culinary Institute of America, confirmed the fish spatula’s importance in pro kitchens. He told us, “We recently had pretty deep discussion about giving [students] a certain type of spatula, specifically a fish spatula, which is the more common term for it, but the spatula doesn’t know that it’s made for fish.  For me and for a lot of other chefs, it’s kind of an all purpose, light spatula. I use it for everything.”

Pattara Kuramarohit, Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, CA, and an alumnus of Le Bernardin, said, “We use offset spatulas but personally I primarily use the fish spatula.”

Judy Haubert said, “A thin, angled fish spatula slides gently under delicate filets, and its length provides support when lifting and turning long or unwieldy cuts.”

Grace Young, wok-cooking expert, even recommends the flexible fish turner as a great choice for stir-fry in this article on The Kitchn.

The LA Times blog praised the fish spatula, saying, “The large spatula comes with wide slats, allowing liquids to drain while minimizing surface contact with the fish so it doesn’t stick to the spatula and tear as it’s handled.”

We tested four models: Mercer Hell’s Handle Fish Turner ($15), Wusthof’s Fish Spatula ($45), LamsonSharp’s Slotted Turner ($30), and the MIU France Slotted Turner ($10). Where we really felt differences between models were in the thinness of the metal, the material and weight of the handle, the tension in the blade, and the curve of the tip.

Bummer for lefties: with their angled and curved tips, nearly all of the fish spatulas available on Amazon are specifically made for right-handed cooks and can’t be used ambidextrously.

Our pick (and who else likes it)

fish_spatulaOur pick is the Mercer Hell’s Handle Fish Turner ($15). It cleanly flipped a flour-dusted fillet of sole in bubbling butter on stainless steel without marring any of the browned crust. Its sharp tip slid under freshly baked cookies easily without mangling them. The 18/8 stainless steel blade is flexible enough to scooch under the edge of a brownie, but strong enough to hold a large 2.5-lb. box of juice aloft. The gentle upward curve of the tip also keeps food from sliding off the edge.

Given a name like Hell’s Handle, we were a little disappointed that the textured, synthetic handle melted a bit when resting on the edge of a searing hot pan for 15 seconds; granted, our pan was hotter than the 450 degrees the material is supposed to withstand. However, the other fish spatulas we tested suffered from the same problem.

According to the Mercer Cutlery website, these turners come with a limited lifetime warranty and are NSF-certified, a safety certification that’s generally more relevant to commercial kitchens.

We found that it performed identically to the…Wusthof Fish Spatula, which is about three times the price.
We found that it performed identically to the expensive-but-also-wonderful Wusthof Fish Spatula, which is about three times as expensive. The most noticeable difference in use is that the Mercer is heavier in hand, with a thick, ergonomic handle, clocking in at about 122 grams. The Wusthof is about 79 grams.

Though she stressed that she wasn’t attached to any particular brand, chef instructor Pattara Kuramarohit of Le Cordon Bleu said, “I do not see a reason why you need to spend over $20 on a spatula. Right now, in my tool kit I use Mercer.” There aren’t a ton of customer reviews for this tool yet, probably because it’s a brand marketed to professionals. Amazon customer Bästa Råtta says, “This is my 2nd one of these. I am a professional chef and I have to say, Mercer really doesn’t get enough credit. Their knives and tools like this turner are cheap, comfortable to use, and damn durable. I use this fish spat for almost everything.”

The competition

melted_spatulasWe also loved the Wusthof Fish Spatula ($45), which performed identically to our winner. This was the top pick from Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), who said, “Sturdy yet nimble, this arced blade sports a comfortable handle and is ideal for moving anything from fish fillets to vegetables and cookies.” The German-made tool also comes with a limited lifetime warranty, though it may not be necessary. The Sweethome’s Lesley Stockton says, “I’ve been using the same Wusthof spatula since culinary school.” Still, it’s three times the price for the same performance and warranty as our winner.

The American-made LamsonSharp Slotted Turner ($30) has a full-tang high carbon stainless steel blade and lovely balance in the hand at 93 grams. Real Simple recommended it in their Top 20 Kitchen Tools, saying,  “The high-carbon/stainless-steel construction makes the tool sturdy enough to turn a half-pound burger or chop.” But we found that mid-blade flexibility and a too-gentle curve at the tip made the juice box slide off. And it performed the worst of all spatulas in the heat test — after only six seconds, we had to take the spatula off the pan because the pan melted the black POM (polyoxymethylene) handle like a thumb in soft butter. However, it is one of the few brands that offers a left-handed model. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.

 The worst performer was the MIU France Slotted Turner ($10). Though the full tang blade received high ratings from Amazon customers, with 4.5 stars out of 115 reviews, the blade was too flexible and lightweight to carry the heavy juice box. It feels flimsy at 64 grams. And there’s almost no curve at the tip, so food just slips right off.

The plastic spatula (for nonstick)

Most of the pros we talked to don’t use nonstick pans, or only use them specifically for stick-prone, low-heat foods.
Most of the pros we talked to don’t use nonstick pans, or only use them specifically for stick-prone, low-heat foods. Tracey Seaman of Every Day With Rachael Ray says, “I recommend that people don’t use nonstick cookware for everything. I have a set of three nonstick skillets that I use mostly for making eggs and pancakes.” And Howie Velie of the CIA says, “We do use nonstick pans but specifically for egg dishes because it is more delicate. Me, personally, I’m not a big fan, but it is an industry tool we use.”

But they are a convenience item prevalent in many home kitchens. When working with nonstick, you want to avoid scratching the thin coating of teflon on your nonstick surfaces because it permanently damages the pan and you might wind up eating some of that coating, which is not good for you.

Like metal spatulas, the best plastic spatulas have a thin edge that can slip under foods, some flexibility for maneuvering and strength for lifting. Where many plastic spatulas fail is in thickness, as many are just too thick to slide under delicate foods without breaking them, as well as heat resistance. You could argue that plastic spatulas shouldn’t have to resist such high heat since they’re generally being used on nonstick, which also deteriorates over high heat. But how fastidious are we in real life, when we grab a tool from the drawer for a searing piece of meat that needs to be rescued from becoming inedible? I’d rather have a tool that can stand up to the heat of a metal pan if called for duty.

The testers we pulled in this category varied widely in design, materials used, and cost — performance was all over the place, too. We used these plastic spatulas with nonstick pans to flip over-easy eggs and pancakes; we also tried to cut and lift brownies, lift cookies from a baking sheet, and to lift the large carton of juice. All of the plastic models were inferior to the metal fish spatulas, but we did find one that performed well enough in all the tests.

Our plastic pick (and who else likes it)

Also Great
It’s thin enough to slip under cookies without mangling them and is a must if you use non-stick cookware so it won’t get scratched.
We liked the OXO Good Grips Flexible Silicone Turner ($10). While it can’t beat metal for sharpness or dexterity, the blade was still one of the thinnest of the plastic spatulas we tested, allowing us to scoot underneath warm cookies without mangling them. The cushy, rubberized handle is comfortable in the hand. The flat edge of the silicone slipped easily under a fried egg and pancakes, and the medium offset angle made lifting foods quite comfortable on the wrist. This turner is made with a flexible, stainless-steel core sheathed in thin, heat-resistant silicone, which means the blade easily passed the heat test (though its handle is less heat resistant and started melting after 15 seconds resting on the pan’s lip). Given how flexible the head is, we were surprised at how easily it handled balancing the 2.5 lb. juice carton without any sign of slipping off.

…one of the thinnest of the plastic spatulas we tested, allowing us to scoot underneath warm cookies without mangling them.
This spatula gets 4.3 stars out of 206 reviews. Where Amazon customers have been disappointed is in the spatula’s longevity — some complain of the silicone splitting apart. We didn’t find that problem in our testing, but OXO products come with their great anytime satisfaction guarantee if it happens to you.

It was also recommended with reservations by Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), who said, “Nicely proportioned, with a comfortable handle and angle similar to those of its steel sibling.” They found that the silicone coating made the head too thick, but it’s still thinner than every other plastic turner we tried, except for the one that melted easily.

The competition

Cook’s Illustrated’s favorite plastic spatula is the Matfer Bourgeat Pelton ($11). While we liked its thin blade and fish spatula shape for lifting cookies and flipping eggs, its nearly completely flat shape means you have to curl the plastic tip down on the surface in order to get under foods. And it melted into goop when we pressed the tip against on a really hot pan. This thing wouldn’t last long in in my kitchen.

spatula_tip_melted

The Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Pure Silicone Turner ($30) got rave reviews from Amazon users, with 4.8 stars out of 22 reviews. Its deep offset and sturdy, round stainless steel handle make it extra comfortable for lifting heavy items—you could probably lift a huge roast with it. The extra firm, slotted silicone head withstood being pressed against a hot pan without visible damage. But its too hefty for most nonstick pan needs—its length and angles are a bit unwieldy for delicate maneuvering around eggs, and the thick head was hard to slip under delicate foods. We could see this beefy spat being used on a grill — but then why would you need a plastic spatula for the grill?

The Kuhn Rikon SoftEdge Slotted 12-inch Spatula ($18) seems like a good idea — a flexible stainless spatula with its edges covered in heat resistant, non-scratching silicone. But that silicone edge was too thick and floppy to get underneath foods, canceling out the qualities that make a fish spatula great. The silicone also discolored and seemed to burn when we pressed it against the hot pan.

Another good idea on paper is the OXO Good Grips Omelet Turner ($11) — a silicone covered spatula in a slotted fish spatula shape. Unlike our winner, it was way too floppy and flexible. The head measures 7” at its longest point and 4” at its widest point — it’s the Lennie Small of spatulas, mangling food with its size and softness. Its large, rounded corners didn’t navigate a crowded skillet of pancakes very well. Forget trying to lift anything large and heavy with it — the juice box just slid off. It was as heat resistant as our winner, but other than that, we didn’t find much to love about it.

The silicone spatula

We used to call these “rubber spatulas”, but for the bowl-cleaning spatulas meant for batters and heat-thickened foods, silicone has become the material of choice. It’s food safe and can withstand a much higher heat than its rubber predecessor. As Good Housekeeping says, “More than ten years ago, we were thrilled to see the first silicone spatulas introduced by Le Creuset. We thought they were nothing short of miraculous…spatulas that were made of a material that could take the heat so you could use them to scramble eggs, stir sauces, and even flip burgers as well as stir cake batters or scrape bowls clean.”

A great silicone spatula can scrape down both the straight sides of a saute pan and get into the rounded bottom of a bowl.
A great silicone spatula can scrape down both the straight sides of a saute pan and get into the rounded bottom of a bowl. It should be stiff and thick enough to press dough together, but flexible enough to wipe down a bowl with ease. And our experts expressed a preference for spatulas without detachable heads. Judy Haubert said, “For scraping sauces and batter out of saucepans and bowls however, one-piece silicone spatulas with thin, angled double edges are my very favorite tool. Food and grease slide right off, they’re dishwasher-safe even on the hottest setting, and no removable head means no chance of grime or bacteria getting into any nooks or crevices.”

Tracey Seaman of Every Day with Rachael Ray agreed. “If they had wooden handles, a lot of times the spatula would come off the handle.”

Pim Techamuanvivit, jam maker and restaurateur behind San Francisco’s forthcoming Kin Khao, also prefers one-material silicone spatulas. She told us, “I use the dishwasher a lot because jam making needs to be sterilized, so I put them through the dishwasher and put them through super hot cycle. The ones with the wooden handle where the top comes off, sometimes water comes out of that and sometimes you see stuff growing.”

We narrowed it down to the silicone models that got the most rave reviews and weren’t made of detachable pieces. To test their performance, we stirred pancake batters in bowls and custards in a saucier over medium heat.

We didn’t do a lengthy test for stains or smells, but we’re taking a tip from Pim Techamuanvivit and getting separate spats for strong foods. She told us, “I have certain types of spatulas I use only for my jams. Those are not allowed to have any contact with those that I use when I make curry or stir-fry. I keep them separate because it doesn’t matter how many times you wash a silicone spatula that touched a curry paste, it’s going to smell like curry paste, and it’s just going to transfer.”

