Flippers and Stirrers

January 21, 2013

Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: which spoons and spatulas does a first kitchen need?

Spatulas, Spoons, Tongs

When you care about something -- when you love something, or when you do something often, or when you turn to something for comfort and support – it feels like an extension of you.

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This is most common, of course, when you’re in love -- or when you have children. 

I am love-less and child-less. I gave up the violin three years ago. And to call my laptop an extension of myself -- as a college student who works for the Internet -- is just too cliché for my liking.

So when Tamar Adler, in my favorite food-related essay ever written, referred to tongs as extensions of one’s hands, I latched onto her sentiment. 

I am lumping wooden spoons, slotted spoons, and spatulas into this category: not mere objects, but extensions of myself, things I use to accomplish greater, more important things. To create something new.

I am doing this because I care about cooking -- I love cooking, I cook often, and I turn to cooking for comfort and support. And if tongs and spatulas and spoons are my replacement for a boyfriend and children, then, at twenty-one years old, I am so, totally, fine with that.

If these kitchen tools will be extensions of myself -- those things that I rely on after a cold, hard day, or ones I turn to for happiness and fulfillment -- then they better be sturdy. They better be tough. They better not let me down.

Spatulas and Tongs

Spatulas and Tongs

We’ve all been there: when you’re cooking, especially cooking something new, it’s easy to mess up.

It’s easy to drop something, or to break something. It’s easy to get overeager and flip an egg too soon, or to leave a piping-hot cookie in an unattractive heap. 

The right spatulas and tongs can help prevent this.

When it comes to a spatula, I want something skinny and flexible. I want something that has a front edge slim enough to slip under the skinniest of pancakes -- and something that can bend enough to reach the perfect, food-flipping angle. Cook’s Illustrated recommends the Wusthof Gourmet Turner/Fish Spatula ($34.95) and the OXO Good Grips Flexible Turner ($7.99). The price difference was only noticeable when they tried to carry a four-pound brick. Since I don’t plan on cooking one of those any time soon, I think I’d go for the OXO.

Tongs have a similar set of specifications: they need to be sturdy, flexible, and uncomplicated. (Sounds like an awesome boyfriend.) In this day and age, there are skinny tongs, fat tongs, foldable tongs, smooth tongs and scalloped tongs, padded tongs and bare tongs. Scalloped edges and a slightly-padded handle make gripping foods easier -- so the OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Locking Tongs seem like my best bet.


Wooden Spoons and Slotted Spoons

It may seem silly to discuss the right spoons for a kitchen -- given that the cavemen probably used some version of a wooden spoon to stir questionable cuts of meat over an open fire. But I’m starting from scratch, here, and I want the best. And, unlike the cavemen, I need a wooden spoon to accomplish a variety of kitchen tasks: to work its way through a thick ball of cookie dough, to scrape the food at the bottom of a pot, to hold enough within its grasp for me to sneak an eager taste. So one with a long, smooth handle is best -- and a head small enough to accomplish things both delicate and substantial.

A slotted spoon is also essential: one that’s light and easy to maneuver, with plenty of small holes. The smaller the holes, the less likely something will be missed. And if this is truly an extension of myself, I don’t want to miss anything.

Which spatulas, tongs, and spoons would you recommend for a first kitchen?

Email me at [email protected] with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • smslaw
  • Bob Y
    Bob Y
  • mrslarkin
  • zora
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


AntoniaJames January 23, 2013
I like to use really long plastic chopsticks for both flipping and stirring many things. I have an ancient, simple pair of tongs that I keep closed when not in use with a fat blue rubber band -- the kind that's used to wrap broccoli spears together. I don't use it that often in the kitchen, in large part because I don't want it to nick up my non-stick skillet. I have an ancient Ecko slotted spatula with a badly disfigured plastic handle (melted whenever I set the spatula against the side of the hot skillet "for just a second" while answering the phone, etc.). I have not found a suitable stiff replacement for it. That OXO looks like a good option, notwithstanding its metal handle. I have a melanine spoon with a flat end that is my absolute favorite. I've had others in the past that eventually were broken or chipped; replacements I find on eBay. What distinguishes it from -- and makes it superior to -- the paddle spoons available from Ruhlman at exorbitant prices (yeah, I know, they're made of a pretty, exotic wood) is that it has curved sides, letting you scrape the sides of the pan effectively, while scraping the bottom of the pan with the flat end of the spoon. ;o)
smslaw January 23, 2013
I have a tiny, very thin metal spatula, useful for taking cookies off the sheet.
Bob Y. January 21, 2013
I was very touched by the Adler and touched again with your beautifully written post. My tong is 30 yrs old and is my nest friend....
mrslarkin January 21, 2013
you probably already know this, but a great way to keep tongs from springing open in your drawer is to store them in empty paper towel tubes. Also helps to find them quicker, if your utensil drawer looks anything like mine. Organized chaos.

