1. A small implement having a broad, flat, flexible blade that is used to mix, spread, or lift material.--credit
A friend messaged me on facebook yesterday, wondering if she was the only crazy person in the world who owns 47 different spatulas. I assured her that she is Not. I mean, just look at that definition up there. It covers a lot of ground. Not even counting inedible stuff like grout and such:
- Mixable Materials--batter, dough, syrups, puddings and curds, tasty beverages, toppings, jams and jellies, etc.
- Spreadable Materials--icing, ganache, puddings and curds, condiments, peanut butter, chocolate, whipped cream, etc.
- Liftable Materials--cookies, cakes, scones, pancakes, sausage, hamburgers, crepes, omelets, etc.
And to the dictionary definition of spatula, I'd like to add the word "fold." As in "...that is used to mix, spread, lift or fold material." Because folding is very different from mixing. Mixing is just all-in. Folding requires some finesse. Being able to mix two or three delicate and possibly dissimilar materials together without deflating, bruising or otherwise Messing Them Up.
- Foldable Items--egg foam batters (including genoise, sponge, biscuit, angel food cake, waffles, etc), mousses, meringues, fools, etc.
And also, I'm adding "scrape." Because that's a Thing that spatulas are very good at. Scraping the sides of mixing bowls, the insides of jars and pots and pans. The spatula is so much better at this than spoons and knives and forks (poor forks are Especially bad at this), that I'd probably buy several even if I never ever needed to mix, spread, lift or fold.
- Scrape-able Items--Pretty much any and everything.
It's not surprising that, given all the jobs they are meant to do, spatulas come in almost every shape and size imaginable. And not only that, they're made of all different kinds of materials. Some are even a lovely shade of orange.
I'm not an expert in Spatula Taxonomy, but I vote that there are two basic types of spatulas. The rigid ones and the flexible ones. Rigid spatulas include wooden ones, heavy plastic ones and straight or offset icing spatulas made of metal. Flexible ones include rubber (which are mostly giving way now to silicone ones), silicone, plastic and thin metal ones.
I use wooden ones for scrambling eggs and for stir fries. And for stirring thick items that might stick to the pan, like pasta sauces and pudding and stuff. I don't have any plastic ones anymore, because they melt at high heat. And that's Bad. My mom used to have a bright yellow-orange plastic spatula that she used to scramble eggs. It was kind of egg-colored, now that I think about it. (Mom, if you're reading, do you still have that thing? Let us know in the comments, please)! Anyway, it had ridges melted into it from where we'd leave it resting on the edge of the frying pan. I'm pretty sure I have some egg-colored plastic somewhere in me, even now...
Anyway, I use my icing spatulas for icing, of course, but also for lifting cookies off of pans and making sure no cake is stuck to the side of the pan before attempting Depanning. And it's also good to shove down between the stove and the counter with a Wipey wrapped around it to clean out any weird crud that might be trapped there.
Silicone spatulas of all sizes are kind of my go-tos. I like huge ones for folding and those half-size kind for mixing and scraping the inside of the blender. (I just found out these are called jar spatulas. This is a very educational post for me). Medium sized ones are great for bowl-scraping and general mixing. I also like those handle-less plastic spatulas that are usually called bowl scrapers. They're great for scraping out heavy dough like bread or cookie dough. I used them more at the restaurant, but they still have their uses at home. Some of those bowl scrapers are rigid enough to scrape out the insides of a pumpkin at Halloween (my favorite) or scrape stuck-on food off of our cast iron.
I also asked folks on twitter and facebook their thoughts on spatulas. Here's what they said.
@ChefFelisha just reminded me--thanks, Felisha--that high heat silicone spatulas are great for chocolate work.
Leah (@cakesandbakes) says this: I only have 2 which is amazing considering how much I use them.My stalwart is my Le Creuset one. Perfect for everything I do.
Jill (@jwlucasnc) says: How do I love thee, spatula? I cannot count - but I use my stubby flexible metal lifter the most, followed by fish turner.
Katie (@tweetiekate) counted hers: I'm back! In the kitchen there are 7 turners; 10 spatulas-straight & offset; and, 5 scrapers-I think some are MIA ???
Elle (@EllesKitchen) says: I have too many flat spatulas. I don't have enough silicone ones--one can never have too many!
Alice (@MsWonderland) says: I can't cook anything without one. I probably have ten. Plastic handles, wooden handles...you name it. I've got it.
So there you have it. Lots of spatula information. I hope you find it helpful, and thanks, Friend Coburn, for suggesting the topic.
What are your thoughts on spatulas? Are you a crazed spatula devotee, too? Or do you have a different kitchen utensil crush? Let us know in the comments.
Thanks, and have a lovely day.
PS This has nothing to do with spatulas the utensils, but my friend Celeste was driving with the window open one day, and she stopped at a light. A lady was standing in the yard calling for Spatula, thusly: "Spatula!! Get in the house, Spatula!! Where are you, Spatula?!" I can only hope she was calling a pet...