Our silicone pick

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $19.
It’s small enough to fit in a peanut butter jar, strong enough to press down doughs and flexible enough to clean the edges of a batter bowl.
Changing from rubber to silicone heads was a great leap forward in product design, and we think the Kickstarter-born GIR Spatula ($23) is the next step forward in spatula design for home kitchens. It’s a single piece of silicone with a nearly invisible edge seam, so it’s easy to throw into the dishwasher. The small head is slim enough to fit into a peanut butter jar, but comfortable and quick to use in a large saucier mixture, with parallel edges that can scrape down the straight sides of a saute pan. Though the tip is thick enough to give the spatula heft for pressing down doughs, it’s flexible enough to glide smoothly and cleanly around the edges of a batter bowl.

The grippy, rounded handle feels better in the hand than the competitors’ flat, thin sticks, and it feels like there’s a counterweight in the handle and some hidden reinforcement through the bottom half of the head. We liked the angled tip for getting around the bottom of the saucier. And because both flat sides are symmetrical, it can be used by left- and right-handed cooks.

It passed the heat test with flying colors without signs of degradation, even when we pressed the head down onto the hot pan for 15 seconds.

Though it’s pricier than the other options available, the GIR Spatula comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Though it’s pricier than the other options available, the GIR Spatula comes with a lifetime guarantee. It’s a pleasure to use, and the bright, popping colors would look great hanging on the wall.

The Kitchn loves it, too. After two months of testing, their Emma Christensen said, “The very tip of the blade is perfect for getting into the very corners of pans. As someone who wants no licks left behind, this makes me gleeful.”

Amazon users love this thing. It has a 4.9-star average rating from 96 customer reviews. 90 of these are 5 star, and nobody rated it lower than a 3. Pretty rare given the large sample size.

According to the GIR website, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park endorses the tool, saying, “There’s a GIR Spatula in every bain marie in the Eleven Madison Park kitchen. Everyone has a specific color at their station, which makes them harder to misplace.”

The competition

The Rubbermaid High Heat Professional Scraper ($9) is a stalwart that can be found in many commercial kitchens. It’s NSF-certified and comes in a small 9 ½” size and a large 13 ½” size. This model was recommended to us by Saveur’s Judy Haubert, and the larger version was the top pick from Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required). The silicone head had no trouble withstanding the heat of being pressed on a pan on our hottest burner, but the handle did melt a bit after resting on the lip of the pan for 15 seconds. However, we found the head to be a bit too stiff; combine that with a flat, stiff handle and it just wasn’t that efficient at getting around the bowl smoothly. The larger 13½” sized spat was a bit unwieldy for home-sized recipes. Many Amazon customers echo that sentiment in their reviews. Jo Jo says, “I am not a professional cook, but this spatula is a little stiff for my liking.” (The Sweethome’s Lesley Stockton used them in professional kitchens and says the head does soften a bit over time, though.)

We also tested the Tovolo 12 inch Spatula Set, which is an extremely affordable set of 3 for $7. Though its stainless steel-handled sibling was the one highly recommended on Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), it got pretty bad reviews on Amazon (3.7 stars out of 121 reviews), mostly for a disintegrating head. Instead, we got the much cheaper and more nylon-handled version, which got a more respectable 4.4 stars out of 111 reviews. While the silicone heads are firmly attached to the very slim nylon handles, we weren’t thrilled with these — the silicone is much floppier and the blade much thinner than our other two testers. We didn’t see disintegration or flaking during our brief tests. The nylon handle melted a bit on the lip of the pan, and the silicone head showed some discoloration as we pressed it against the bottom of the pan. It is cheap, though.

The metal turner

While the light, elegant fish spatula really does a great job in almost every situation when you’re working with metal pans, sometimes you want something a little heftier for brute force tasks like smashing and heavy lifting. Judy Haubert of Saveur has a family heirloom metal spatula. She told us, “I have a simple, no-frills square metal spatula that’s great for everything from flipping burgers in my cast-iron pan, to cutting out squares of brownies from a baking dish. This is actually my favorite spatula, and is just a thin piece of precisely bent galvanized tin with a perfect beveled edge—my dad made it for my grandma in his high school shop class, and I loved using it so much in the kitchen while growing up that I asked to have it when I moved away from home.”

Tracey Seaman of Every Day with Rachael Ray also uses a firm, non-slotted metal spatula. “You want to have one metal spatula that you could use for maybe flipping a hamburger in a skillet or taking cookies off a baking sheet.”

A metal turner surpasses the fish spatula in its ability to cut sharp, even lines through bar cookies and easily lift heavy pieces of food.
A metal turner surpasses the fish spatula in its ability to cut sharp, even lines through bar cookies and easily lift heavy pieces of food. Its offset and sharp, flat tip make it comfortable for sliding underneath cookies and roasted foods.

Because this tool is complementary to the fish spatula, we chose testers that offered different, desirable attributes — an offset for comfortable lifting and leverage, a comfortable stiffness for strength, a flat, non slotted blade for evenly smashing down burgers or pressing grilled cheese sandwiches flat. A great metal turner should be thin and sharp enough to cut a pan of lasagne or brownies evenly. We were surprised at how comfortable this diner classic is to use—the shorter handle allows for great control in flipping, lifting and carrying.

If you’re worried about scraping off the seasoning on your cast iron pans, Chow says not to worry. “Metal spatulas dislodge burned food residues little by little,” [Chowhound user] Chemicalkinetics says, “leaving the underlying seasoning intact (even stronger, in fact).“

While an older Cook’s Illustrated review covered a strange array of metal spatulas, including a fish spatula and a wire spatula, we couldn’t find much up-to-date editorial on great metal turners.

Serious Eats’s J. Kenji López-Alt praised an extra-wide metal turner for burger-smashing because of its size and weight. But the wide head on the expensive model he chose makes it a specialty item that wouldn’t be as useful for smaller tasks like cutting bar cookies. Still, we took a cue from his write-up and looked for turners with optimum offset and firm tension.

We looked at Amazon’s top-rated turners and settled on two testers that had those attributes. We smashed balls of ground beef into patties for maximum crisped brown surface area, lifted cookies from a cookie sheet, cut and lifted brownies, and subjected the wood handles to the same heat test as the others.

Our metal turner pick (and who else likes it)

Also Great
The tip is slightly sharpened so it can cut through brownies or pasta, and it works great for pressing down burgers and grilled cheese.
We’re going with the LamsonSharp Pro Easy-Entry Turner ($19). The very slightly angled tip is actually ground down like a knife, so it’s beautifully sharp (without being dangerous), cutting clean lines through the brownies; the offset made easy work of lifting them. Burgers maximized surface contact with the skillet; we had to press gently in order to keep the meat from squirting through the slots when we tried the same move with the fish spatulas. The riveted handle is half tang, but we couldn’t discern related issues in performance.

The square version of the LamsonSharp turner was namechecked in this Chowhound discussion on necessary spatulas by two members. A similar turner with a slightly wider tipped blade was recommended with reservations by Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) in the aforementioned guide. They said, “We liked its slim, squared-off front edge, which cut layers of pasta and cheese like a sharp knife.” They found it too stiff to use as an all-purpose spatula. We’d agree, but since we’re suggesting this as a supplement to the flexible fish spatula, we find its inflexibility useful for the more muscular tasks like smashing, cutting, and lifting.

In the heat test, the hard wood handle got a little singed, but not damaged.

Honestly, our two testers performed virtually identically, but we decided to give it to the American-made LamsonSharp has a bit more weight and comes with a lifetime warranty.

The competition

The Dexter-Russell turners were praised by many Chowhound members in this discussion on best spatulas. This model ($16) is the one of the bestselling, highest rated metal turners on Amazon, with 4.6 stars out of 166 reviews. We talked to Dexter-Russell and were told that the walnut version is no longer being made; the model we tested the S242 ½, is exactly the same, but made with a hard rosewood handle, which just got a tiny brand mark in our heat test. Really, he American-made turner performed virtually identically to the LamsonSharp. It has a riveted handle holding a not-quite half-tang, more like third-tang, blade that looks just a hair thinner than our pick, and without the sharpened lip.

In their guide to metal spatulas, Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) compared five wildly different models and ultimately chose the Wusthof fish spatula as their top pick — a great, if expensive, pick for all-purpose use. But since several of our experts suggested a sturdy, non-slotted metal spatula in addition to a fish spatula, we focused on finding a heftier, complementary tool.

