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November/December 2015

Spatula-Spoons (Spoonulas)

A spatula-spoon (or “spoonula”) promises to serve both functions in one handy item. But can it really replace two must-have kitchen tools or is it just a clever gimmick?

How We Tested

We use a stiff wooden spoon to scoop foods and scrape up flavorful browned bits when making soups, stews, and pan sauces, and we use a flexible spatula to fold ingredients and swipe bowls clean. A spatula-spoon (or “spoonula”) promises to serve both functions in one handy item. But can it really replace two must-have kitchen tools or is it just a clever gimmick? To find out, we purchased eight models (all under about $25) and tested their versatility and compatibility with an assortment of cookware in a battery of tasks. We stirred thick tomato jam, scraped up caramelized browned bits (or “fond”) in ground beef chili, tossed together a stir-fry, and folded delicate scrambled eggs, pausing after each recipe to scoop the food with our spoonula into a serving or storage container. We also tested stain- and odor-resistance by submerging the tools in a bubbling pot of chili and then washing them according to manufacturers’ directions.

Most of the spoonulas looked like traditional spatulas with concave silicone heads designed for scooping. The best heads were roughly 3½ inches long and curved gently; these were able to lift and transfer generous amounts of food without anything tumbling off. We also preferred models with thin, straight sides that could glide along skillet edges and stir without squishing delicate ingredients or breaking up browning meat more than we wanted. By contrast, models with thicker sides bumped and skidded against our cookware and felt cumbersome when we held them horizontally to fold ingredients. As for scraping up fond, rigid models with firm, blunt top edges were most effective. Flimsier models folded in on themselves, while one with a rounded top edge didn’t make enough contact with the pot and pan surfaces.

Size differences among the handles were more important than the materials they were made from. Wood, silicone, and plastic were all acceptable, but our panel found that fairly wide handles (upwards of 2 inches in circumference) offered the most secure grip. Finally, we considered the models’ stain- and odor-resistance. None had unsightly stains or looked damaged at the end of testing, but we noticed a faint lingering odor on several models even after several rounds of washing. Ultimately, two models combined all our desired qualities and cleaned up easily and thoroughly. They have generously sized scoops, thin sides, a blunt top edge, and firm-yet-flexible material attached to comfortable, easy-to-grip handles. We still consider our favorite wooden spoon and silicone spatula essential, but we’ll reach for either of these spoonulas when making a chili, thick stew, or other recipe that requires both a wooden spoon and spatula.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.