You use them everyday you cook (which is why this is called everyday kitchen utensils). Maybe you’re stirring something on the stove or just getting a quick bite out of the microwave. Either way, you probably grab for one of these tools everyday. Whether it be spoons, spatulas and whisks, picking the right tool can make a heck of a difference in what you are trying to do. While most of this will seem pretty basic, there is a surprising amount of depth we can delve into with these tools. For instance, when should you use wooden over plastic or metal. After reading this guide, I hope you’ll find a lot more use in your utensils!
Starting with spoons, you have quite the variety as stirring is a pretty fundamental task you do probably everyday. Knowing what to reach for is going to help keep everything just about perfect. Pictured I have a slotted spoon, wooden spoon, solid plastic spoon and a wooden spatula. Err…wooden…spatula? This probably seems like it belongs more in the spatula section, but hear me out! I almost always use the wooden spatula for some form of stirring, which is what spoons are most useful for! So I figured, the spoons is the most appropriate spot!
Alright, let’s talk about the wooden spoon. Wood is somewhat of the classic, old school cooking utensil. Since we figured out we could whittle and carve wood, we could make a basic spoon out of it. Wood has a few advantages to consider. Wood evenly distributes heat so making things where that even heat distribution is critical (like candies and caramels) are great. It can also can hold up to pretty high temps well. You can’t melt wood and it the handles don’t get too hot no matter how long they’ve been in a pot over the burner. Lastly, wood doesn’t scratch your delicate nonstick pans and is safe to use in about anything else. The style of wooden spoon I have shown is great for stirring most things, the flat bowl allows you to easily move through anything liquid.
That takes us to the plastic spoon. Plastic spoons can be used for a lot of the same applications as a wooden spoon, BUT they aren’t quite as good as distributing heat. Also, they are more susceptible to higher heats (even the ‘high temp’ spoons). This is just sort of the nature of plastic. It’s likely best off being used for lower temp applications so if you are pumping up to high heat on the burner you might want to consider something else. Now the spoon I have shown is best as a serving spoon. Whether it is mashed potato, cheese dip or what have you. If a spoon is angled up and has a deep bowl you will find it awkward to stir and cook with.
The next spoon we have in our list is the slotted spoon. Again, this is a plastic spoon, but with (drum roll)….slots! So, straightforward enough, the slots allow liquid to fall through and anything solid to stay. If you have something solid that’s cooked in a liquid that you prefer to not have on your plate than the slotted spoon is for you! This, again, is mainly a serving spoon that will be awkward to actually cook with. One handy little trick though, is that a slotted spoon works perfectly as an egg separator. Simply crack your egg into the spoon bowl with another bowl underneath to catch the white.
Lastly, the wooden spatula. So, of course, all of our features from the wooden spoon carry over into this guy. The wooden spatula is great for stirring solid ingredients. This could be ground hamburger, sautèed vegetables and about anything else that isn’t liquid. The flat shape makes pushing and moving around these ingredients a breeze. Another application with liquids would be anything that requires scalding or otherwise cooking milk based recipes. Milk and things involving roux tend to burn and create sediment on the bottom of a pan while cooking. This style of ‘spoon’ does well to keep things all along the bottom moving to prevent this build up.
The humble spatula. A name attributed to a few, quite different, kitchen utensils that can be used for quite a few different things. They can flip, scrape, fold and even ice cakes. Now the art of icing and accompanying equipment is a whole other blog post in it of itself, so we’ll cover that another day. But, for the remaining utensils we’ve got a bit to talk about.
The typical ‘spatula’ that you see here is often used to flip burgers and other meats both on the stove and off the grill. Hopefully if you’d read this far you understand that plastic would be the worst choice for a grill. For that we will want a metal spatula. The most sturdy material for the kitchen that can handle the most heat. It’s also the easiest to keep clean (feel free to break out the s.o.s. pads!). These spatulas can come slotted as shown or less-often with no slots. Either way the purpose is the same, to get under what you are cooking in order to flip it over. Most of these operate the same but I find the spatulas with a narrow, thin end makes it easier to get under and flip what you need. So if you are buying one, keep an eye out for that.
Next up are the two types of rubber spatulas (or scrapers) that I have shown. One is much more flat while the other is wider and has a dip to make it kind of spoon-like. They can be rated high-temp silicone and they often work at the rated temperatures, but just keep in mind that they still will not hold up to anything extreme. These spatulas are great as they can make a seal between the bowl or pan which allows use to move around every last bit of batter/soup/sauce/whatever. They are not great for simply stirring as the shape makes incorporating ingredients tedious and inefficient. Now, if we are going to fold something into a mixture, these are the best thing to grab for! They can lift and turn ingredients to easily. You’ll often have to fold things like egg whites into eggnog or some custards as typical mixing will beat out all the air. The difference between the two spatulas is largely a preference thing but I find that the spoon-like spatula is better for getting out thicker things like batters while the flat style is best for folding and runnier sauces/soups.
Last thing on the agenda today! The kitchen whisk. These guys are best used for whipping air into dishes, or incorporating fine ingredients (like cornstarch or flour) into liquids to prevent lumping. While there aren’t necessarily a whole lot of types of whisks, there are certainly differences between the whisks that you will want to note. When looking at a variety of whisks you may find that some have looser wires and some are more sturdy. While you may think the more sturdy the higher quality, that isn’t necessarily so. If the whisk wires move around a lot more and weeble-wobble a bit they can be a lot more effective at adding air to whatever you are mixing. For example, whites or whipping cream will get their desired consistency much quicker with this style of whisk. That isn’t to say sturdier whisks are to be forgotten either! This style is best for the incorporating of flour/cornstarch into liquids as it better beats the lumps out (while also avoiding adding too much air, which you may not want to do).
The second thing to look at with whisks is the size of the “bulb” that the whisk comes to. The larger the bulb, the quicker the air will be whipped into your mixture. Intuitively enough, smaller bulbs will incorporate less air into the mixture. Using that same vein of thought as in the last paragraph, you will want to use smaller bulbs for incorporating fine ingredients into liquids and larger bulbs for getting tons of air into things.
One last note about whisks is that you can get them coated in silicone or plastic just like about any other utensil. I find that stainless steel is the best and keeps up the longest overall. But, if you are using one in a non-stick pan it will be hand to keep a plastic or silicone one around.
I hope you learned a handful about all the various utensils that you maybe haven’t thought to seriously about before. If you have any questions or comments don’t be afraid to comment below and let me know! I hope to hear from you and thanks for reading!