Bonus spatulas if you have the money and room

Though it wasn’t on every expert’s top list, a wooden spatula can be fantastic addition to your spatula toolkit. Fine Cooking gives us five reasons to love the wooden cooking utensil: it’s strong, it’s soft, it’s insulated, it resists high heat, and it looks and feels nice. Tracey Seaman of Every Day with Rachael Ray said, “I like a wooden spatula, sort of like a wooden spoon with a flat edge. I like that for cooking a hearty meat sauce or a stir-fry — something that’s a little heavier than a mixture I would use the rubber spatula.” And Michael Ruhlman, avowed round spoon hater, extolls the virtues of the flat wooden spoon in this video. Though this is a bit more esoteric, Asian food expert Helen Chen says in this interview that one wonderful thing about a wooden implement is that it’s quiet against metal. Because wood doesn’t conduct high heat, it doesn’t get too hot, and its hardness means it can push through large amounts of solids.

Chef Howie Velie of the CIA told us that one of the key tools given to new students is a wooden spatula-spoon. “It doesn’t have a bowl like your classic spoon has. It’s flat, but it’s got a scraper attachment so you can actually touch the sides of the pan.” Though we didn’t specifically get into brands with Velie, we took a look at top rated models with these attributes.

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $5.
It’s cheap, thick and sturdy, easily scraping the fond from the bottom of a pan.
Of the three wooden spatulas we tested, we recommend the Helen Chen 13-inch Bamboo Stir Fry Spatula ($4). It’s dirt cheap, thick, and sturdy, easily breaking up tangles of ground beef and scraping fond from the bottom of the pan. The Bambu “Give It A Rest” Spatula ($3) was too small and thin; it also burned quite a bit in the heat test. The Olive Wood Spatula ($8) has both a pronounced upward curve and tip angle which makes it less useful for left-handed cooks (or righties switching arms). The finish seems a bit more delicate and porous — even after oiling it with olive oil, the spatula looks a bit dry.

Another surprisingly multi-tasking spatula worth adding to your arsenal is a mini offset spatula. These small, skinny offset palette knives are designed for bakers who want to add polish to cakes and spreading thick batters into the corners of pans, but people often use them for handling smaller, delicate tasks of all kinds. The Kitchn’s Emma Christensen calls it a favorite kitchen tool: “Whenever we need to handle hot foods gently, this spatula become an extension of our hands and fingers.”

Fine Cooking’s Abigail Johnson Dodge says of her small, narrow offset spatula, “Because the blade is offset from the handle, I can spread the sides evenly and swirl the top beautifully without my hand getting in the way. It’s also great for spreading mustard or mayo on sandwiches, too.”

Pim Techamuanvivit told us, “If I’m traveling and planning to do some cooking, I’ll bring my knife and an offset spatula. I think they’re the best at getting  things off of a cookie sheet. If I go on a trip where I know I’ll be cooking, sometimes I take that little offset spatula with me. Most kitchens don’t have it and I miss it.”

Also Great
Makes spreading batter and frosting cupcakes easier.
We didn’t test these, but we’ve got a few recommendations from other sources: Real Simple praises the Ateco Small Mini Offset Spatula ($4), saying, “Sure, you can use a butter knife to spread batter and frost cupcakes, but this inexpensive utensil does the job so much better. Try it once and you’ll call it indispensable.” The cheap Ateco has a great 4.6 star rating out of 48 reviews on Amazon. Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) prefers the now-discontinued 9-inch Wilton Angled Spatula. This is the model I own, and I love it — the little dimple near the blade provides a sturdy rest for your index finger for great control. Unfortunately (as indicated by the insanely marked up $40 price), it has been replaced by this one, which lacks the dimple.

Long-term test notes

After six months of use, the Mercer’s still going strong, and we have absolutely no complaints. We’ve found it’s the only spatula that can wiggle under a fried egg in a teeny 3.5-inch cast iron skillet, and the big, grippy handle is a pleasure to use.

The GIR spatula is also really excellent still. We love how easy it is to clean, and that it can go in the dishwasher without fear of melting. There are no crevices or pores for cookie dough to hide in, and it’s often the best solution to scrape the last tablespoon of jam from the jar.

Wrapping it up

A good spatula will make your food look and taste better as long as it’s easy to use. Start with the Mercer Hell’s Handle Fish Turner and build your collection out from there, depending on what foods you like to cook and on what kinds of pans.

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Originally published: December 12, 2013

  • Kari C

    Good picks. I have the Tovolo scrapers and they have a strong, sweet smell that I don’t like. Did you notice that with the GIR?

