In any kitchen, the word Spatula can take on many different meanings. This is because it can actually refer to many different kitchen tools you may find yourself using in the kitchen. This broadness of label can be linked to the origin of the spatula which in Latin refers to a broad-bladed sword.
In the modern era we have taken what was once used as a weapon and turned it into one of the more essential tools used by chefs to cook in their kitchen. But just how many different spatulas are there? And how many do you actually need in your kitchen?
Categories of Spatulas
Even though a spatula is probably one of the most widely used tools in the kitchen it can often end up being the most overlooked. This is why it is good to know the types of spatulas available to you and the correct way to use them. After all, you don’t want to find yourself stuck in the middle of creating a meal with no idea what spatula to use.
The first thing you should learn about spatulas is that they actually can fall into three separate categories. These categories are:
Each category will have its own distinct look and, more importantly, purpose within your kitchen. So let’s break down just what each of these categories can bring to your cooking.
Also known as turners these are the spatulas you use to flip or turn over food, such as hamburger patties, eggs, or veggies on a grill or stovetop. The spatulas that fall under this category are arguably the most used and will most likely be the spatula you already have in your own kitchen.
These spatulas are easy to recognize by their long handle that comes to a wide yet thin trapezoid-like shaped “blade” at the end. The “blade” is usually roughly the size of a hand and tapers at the end to allow the spatula to easily slide under the food you wish to flip. The “blade” will also come as either a slotted or solid design depending on what you are looking for.
Typically you will find flipper spatulas are made out of a metal material such as steel, which makes them more durable and easier to clean. If a metal spatula isn’t what you are looking for you do have other options such as plastic or silicone just to name a couple. Whatever you decide just be sure it can handle the tasks you have planned for it in your kitchen.
The most popular of the flipper or turner type spatulas would have to be the fish spatula. As the name suggests it is the perfect tool for flipping delicate foods such as fish or crepes, but can handle more difficult foods as well. Most chefs would agree if you are planning on only having one type of spatula in your kitchen you can’t go wrong with a fish spatula.
The next category of spatula also does as its name suggests, in that the spreader spreads various types of soft toppings onto the surfaces of other kinds of food. They are brilliant in spreading icing on a cake or even cheese on a cracker.
The spreader spatula’s ability to be great at spreading is due to its long and narrow blade that is rounded at the end. This allows you to spread anything smoothly and evenly without any fuss or mess. It is probably most commonly seen in a kitchen next to the stick of butter.
Metal is again the material you are most likely to find these spatulas made of, though there are versions of spreaders that are made of rubber or plastic. However, in choosing the perfect spreader spatula for your kitchen it is best to focus on the two different choices of designs available and what they are used for.
If you are looking to just have a spreader for your cheeses on crackers then you will probably be happier with a straight spreader. This kind of spreader is often shorter and more rounded making it a perfect addition to your utensil collection.
On the other hand, if you are looking for something that can spread toppings over larger surfaces then you will probably want to look out for an offset spreader. These spreaders tend to have a bend at the neck where the handle meets the blade. This allows you to have more control as you cover a vast surface area without creating a huge mess.
When it comes to selecting the right spreader spatula for you it really all comes down to your personal preference. However, many bakers swear by the offset spreader due to its unparalleled ability to apply flawless layers of sugary goodness to any pastry or baked goods. Though if the goal is to be able to cook anything in your kitchen you probably can’t go wrong with simply purchasing both kinds.
A scraper is probably the only spatula category that does more then simply what its name implies. Sure it can scrape, but that is only part of what it can be used for in the kitchen. It is actually most useful with stirring, folding, or mixing wet ingredients in a bowl. Only after the ingredients are thoroughly mixed it can it easily scrap it all out of the bowl without wasting a single drop.
Despite being easily recognizable, scraper spatulas are often difficult to describe. The “blade” is usually flat and rectangular in shape with at least one rounded edge at the end of a straight handle. There are many varieties of widths, lengths, and colors. If you are looking for a collection of rainbow spatulas then the scrapers will have you covered.
In order to have all those colorful options the two most common materials of the scraper’s “blade” are rubber and silicone. While there isn’t much difference between these two options it is important to note that if you ever intend to use your scraper spatula near heat you should probably go with one made of silicone. These tend to be heat resistant while rubber will likely melt and no one likes the smell of burnt rubber in their kitchen.
The handle will usually be a different sturdier material than the blade, such as wood or plastic. This is to help get a decent grip while stirring ingredients in a bowl or on the stovetop. Again, this is good to know if you intend to use your scraper near heat as these materials are also not heat resistant. Just be aware of this when selecting the kind of scraper spatula you want to add to your kitchen.
On deciding what scraper spatula best suits your needs it really comes down to size and color. For the best results, it might be best to at least get two scrapers in different sizes. Perhaps a long thin scraper to help get ingredients out of small containers and a short one with a nice flat, wide “blade” that can easily mix any ingredient you may need.
At the end of the day knowing what you want to use a spatula for is only have the battle, the other half is deciding on the best design or shape of the spatula. Just remember when the time comes where you want to purchase spatulas it is best to understand which category they fall into so you can get the best results in your kitchen.