Despite kitchen spatulas being an absolute must-have in the kitchen, many of us still get confused with all the different types of spatulas out there, and their different uses.
What adds to the confusion is all the different materials. Silicone, wood, stainless steel, plastic, rubber, nylon.... which is best??
Read on, and you will never have to worry about melted utensils, or ruined food, ever again!
Stainless Steel Spatulas
Stainless steel is used in many food utensils as it is corrosion free and does not react with foods. It can also handle high temperatures and is a very robust material that can last a lifetime.
This makes it ideal for use in cooking, and it is why many pans, cooking utensils and eating utensils, such as forks and spoons, are made with stainless steel.
However, it's this robustness that is its undoing when it comes to stainless steel spatulas.
Many of us now have nonstick pans, coated with enamel, Teflon, or other coating. Stainless steel will scratch off this coating and damage your nonstick pans. Stainless steel can also damage glass or Pyrex dishes.
The other problem is that stainless steel conducts heat. The heat from the base can travel up to the handle, and into your hands!
We find that stainless steel spatulas are perfect when using on an open fire or grate, such as a BBQ grill, and not in a pan . In fact, we created our 3 Piece BBQ Grill Set using stainless steel for this very reason, with elongated handles which means less heat transference.
Wood is a great material as it's insulated. You'll get non of the heat transference that you get with stainless steel.
For the same reason, many professional cooks insist on using wooden spatulas when making risotto or candies where sudden temperature changes can ruin the food.
Wood is also much softer than stainless steel, so not has damaging to nonstick pans (although they can still do some damage, so don't start scraping away like crazy!)
The issue with wood is that it's a natural material, and over time, it will absorb food juices and odors.
Also, the edge of wooden spatulas are never as thin as on spatulas made from other materials, so getting under particularly thin foods, such as crepes, can be problematic.
Plastic and Rubber Spatulas
Yes, they can melt! But most manufacturers have countered this by creating rubber or plastic spatulas that have a high melting point.
So, unless you are literally using them on open fire, then you should be OK.
However, these spatulas tend to be some of the cheapest on the market, and for good reason too. They tend not to last very long, and will fall apart and fail if used on a daily basis.
Plastic or rubber spatulas are a good choice for the occasional cook. For anyone that cooks more often, the money you'll save from buying these will be completely obliterated by having to replace these types of spatulas within a year.
There has been a lot of silicone-based kitchen goods turn up over the last decade or so. And they really do seem to be the answer.
Silicone spatulas are soft, so they don't rub off nonstick coatings on pans, they are insulated, so less transference of heat, and they are non porous, so they don't absorb food juices and odors.
The real issue with silicone is the fact that this material has only been used widely in food utensils for a few years. There is not enough data to be 100% sure of health safety.
This is by no means a scare tactic! There's a very good chance that silicone is completely safe. It's just that enough time has not passed to be absolutely sure.
Plus, many people comment that their silicone utensils have a a certain odor. Some state that this odor leaves after a few uses, but some say it stays and never leaves.
Food Grade Nylon spatulas
Nylon is our ultimate choice of material for kitchen spatulas. It can handle high temperatures (our 2 Piece Kitchen Spatula Set is heat resistant up to 410°F), and is soft so won't scratch nonstick coatings on pans.
It's also non porous, so does not absorb food juices and odors, is hard wearing and will last many years without falling apart and, crucially, has been used in kitchen utensils for decades, so has a long history of safety.
It's certainly our choice of material for our Spatula Set.
Does this mean you should only choose food grade nylon?
It's up to you. As we've explained, stainless steel is great for use on open grates, and wooden spatulas certainly have great uses when making risotto or candy.
But for everyday use in the kitchen, you'll be hard pressed to find a better, safer material than nylon.