This article is part of a product-testing series called Food52 Approved, a column where we thoroughly try, test, and review the kitchen and home products you’ve always wondered about. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Chefs and diehard home cooks love to love fish spatulas. (Don’t believe us? Behold exhibit A, B, C, D, and E.) They talk about how nimbly they move in a pan, how strong they are for their very light weight, and that they can be used not just for their namesake fish but anything you’d want to flip or toss. They even double as a slotted spoon or strainer.
And their fans aren’t wrong: Fish spatulas are great! But, despite countless headlines claiming they’re the only spatula you’ll ever need, they can’t do everything. Since they’re typically metal, they’ll scratch the coating in nonstick pans, and with their holes, they definitely can’t smash a burger flat. Plus, has anyone else noticed how stubborn they can be to clean?
No wonder when we polled the Food52 community, 62 percent said they reach for different spatulas for different jobs, and asked for us to test and review the Spatula City landscape. As one woeful reader wrote in, “I can’t—for the life of me—find a spatula I love.”
How We Tested
We reviewed 15 brands of turner-style spatulas (no flexible bowl-scraping spatulas or offset spatulas for baking, since their purposes are so different) and put them through three of the spatula’s most important trials: pancake-flipping, egg-frying, and burger-smashing.
We looked out for the biggest gripes shared by our community, too. The most popular complaint was when they are too thick to slide easily under food. Others included: being either too stiff or too flimsy, not being heat safe, not nonstick friendly, or pesky to clean.
We’re not a lab, but we are a community of opinionated home cooks and one obsessive researcher and tester (that’s me). Below are my favorite spatulas for solving the most common cooking problems—I’d love to hear yours in the comments, too.
From Our Shop
A Great (More Than) Fish Spatula: Lamson Flexible Stainless-Steel Slotted Spatula
Great For: Searing fish and other proteins, flipping pancakes, and lifting and tossing roasted vegetables.
Pros: Lightweight and nimble in the pan, angled strategically for flipping and lifting, and comes in left-handed and right-handed versions. (Confession: Through testing, I learned I’m a right-handed person who’s been using a left-handed Lamson for at least a decade—still works great!)
Cons: Can’t use in nonstick pans, can’t smash a burger, not dishwasher safe, and the thin metal and holes are tricky to clean.
Nonstick-Friendliest (Silicone): GIR Flip
Great For: Gliding smoothly under pancakes, French toast, and fried eggs.
Pros: The silicone coating slides under sticky foods with even less resistance than metal or wood and can hug the corners of the pan like a more traditional flexible spatula would. It has a nice wide paddle that’s reinforced at just the right place to make it sturdy—I have to admit, I was skeptical that it would be sturdy and sharp enough to free stuck bits, but it handled every test surprisingly well. It’s also dishwasher safe.
Cons: It’s only heat safe up to 550°F, so it may not be safe for smoking-hot preparations like smashed burgers.
Nonstick-Friendliest (Wooden): Lancaster Wooden Turner Spatula
Great For: All the basic flipping tasks, and doubling as a wooden spoon to get into corners and scrape up sticky brown bits.
Pros: Handmade in the United States from sustainably harvested maple, cherry, or walnut, plastic-free, and safe for nonstick pans. It also comes in a leftie version and works surprisingly well—the edge is just thin enough to get under fried eggs and pancakes, without feeling at risk of splintering (or snapping in the mail, like another wooden model I ordered did).
Cons: It’s not dishwasher safe and needs to be oiled occasionally, much like wooden cutting boards, to maintain its strength. Additionally, it may not be as durable as metal or silicone. The angle connecting the handle to the paddle is shallow, meaning your hand has to get a bit closer to the pan than with steeper spatulas.
Best Smasher: Winco Blade Hamburger Turner
Great For: Smashing the dickens out of burgers.
Pros: This smasher is so hefty, you don’t have to apply much pressure to squash a burger against a hot pan immediately. The paddle is wide enough for larger burgers and has an angled edge that helps it release from the burger quickly after smashing (and easily scrapes up all the seared bits).
Cons: At least for me, a person of pretty average wrist strength, this is too heavy to be comfortable with other casual sautéing and flipping. If you’re a more occasional smasher, something smaller and lighter-weight like this Dexter-Russell Pancake Turner may be more versatile.
Honorable Mention: Five Two Metal Turner
For folks afraid of spattering and who want a safe distance from the pan, this was the longest-handled spatula we tested. It has a generous paddle ideal for extra-large latkes, French toast, or pancakes.
One final note to all the spatula-makers out there: One feature that I didn’t see in any current spatulas, that I love in my favorite vintage one, is a hook on the handle. Having a hook helps to keep the spatula from sliding into the pan and melting the handle—another of our community’s biggest frustrations. (My favorite vintage one also has a built-in ruler on the paddle! You can see it in action here.) So, spatula giants, can you help us handle-melters out?