We typically reach for 12-inch tongs to protect our hands from heat and messes, but we decided it was time to shine the spotlight on their shorter sibling.
How We Tested
A good pair of tongs is a versatile and indispensable kitchen tool. We love our 12-inch tongs, which are great for keeping our hands safe during high-heat tasks such as frying foods in hot oil and rotating large roasts; they're also useful for messy tasks such as dredging chicken. But 12-inch tongs can feel too long for testers with smaller hands or for those who simply like the feeling of a shorter pair. So we decided to add a 9-inch pair of tongs to our arsenal.
To find out which model was best, we selected six products priced from $11.99 to $35.00 and used each pair to grip, rotate, and transfer heavy baked potatoes from a hot baking sheet; pluck tender, slippery hot dogs from boiling water; move delicate sliced fruit and small berries from platter to plate; stir and portion angel hair pasta; pick up a single rounded toothpick; and lift a heavy jar of salsa. Finally, we asked a diverse group of users to test each pair of tongs by portioning pasta and transferring fruit from platter to plate.
The Best Tongs Are Easy to Squeeze
Most tongs had acceptable tension and required minimal effort to squeeze shut, but one model felt significantly more strenuous to keep closed. Our hands and wrists hurt while using this pair to transfer fruit, divvy up pasta, and remove hot dogs from boiling water. Our favorite tongs were comfortable to grip and hold, whether we were rotating bulky baked potatoes or grasping delicate fruit.
Scalloped Metal Pincers Make for a Sturdy Grip
As for pincer design, uncoated and scalloped tong heads provided the best grip, mirroring our findings from our test of 12-inch tongs. Most of our lower-ranked models had smooth sides and/or coated pincers, including a product with rounded silicone heads that one tester said were “a little like mittens.” Testers dropped potatoes while using this model, and spaghetti slipped through the tong heads. Another pair had toothlike edges with ½-inch gaps between teeth. Compared with scalloped pincers, these pincers made less contact with the food and thus offered a less secure grip: Baked potatoes swung precariously from these silicone-coated tong heads. And while we appreciate coated heads for use with nonstick cookware, uncoated metal pincers offered greater precision and control.
Locking Mechanism Separates the Best Tongs from the Worst
Since timing matters in the kitchen, tongs need to open and be ready to use at a moment's notice and then quickly close tight for easy storage in a drawer or utensil holder. Our highest-rated tongs had smooth, simple locking mechanisms—push a tab to open, pull the tab to close—that testers found intuitive and easy to use. However, one seemingly simple mechanism was actually challenging to operate, with metal pieces that ground against each other and gave us an uncomfortable “nails on a chalkboard” sensation.
Two other models had innovative but ultimately irritating locking mechanisms. One had a stiff toggle that required us to choose between “partially open” and “fully open” settings, which most users found useless. The other model baffled us because there was no tab to push or pull. After we attempted to shake, pull, and pry these tongs open, we finally realized we had to angle the pincers down to unlock them and up to lock them. “By the time I figured that out, I'd be returning them,” said one tester. Simple, intuitive locking mechanisms were far easier to use, and our winning product was still functioning well even after we opened and closed it 100 times.
A Familiar Favorite
Our favorite 9-inch tongs are the shorter version of our 12-inch winner: The OXO Good Grips 9" Tongs ($11.99) gave us a precise grip on everything from slippery angel hair pasta and tender hot dogs to delicate fruit and heavy potatoes. Users found this model remarkably comfortable to use, and the locking mechanism was smooth and straightforward, making these tongs easy and intuitive to operate. While we still prefer longer tongs for high-heat tasks, our winning 9-inch tongs are great for smaller hands and low- or no-heat kitchen tasks.
We tested six tongs priced from $11.99 to $35.00, all 9 to 9.5 inches in length. We used each pair to grip, rotate, and transfer baked potatoes from baking sheet to cutting board; remove hot dogs from a saucepan of boiling water; transfer blueberries, sliced apples, sliced mangos, quartered oranges, and banana halves from platter to plate; stir and portion 1 pound of angel hair pasta into four individual servings; lift a jar of salsa; and pick up a single rounded toothpick to test precision. We also conducted user testing, asking lefties and righties of varying hand sizes to move fruit from platter to plate and portion 1 pound of angel hair pasta from a serving bowl into four smaller bowls. We washed each pair of tongs in the dishwasher 10 times, pushed them off the counter three times, and locked and unlocked each 10 times to test durability. We locked and unlocked our highest-ranked tongs an additional 100 times. Prices listed are what we paid online. Test scores were averaged, and tongs appear in order of preference.
Performance/Precision: Testers used tongs to pick up and hold items of varying shapes, sizes, and weights, giving higher ratings to tongs with pincers that could easily lift and securely grip all objects.
Ease of Use: We used tongs to handle a variety of items, giving highest marks to models that were comfortable to hold and operate, had an optimal level of tension, felt pleasant to open and close even during prolonged use, and had a simple, intuitive locking mechanism.