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Even professional chefs can get confused by spatulas and it’s not rare to walk into a restaurant kitchen and find someone using a spatula in the wrong way, creating work and possibly risking people’s health.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be hard to understand spatulas, there are only 3 different types and they each have a very specific purpose.
So, let’s take a look at the types of spatulas and how you choose the right one for the right job.
The flipper is for turning things over.
It has a long handle that ends in a roughly rectangular surface that is either solid or has slots in the surface (these allow oil to drain while you turn).
There may be a gentle tapering at the front of the surface which lets it slide under your food more easily.
We use a slotted flipper to turn burgers and chops and the like, whereas we opt for a solid flipper when it comes to flipping a pancake or French toast and we don’t want anything to escape.
There is also a special variant of the flipper which is for fish and it has a thinner, slightly curved surface and some extra thin slots too, it’s all designed to make it easier to turn flakey fish.
Check: Rachael Ray’s The Book of Burger for inspiration to use a flipper.
The spreader type of spatula is long and narrow and has a certain similarity to a sword, though we wouldn’t recommend dueling at dawn with a spreader, your opponent will win.
As the name suggests this kind of spatula is there so that you can spread things around with it such as the icing on a cake or mayonnaise on a sub.
You can get a straight spreader, which is meant for spreading cheese or tackling icing on the edge of a cake and an offset spreader that has a bend in the neck.
The offset spreader makes it easy to spread things across large flat surfaces while keeping your hands out of whatever it is that you’re spreading.
Check: The British Baking Book by Regula Ysewijn for some inspiration to use your spreader.
The scraper is usually made of rubber (or silicone) and they have a handle that reaches a rectangular head with a rounded edge on one side.
Unlike most spatulas, these often come in bright colors, mainly because it’s easy to dye the rubber or silicone they make them with.
And yes, as the name suggests, the scraper is for scraping, when you want to get sticky bread dough out of a bowl, only the scraper does a great job of it and much more easily than any other tool.
Just make sure not to leave a scraper on something hot or it will melt and stink out your kitchen.
Check: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple for some inspiration to put your scraper to work!
Spatulas can be made from five different materials and each of them has their advantages and disadvantages.
The table below makes it easy to work out which material is best for your spatula.
|Material||Rubber||Silicone||Metal||Wood and Bamboo||Plastic|
|Pros||Doesn’t scratch pans.|
Relatively cheap and available everywhere.
|Very easy to clean and doesn’t stick to much.|
Kind to your pans.
|Long lasting and highly durable.|
Can handle the toughest jobs. Non toxic and environmentally friendly.
Lasts for a long time.
|Very cheap to buy|
Very easy to clean
|Cons||Not heat proof and can melt.|
Can stain easily.
|Can easily be cut with a knife. |
Can hold the scent of things you’ve cooked.
|Conducts heat and can burn you. |
Costs a bit more than rubber or silicone.
|Must be cared for carefully or can warp.|
Can retain bacteria or food particles.
|Can bleed chemicals into your food|
Doesn’t last very long
So, there you have it.
While spatulas do confuse professional chefs, they shouldn’t, because they’re super easy when you know what you’re doing.
And when you do know what they’re for, spatulas make your life in the kitchen so much more convenient.
So, why not make something nice using a spatula today?