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Kitchen Spatula Search

A long long time ago, we bought a kitchen spatula that’s served us well ever since:

Spatula Search - original

Spatula Search – original

To give you an idea of how old that poor thing is, the back of the handle bears a Japan stamp. I’ve re-set the rivets several times, the blade has rusted as badly as you think, and we recently, very reluctantly, decided it has passed its best-used-by date.

The 3 x 4.5 inch blade is 19 mil = 0.45 mm plated carbon steel, stiff enough to remain flat and springy enough to bend a little, with a 9 inch = 230 mm steel handle ending in a plastic overmold.

These days, it’s essential to the cutting, flipping, and serving of the morning’s omelet-like substance, made of eggs, bacon, veggies, green leafy things, plus this-and-that, in the cast-iron pan. Mary chops the disk into quarters with the reasonably sharp edge, maneuvers the reasonably bendy blade under each quarter, flips them over, tops with bacon & cheese, pauses for consolidation & melting, then pops them onto plates. Yum!

Omelet in cast-iron pan

Omelet in cast-iron pan

So we set out to buy a replacement.

Here’s what we’ve tried and rejected so far:

Spatula Search - overview

Spatula Search – overview

I’ve used this one for many years to flip pancakes on a succession of non-stick griddles, a service at which it excels. The edge isn’t sharp enough to cut the green-and-leafy and the completely inflexible blade cannot be maneuvered under the omelet quarters:

Spatula Search - heavy solid plastic

Spatula Search – heavy solid plastic

This one gets deployed for burgers and their ilk, also in the cast-iron pan. The blade, although sharp enough, is completely rigid:

Spatula Search - heavy slotted metal

Spatula Search – heavy slotted metal

On the other paw, a slightly concave 7 mil = 0.18 mm spring steel blade is much too thin and, well, springy. Although very sharp, you cannot apply enough cutting force without suddenly bending the blade and, if the omelet quarter isn’t positioned exactly right, the blade will bend underneath it and dump breakfast on the stovetop. The alert reader will notice a missing weld between the blade and the bottom wire handle:

Spatula Search - thin spring steel

Spatula Search – thin spring steel

This very thin plastic blade has similar problems with poor cut-ability and excessive flexibility:

Spatula Search - thin springy plastic

Spatula Search – thin springy plastic

This one looked really promising and worked almost perfectly. Regrettably, its nylon blade bears a 400 °F rating and the bottom of the omelet reaches nearly 450 °F. You can see what happens to the reasonably sharp edge as it scrapes across the pan:

Spatula Search - heavy slotted nylon

Spatula Search – heavy slotted nylon

The omelet cooks at the temperature it cooks at, which part of the specifications is not subject to further discussion.

So, we’re stumped. Having trawled the usual online and big-box stores, we’ve been unable to find a replacement. Simple steel blades aren’t available. Trendy silicone-bonded stainless steel blades combine the worst of all worlds: won’t cut and won’t flip. Pretty nearly anything you don’t see above seems obviously unsuitable for our simple needs: too big, too small, or too melty.

We’ll consider all recommendations and suggestions! Thanks …

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  1. #1 by Daniel B. Martin on 2016-11-02 - 08:07

    Having trawled the usual online and big-box stores,
    we’ve been unable to find a replacement.

    You seek a kitchen utensil which is no longer made. Refocus your search on sources of used utensils. Thrift stores have lots of old used (and not-so-used) utensils at low prices. Somewhere in Dutchess County there is a lonely disused spatula waiting for you to adopt it!

  2. #2 by rkward on 2016-11-02 - 08:12

    No doubt it’s out there, but seems like the best solution is to fabricate several from scratch. Since the blade is the most critical part, you can just build it around that and have them water jet cut, especially if you want to keep the center pattern. McMaster sells the low carbon steel: https://www.mcmaster.com/#standard-carbon-steel-sheets/=14v3myk. You could probably layout 6 on a 12 x 12 sheet.

    • #3 by Ed on 2016-11-04 - 13:35

      Oh, no, you don’t! I’m not going there. Really, I’m not …

  3. #4 by Jason Doege on 2016-11-02 - 09:06

    What rkward said. Even spot-welding is within reach using a car battery or microwave transformer. It seems like something worth writing about.

  4. #5 by madbodger on 2016-11-02 - 09:51

    I think what you want is not a spatula, but a “turner”. Victorinox, Ateco, American Metalcraft, Dexter Russell, and Browne Halco make some nice ones. The modern ones seem to be stainless steel instead of spring steel, but it seems to me like it should be possible to find one that has the strength to lift a quarter disc, the flexibility to get under it, and (likely with some aftermarket shaping/honing) the ability to cut through the green stuff.

    • #6 by Keith Ward on 2016-11-02 - 10:08

      A turner might actually be better even though Ed’s pictures and descriptions did indicate spatula. Wasserstrom’s is less than an hour away from me, and if I had specific needs I’d probably head someplace similar. These guys are pricey on many items as you might imagine, but nothing like being able to sort of test it in the store. http://www.wasserstrom.com/restaurant-supplies-equipment/GCSearchCmd?storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=1000148&pageDisplay=&maxResults=&rankBy=&search_field=turner

    • #7 by RCPete on 2016-11-02 - 10:19

      This! Our stainless one (also made in Japan) is much like your carbon steel one, and barring a dding on one edge, is in great shape. Flexible, sharp enough to cut veggies, and solidly made. Julie doesn’t use it, preferring coated pans (either the teflon-ish nonstick or the ceramic/aluminum pans), but it’s well suited for my scrambles in the cast iron pan. It’s in the cold, dead hands group for kitchen utensils.

      I don’t recall buying it, so it probably dates to the ’50s or ’60s and passed on to me when I moved West in ’74. No sign of a brand name.

      We’re doing a Costco run today, with a stop at the restaurant supply store over there. If time permits, I’ll take a look at the implements wall.

      • #8 by RCPete on 2016-11-02 - 23:55

        I got the chance, and aside from some awkward dimensions (2.75″ x 8 or so), a turner might just work. Stainless steel, relatively thin and flexible, but sturdy enough. The front is a bit rounded. This one had a plastic handle, rated for the dishwasher.

        This one was a Winco, about $13. I could get into the restaurant supply place in California, so you might try that route. (Saw one by Challenger in an online site, too.)

        • #9 by Ed on 2016-11-04 - 13:39

          I may be forced to shotgun an assortment from Amazon, if the Collectible Antique Flint Arrowhead turner doesn’t do the trick.

          We definitely didn’t expect this would be so difficult!

    • #10 by solaandjin on 2016-11-02 - 10:37

      The Sweet Home, a gear review site I’ve found pretty reliable, agrees with your fish-turner-as-general-purpose-spatula suggestion. http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-spatula/ recommends the Victorinox Chef’s Slotted FIsh Turner. “very flexible”, “still strong enough to hold a stack of eight pancakes without dropping them.” Might suit.

      Cook’s Illustrated also has a review of metal spatulas. They liked the Wusthof Gourmet Turner/Fish Spatula, which can hold a 4-pound brick. Their best buy model is the OXO Good Grips Flexible Turner, which could not support the brick.

    • #11 by Ed on 2016-11-04 - 13:35

      Part of the problem is not knowing the proper term for something we’ve called a “spatula” forever.

      Those “turners” look about right, though; who knew fish needed so much turning?

  5. #12 by Jose I Romero on 2016-11-02 - 12:31

    You should try looking if you have a local Spatula City https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XbCWmY0eqY

    • #13 by madbodger on 2016-11-02 - 13:17

      Heh, we just saw UHF on the big screen on Sunday, with live commentary by Weird Al and Emo Philips!

  6. #14 by scruss2 on 2016-11-02 - 19:05

    Hit up ebay for a Flint Arrowhead Stainless Slotted Turner. No idea how old ours is, but it’s short (a skosh under 25 cm) and has a very slight flex to the blade. Looks like it will last forever; maybe that’s why Flint Stainless went out of business …

    • #15 by Hexley Ball on 2016-11-03 - 11:23

      +1. We have had one since the 70s and it is still going strong. Sharp, flexible, just what you need. The bakelite handles are a weak point, but that is not the worst thing. These were made by Ecko, by the way; there are a bunch on eBay.

      • #16 by scruss2 on 2016-11-04 - 13:21

        Pretty sure the handle on ours isn’t bakelite. Looks for all the world like lignum vitae: dense, dark coloured, faintly fibrous, not brittle.

    • #17 by Ed on 2016-11-03 - 19:48

      Done! Looks like it’s Close Enough to what we have, minus the rust, and not much more expensive than some of the “improved” ones we don’t like. If it’s not perfect, we might use it for only a decade or two …

      Thanks!

  7. #18 by Sean on 2016-11-04 - 12:35

    • #19 by Ed on 2016-11-04 - 13:33

      The Exoglass turner has a 430 °F upper limit, so it’ll likely suffer the same fate as the nylon blades.

      We’ll take another look at the OXO stainless Fish Turners, although we both vaguely recall not liking something along those lines…

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