    I absolutely love these Calphalon metal spatulas, they also come in slotted. Great price and they work well in cast-iron pans. I use them to scrape the pan after cooking, great for keeping the cooking surface of the pans smooth and non-stick.
    http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-FS03-Stainless-Utensils-Turner/dp/B000IV5AW4/

    • Ganda Suthivarakom

      Haven’t noticed a smell on the GIR yet. I’ll update if I do!

  • Nello Lucchesi

    Even with my regular, metal AllClad pans I avoid using metal utensils so that I minimize scratching their mirror finish. I presume that the fewer scratches there are in a pan, the less sticking I’ll have. Is there merit to this thinking?

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    • Matt

      I agree. I used their pick once on my All Clad pan, and it lightly scratched it. I don’t know what this spatula is good for? I can’t use it on my All Clad pan, my seasoned carbon steel pan, or my ceramic nonstick pan. I can use it on my cast iron but even then it can lightly scratch the pan or the seasoning sometimes. Maybe years of use would give me a smooth mirror finish on the cast iron? I think most people have mostly Teflon nonstick pans, and they shouldn’t use it either. This is one purchase I’ve made as a result of this site that I’m really disappointed in.

      I find myself reaching for the wooden spatula all the time, but I’d like to have something else for turning food, and something that’s a bit more durable.

    • Alex

      You won’t notice a significant difference from scratches.

      The best way to reduce sticking is to pre-heat the pan for a few minutes, then add oil and the meat, and let the meat sit in the pan for a minute before trying to flip it.

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  • NTACvOS

    You missed the best of the best!

    Their stainless steel “Flexible Turner”
    http://www.oxo.com/p-595-flexible-turner-steel.aspx

    Though I don’t blame you as OXO seems to make this spatula purposefully rare.

    After I got my first one, I forget where and wanted more because they were so good. OXO didn’t even have them on their website at the time and I couldn’t find them in any store’s OXO display. Tuens out that Harris Teeter grocery store was the place, so I did get three more.

    More recently it at least appears on their website, Amazon and a couple of retailers I know of, so anyone searching these days should have no trouble finding some! :)

    The dexterity one of these Flexible Turners gives me, allows it to be used even on teflon – though we’ve since thrown out or donated all our non-cast iron. (Properly seasoning cast iron – which is easy – makes it just as non-stick as teflon, btw. I cook eggs without oil.)

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      If they make it hard to get, it makes it a poor pick for our readers. Is it the large or medium?

      • Sheldon James

        If it’s “shipped and sold by Amazon.com”, which it is, I’d consider it easy to get.

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          That’s a link to OXO above. If there’s a link to this on Amazon I’d love to see it. *Not being sarcastic!

          • Sheldon James

            Weird, that one is in fact available at Amazon here:
            http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Good-Grips-Flexible-Spatula/dp/B00004OCL8/

            …although I didn’t look very closely before, and what I actually had in mind is the OXO Fish Turner, which is also available on Amazon, and more similar to the one in this article:

            http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Good-Grips-Fish-Turner/dp/B000YDO2MK/

            It’s a few dollars cheaper than the Mercer’s Hell model. The use of the two tubes of metal to support the spatula piece might make it seem weak, but it’s withstood a lot of abuse.

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            Forwarded along!

          • Guest

            Replied to your comment but didn’t thread it to this post; see below.

  • Chris S

    What is your top pick for lefties? I have been debating getting the LamsonSharp left-handed turner, but with a set of non-stick pans, I have been trying to figure out if that is the best decision…

    • Ganda Suthivarakom

      Hi Chris, the LamsonSharp was the only lefty fish spat I came across in my initial research. It would be a good option. I didn’t like its flexibility as much as the other fish spats, but it was recommended by one of my sources and it’s a good company. Handle melted a lot faster than the other spats, though.

      However, if you have nonstick pans, you’ll want to avoid metal for sure. The OXO flexible turner we talk about here has a straight edge, so it’s good for left and right hands. It’s not as thin as a fish spatula, so it’s not going to slip under food as easily, but at least it won’t scratch your pans and it’s impervious to high heat.

  • Dave

    Did you notice GIR is making a flip spatula/turner now too? How does it compare to the oxo pick?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Thanks! Also, way to go upvoting your own comment.