Spatula is a cooking tool used for mixing, lifting, flipping, spreading or turning the food items. It is a hand held device which has a handle terminating into a flat surface which comes in contact with the food for various cooking activities. The flat surface or the blade usually has one side longer than the other. It comes in various sizes, shapes and is made of different materials such as stainless steel, plastic, rubber, aluminium, wood and so on.
History of Spatula
The use of spatula can be dated back thousands of years ago to as early as the stone ages when man developed tools made with bone and stone for scraping and other activities. By the bronze age man had started making tools with metal which is around 3300 B.C. Thus the spatula has definitely been around since 3300 B.C. as a kitchen tool. Evidence has also been found in the archaeological remains in Greece and Rome. Popular use of the kitchen spatula has also been known since the 1500s. Although any single person cannot be credited with its invention, an English-Italian chef Zoe M. Martella patented it. Some claims have been made saying a person named Horace Spatula invented it in the year 1798. However, that seems to be unlikely as much earlier than 1798 the spatulas have been found in archaeological remains and also occupy a place in many museums dating back to the era before Christ was born. Over the years it evolved to become what we know as the modern day kitchen spatula. It is known by different terms in different countries across the world. For instance in Canada it is called the flipper, in Singapore, the tosser, in the United Kingdom as fish slice or turner and so on.
Types of Spatula
- Slotted Spatula – This type of spatula is used for food items where it is required to lift the solids and let the liquid drain. For example, while deep frying, or lifting pasta. It may be made of wood, plastic, steel or Teflon coated non stick material.
- Wok Spatula – This type of spatula is most suited for cooking in woks. As cooking in a wok involves high heat, the wok spatula is made with unusually long handles ranging from 14 inches to 20 inches long. This helps to keep the hand away from the high heat and spluttering oil. It should match the size of the wok. A simple rule is to buy the spatula with a handle measuring the same as the diameter of the wok.
- Mixing Spatula – This type of spatula is used for mixing batters, scraping food from the sides of the pan while cooking or for transferring contents from one bowl to another. It can be made of wood, steel, plastic or rubber and even heat resistant silicone.
- Lifting Spatula – This is mostly used for lifting or turning or flipping hot food being cooked in the pan or the griddle, as in making pancakes, fried eggs or hamburgers. It usually has heat proof handle with the paddle made of metal, plastic or silicone, depending on usage.
- Offset Spatula – This is mostly used by bakers. It simplifies the entire task of lifting cakes, pies and pastries as well as spreading the frosting on the cake. It has a long handle which is raised by a few inches and is parallel to the paddle.
- Rubber Spatula – This may be used for any task of mixing, lifting or serving. However it is not meant for any cooking involving heat as the heat will cause the rubber to melt. Apart from this the rubber spatula is rather useful as it bends and conforms to the shape of any vessel.
- Wooden Spatula – This is particularly useful in cooking although useful in most preparation activities too. Wood being a low conductor of heat is most suitable when cooking on stove or fire. The wooden spatula if left behind in the pan while cooking, does not become heated and can be held by the cook. They are easy to clean and maintain.
- Non Stick Spatula – This type of spatula is particularly used for non stick utensils. A metallic spatula cannot be used in non stick vessels as it will scratch the surface of the vessel. A rubber and a plastic spatula will not be able to withstand the heat. Hence for non stick cookware, other than wooden spatula a non stick spatula is required.
How to Buy a Spatula
While buying a spatula one must keep in mind the size of the wok, whether the utensils are non stick or not, whether it is dishwasher safe and the exact purpose for which the spatula will be used.
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