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Wooden Spoons

Thursday, 1 January 2009 | Tags: ,

If you have ever snapped a wooden spoon stirring something thick, you know it's a good way to get a splinter or two. Good quality spoons should be very durable. We test some wooden spoons to find out which one stirs up the best.

The Basics

  • Because they don’t conduct heat like metal utensils, and they don’t scrape the bottom of your pots, wooden spoons are a helpful tool for cooking.

  • With their long, strong handles, wooden spoons provide good leverage for stirring both thin concoctions like sauces or beverages, as well as thick and stiff foods like risotto or cookie dough.

  • A wooden spoon has three parts: bowl, neck, and handle.

    • The bowls of wooden spoons can be oval, round, flat, or tear-drop shaped. They are thicker than metal spoons and also sturdy enough for smashing aromatic ingredients to release their flavour.

    • Handles are either contoured or simple. Some spoon handles are hand-painted with traditional themes or have decorative, carved grooves.

  • Choose a spoon made of hardwood rather than softwood:

    • Hardwood spoons are made from walnut, oak, Indian rosewood, beech, olive, and bamboo. Hardwood material is more durable, so won’t split, swell or absorb moisture, strong smells (garlic, onion), or bacteria as easily as softwood.

    • Softwood spoons are made from such materials as birch, pine, and fir, and don’t stand up as well to the thicker, heavier jobs like the hardwood types can.

  • Look for spoons with a non-toxic, food-safe finish that are both water-repellent and abrasion-resistant.

  • Wooden spoons come in many shapes for different purposes, including:

    • Rounded end spoons are good for stirring thin liquids like soups and beverages, and for blanching or boiling small pieces of fruit or vegetables in a large amount of liquid.

    • Flat end spoons have a shallow bowl with a spatula-like end and are good for stirring and mixing thicker mixtures like meat sauce, tomato sauce, etc. The flat end helps keeps food from sticking it it.

    • Slotted spoons are shallow with holes in the bowl to drain liquids. They’re good for making delicate crèmes and sauces (béchamel, pastry crème) when lumps are a no-no, and for serving dry dishes, general cooking, and deep frying.

    • Spatulas are flat spoons with curved sides and long handles. Good for blending, spreading and cooking.

    • Fork ended utensils are best used for tossing loose mixtures like pasta, salad, and stir-fry

Other Considerations

  • Consider purchasing spoons made of non-endangered wood such as olive or bamboo, which are renewable resources.

  • Like cutting boards, wooden spoons should be treated with mineral oil before its first use to seal pores and prevent bacteria growth.

  • Wash wooden utensils in clean, warm, soapy water, and dry them immediately to help prevent bacteria growth. (Never use olive or vegetable oils: they’ll go rancid and make the wooden spoon unsanitary.)

  • If you use it frequently, re-oil it when the wood’s colour begins lighten.

  • Many wooden spoons have painted handles and traditional folk-art designs to suit your kitchen décor or personal taste.

Be Aware

  • Never put wooden spoons (or wooden cutting boards) in the dishwasher. The high heat can create cracks where food particles may become lodged and bacteria can start to grow.

  • Don’t leave wooden utensils to soak or it can lead to water damage.

TEST CRITERIA

Since wooden spoons are prone to snapping, we tested these spoons in a lab with physicist Peter Newberry, who applied pressure to the spoons to see how much they could withstand.

  • Olive wood: $15.00
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Beechwood: $4.78
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Bamboo: $1.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Pressure Test

  • The bamboo spoon only stood up to 15 pounds of pressure before snapping, which made it the big loser.

  • The beechwood spoon stood up to 55 pounds, which was fairly impressive

  • The olive wood spoon stood up to 60 pounds, but was by far the most expensive.

OUR TOP PICK

The beechwood spoon is our top pick because it stood up well in the pressure test, and it’s also much more economical in price than the olive wood, which was the strongest.

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