I use slotted spoons, wooden spoons, tongs, rubber spatulas for for batters, scrambled eggs and such, metal fish spatulas for many things, and plastic spatulas for teflon pans. Panfusine is right, you will need a spider strainer at some point. They are awesome.
zora January 21, 2013
A silicone-coated firm spatula is useful for turning and flipping in a non-stick frypan. One with a sharp edge that is NOT flexible is useful for turning anything that sticks, and for scraping stuck-on food. I have a couple of flexible flat spatulas and rarely use them. Silicone bowl scrapers are invaluable, both flexible and firm. The other thing I look for is tools that do not have thick bulky handles. My tool caddy, hanging on a pot rack above my stove top is crammed with spoons, spatulas of all sorts, a potato masher, ladle, spider, and thick handles take up too much space. Also, avoid wood handles that shouldn't go in the dishwasher.
vivanat January 21, 2013
Michael Ruhlman's perforated spoon has been on my spoon wish list for quite some time now.
Peter January 22, 2013
You know, I was excited for that spoon when it first came out, bought it as a gift for my poached egg loving wife, and it turned out to be a big dud. it was no especially good at pulling out poached eggs (it brought a lot of water with the egg) and has sat completely untouched in our crock of spoons and such for two years now. Sorry to burst your spoon-lovin' bubble. :-/
krusher March 3, 2013
I wrote him about purchasing several of his slotted spoons and got no reply. Discovered he now has competition and purchased one to try. A quarter of the price and really excellent.
xiaobao12 July 9, 2018
Hi krusher, do you have a link to the competition?
Elizabeth R. January 21, 2013
Sorry, I feel that locking tongs aren't worth it since at some point, the locking feature will try to lock on you when you least want it. My favorite pair of tongs is the Vollrath one-piece utility tongs, preferably the 9.5": I use these at work and I can truly say they are an extension of myself. The shorter length might put some people off, but I can't stand holding longer 12" tongs anymore; it feels like the balance is off. Also, the fact that it lacks an inner spring ensures that it'll maintain its tension for years in a home kitchen. As for spatulas, I vote for high-heat all the way, like the Vollrath 10" high heat silicone spatula. I still use mine from my culinary school days (was it really 6 years ago?) and it's my go-to, though I also have an OXO silicone spatula that I also favor (and looks kinda like this: When it comes to fish spatulas, maybe you should invest in one (though the Wustof is a bit too pricey for my taste). There may come a day when you'll be turning a whole roasted fish in your cast-iron pan, and your Good Grips turner might not be able to take the weight of the fish or the heat of the pan. Slotted spoons: you might want to check restaurant supply stores in your area, since cooks needs plating tools and they need to last for practically life. I used an 8-inch version of this one: but I think if you scour around thrift stores or estate sales and the like, you might find a unique piece with a good story. (Plating spoons also make good serving spoons, and sometimes vice versa!
Sorry for all the NW Cutlery links. It's my favorite restaurant supply store I used to frequent by my work/school. Good luck on that first kitchen!
smslaw January 23, 2013
My OXO locking tongs are several years old, used daily and never a problem with the locking feature. It is useful to be able to put them away locked and they open by bumping the end, useful if your other hand is occupied.
Greenstuff January 21, 2013
I've become convinced that there just aren't any perfect slotted spoons on the market. I have one that is so old I think it may have been my mother's. It's marked Robinson Stainless USA, and google searches don't match it. I've been looking for something similar or better for years and just bought a showy, big one from Williams-Sonoma. Pretty enough to go from the kitchen to the table, but somehow it just reminds me that I paid too much.
Panfusine January 21, 2013
I'd add a spider skimmer to this list.. great for anything deep fried to fishing out Pasta & blanched veggies
Marian B. January 21, 2013
My mother's father used to call spatulas "flip-and-dumpers". It's one of my favorite facts about him.
Kenzi W. January 21, 2013
This is fantastic.