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July/August 2016

Spider Skimmers

A bad skimmer can turn even the most patient cook into a basket case.

Update: May 2017
Our winning spider skimmer, the Kuhn Rikon Spider Skimmer, Small, has been discontinued. In its place, we recommend the the Rösle Wire Skimmer, $41.68. Our new Best Buy is the WMF Profi Plus Spider Strainer 14" (5" dia.), $19.95.

How We Tested

When we’re deep-frying, blanching, or boiling, we use a spider skimmer—a long-handled stainless-steel wire basket—to remove food from the pot. Spiders have larger capacities than slotted spoons and more open area for faster, safer drainage. There are two basic spider basket designs; the traditional design is made from thin wire mesh, and the more modern style has a spiral (or concentric circles) of smooth, slightly thicker wire. To find the best spider, we tested six models—three of each basket style, priced from $11.99 to $41.68—while boiling ravioli and deep-frying French fries and chicken pieces.

All of the spiders functioned adequately, but certain factors made some safer, quicker, and more comfortable to use. In general, we preferred spiders with longer handles (for more protection from boiling water and hot oil) and larger grips (which were more comfortable for users of varying hand sizes). While testers had a slight preference for lighter spiders, balance was more important than total weight—models that felt basket-heavy were awkward and less comfortable to use, seeming heavier than they really were.

The optimal basket depth was 1 to 1½ inches. Shallower baskets couldn’t hold as many smaller items, requiring more passes to clear the pot, and didn’t securely hold larger items. Baskets deeper than 1½ inches held plenty but felt unwieldy and were more difficult and time-consuming to empty.

We found that the smooth wires of spiral-style baskets handled the delicate ravioli with a lighter touch than the mesh baskets, on which food often snagged. In the end, we deemed basket style less important than basket size—and most of the spiders that met our preferred basket dimensions had mesh-style baskets.

Our favorite spider, the lightweight Kuhn Rikon Spider Skimmer, Small ($19.69), has a long, 10.5-inch handle that kept us safely away from the heat; a large, comfortable rubberized grip; and a medium-depth webbed basket that made it quick and easy to extract food of all sizes and shapes.

Methodology

We tested six spider skimmers, priced from $11.99 to $41.68 and purchased online. All measurements were taken in house. Items appear in order of preference.

COMFORT: We gave higher marks to well-balanced spiders with grips that were at least 4.5 inches long and had a rubbery texture or nubs that let us hold them more securely.

SAFETY: Spiders with handles at least 10 inches long kept our hands just far enough from the hot oil and water without sacrificing maneuverability.

BASKET: We gave more points to baskets of moderate depth (1 to 1½ inches), which allowed for both maneuverability and good security while scooping and releasing foods of all sizes.

FOOD HANDLING: We had several testers use each skimmer to scoop ravioli out of boiling water and fried chicken and French fries out of hot oil. We gave points to baskets that were able to pick up and deposit the delicate ravioli without tearing or scuffing them. We deducted points from baskets with large gaps that trapped fries or ravioli.

CLEANUP: We repeatedly washed each spider in the dishwasher and by hand. While the dishwasher easily removed any remnants of fried chicken batter or ravioli skin, we gave extra points to spiders with smooth wire baskets that caught and retained less food and were thus easier to clean by hand.

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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.

Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB