In 7th grade, I took a cooking class. One of the things that sticks out in my head from this experience, besides learning to make a one-minute omelet, was the teacher’s lecture about how the thing I always called a spatula simply isn’t.
“It’s actually called a rubber scraper,” she said, holding up the implement in question, a spatula of the turner variety. She then showed us what I now as a frosting spatula, and told us that this was what was properly called a spatula.
It’s confusing, and kind of a silly argument over semantics. In truth, the word is generically used to describe “a small implement with a broad, flat, flexible blade used to mix, spread and lift materials including foods, drugs, plaster and paints”, according to Wikipedia.
In the interest of clearing things up for my readers, here are the utensils most commonly referred to by the word “spatula”.
In my mind, this has always been the true spatula. It’s what almost everybody uses for cooking food in a frying pan or for serving hot food. It stirs, it flips, it scrapes, it serves. It’s a jack of many trades, and probably the most useful of these three devices. If you’re using a pan to cook, you’re also almost definitely using one of these.
A good turner for general use that I recommend to most people is the OXO Good Grips Silicone Flexible Turner pictured above. It’s AROUND 10 BUCKS, comfortable and easy to use, and heat resistant up to 600 degrees, so you don’t end up with little flakes of melted plastic in your food like you do with really cheap plastic spatulas (don’t get me started; I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hate that).
Interestingly, this seems to be what is referred to officially by manufacturers and many cooks these days as a “spatula”, though to me it’s just second fiddle to the turner. These do what it says on the tin: they scrape. These are very useful, much more so than a spoon, whisk, or knife when it comes to getting that last bit of batter or sauce out of a bowl or jar. They’re also great for certain mixing applications.
For the last few years, my main tools in the scraper arena have been the Wilton Easy Flex 3-Piece Silicone Spatula Set you see here. They’re pretty tough for AROUND 10 DOLLARS FOR 3 SPATULAS, and mine show little wear and tear for their years of use. They’re flexible enough to scrape whatever you need out of whatever it’s in, and the silicon is surprisingly stain resistant.
The Frosting Spatula
This is what Mrs. Dimitrius taught us was the real spatula. It’s also referred to as a palette knife, as it’s identical in form and function to the tool used to mix and apply paint. In our case, though, the thing we’re talking about is used to mix and apply frostings and sauces, mainly.
Baking cakes is, admittedly, not my specialty, and I find myself using it more often to apply spreads to sandwiches than to apply frosting to cakes.
My weapon of choice is the Wilton 9 Inch Angled Spatula, which will run you UNDER 10 BUCKS! My advice is to always get an offset spatula like this if you need one of these, because the bends in the blade part will help prevent you from dipping your fingers in the frosting or sauce while you’re applying it.
There are, obviously, various sub-types of three kitchen utensils, but I’ll delve into those more in future articles. In the meantime, I’ve provided some insight on the various types of spatulas.