Baking Tool Reviews: Rubber Spatulas
Baking tool reviews for rubber spatulas are important, because when you buy what used to be called a rubber spatula, you’ve got a million choices. But after you bring it home, you’re probably going to find out what we found out: most of them are pretty annoying. They can be uncomfortable, weirdly shaped, too big, too long, too short. It just shouldn’t be this hard to find a decent spatula.
We bought 10 silicone spatulas, all ranging in price from about 7 to $20. We wanted an all-purpose spatula, something that you could use for everything – from delicate baking to high-heat cooking. We put them through a battery of tests and even tried to stain and melt and destroy them.
The single, most important part of a spatula is its head. And for a lot of reasons, silicone’s an ideal material for this. It’s heat resistant, it’s inert, which means it doesn’t give off any fumes or chemicals into the air or your food. And manufacturers can give it any shape or texture that they like. Unfortunately, not all the shapes and textures worked.
First, tips that were too pointed, too floppy or too curved, just made us work harder. We preferred a squared-off tip that could swipe the bottom of a pan clean. It also had to be soft and flexible enough to scrape all the batter out of a mixing bowl, but rigid enough to scrape up the browned bits from a skillet to make a pan sauce. And not all of them could do it.
We decided the face of a spatula head should be smooth, so that as you wipe it clean on the rim of a bowl or a pan, it comes clean in one stroke. A central ridge on others let pocket of batter stuck on either side, making us do multiple swipes. These smooth cheeks also came in handy for swirling and blending pan sauce, or slipping under the delicate edge of an omelet. Not least important, the spatula head should be large and broad enough to move significant amounts of food at once. If the head’s too small, it just makes you work twice as hard.
But don’t forget about handles. They can really help or actually hurt when you’re stirring for an extended time or pushing against stiff batter. As we folded dozens and dozens of egg whites into angel food cake batter, and stirred pot after pot of steaming hot risotto, we quickly learned we liked a long handle on our spatulas, to keep us out of the hot pot or sticky batter. But handles couldn’t just be long, they also had to be rigid enough to provide some leverage. A few of these spatulas had handles that literally flopped like a wet noodle. Try blending Parmesan cheese through a finished risotto with a spatula that can barely push through the rice.
We also liked our spatula handles to be as heat-proof as the head. One handle actually melted, as it rested on the side of a hot skillet. A few with metal inserts heated up – that’s not so great, if you plan to use your spatula for cooking as well as baking.
Even with a great shape and a comfy handle, some spatulas get stained and stinky, holding onto cooking smells. We made a witches brew of curry and tomato sauce – the worst offenders, and put all the spatulas in for an hour-long simmer. Then we ran them through a home-style dishwasher twice. About half the lineup did clean up well, the dark-colored ones. The lighter one stained. Choose a darker shade, if you want to keep your spatula looking new. And a few of them still smelled like curry days later, while some didn’t smell at all.
Finally, manufacturers claim these spatulas won’t melt. So, we tried to melt them. We put them in a cast-iron skillet with a laser thermometer to measure the temperature, and we held the tip pressed down firmly in the hot pan for two minutes. A few of them turned brown, but all the spatulas stayed soft and flexible. And none gave off any fumes or odors.
In the end, we found a pair of winners. The Rubbermaid Professional 13 1/2 inch Heat-resistant scraper is a kitchen workhorse and it costs 18.99. The Tovolo silicone spatula is a little fancier looking, but cost only 8.95. Both came through with a solid performance, whether we were cooking or baking.