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Kitchen Tools and Utensils: Get the Right One For the Job!

Updated on February 6, 2018
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Healthy food choices, vegetarian recipes, kitchen tips & shortcuts interest Liz , also treat foods & animal welfare.

How Hard Should It Be?

Recently, I went shopping for a new spatula. It should not have been that difficult.

It was.

Virtually no one knew what I was talking about. They either looked at me as if I had two heads and was speaking an alien tongue, or proudly showed me exactly the wrong thing.

It was a serious exercise in frustration, and I don't know how many gallons of gas I wasted, driving from store to store in the hopes of finding a simple kitchen tool.

When Is a Spatula Not a Spatula?

People these days have gotten sloppy about what they call things. They think, "It's not important; it doesn't matter." Ah, but it does matter. If you ask me for a hammer and I hand you a screwdriver, claiming you can use its handle the same way, that doesn't miraculously transform it into the correct tool for the job.

Just as in the workshop, the right tool for the job is important in the kitchen as well. Just because one thing might serve the function of another, there is a reason the specific tool was created: it makes the task easier and more efficient to perform.

Here, then, are the tools I was shown or offered in my search for a spatula, their definitions and descriptions.

Flipper, Turner, Pancake Turner, etc

All various names for a wide-short-bladed tool with a bend at the business end of its handle; commonly used for sliding under cooking food and flipping it to the other side to finish cooking. It can be used on everything from eggs to burgers. Can be either metal, or some type of plastic for use on non-stick cookware.

The steeply-angled ones are great for flipping burgers or fried eggs; the more shallow angle works well for turning fries over on a cookie sheet.

Many Names For This Tool

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Cake and Pie Servers

Various types of wedge-shaped, dull-bladed utensils for sliding underneath prepared food to lift it onto serving plates. Usually used on pies, brownies, cakes and other desserts. They sometimes have a serrated edge for cutting the food; most do not.

For Pie, Cake, Brownies, Cookies

I do not have a plastic type. The two I've pictured above are for pie, cake, cookies, and brownies.

The wedge-shaped one is good for round cakes, pies, and can be used on square cake slices, although the squared-off style is less precarious for lifting square slices, and is perfect for brownies.

Scraper or Bowl Scraper

Soft rubber or plastic flexible tool for getting that last bit of cake batter out of the mixing bowl, or scraping down the sides of the bowl during mixing.

They can also be used for getting that last bit out of a jar or serving dish. These come in various lengths, widths and configurations, and many are a 'dished' shape so they can spoon the food into the next container.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Assorted sizes and types of scrapersScrapers are made of plastic or rubber, and are very flexible
Assorted sizes and types of scrapers
Assorted sizes and types of scrapers
Scrapers are made of plastic or rubber, and are very flexible
Scrapers are made of plastic or rubber, and are very flexible


Ah--the tool I so unsuccessfully sought. This is a flat-bladed metal tool, about 10 inches long with the blade portion being the majority of the tool. It is about an inch wide, and is used for spreading condiments onto sandwich bread, or frosting onto cakes.

The reason this is the "proper tool for the job" is the combined length of the handle and blade. Did you ever try to get to the bottom of a mayo jar with a table knife? Right--you end up with the spread all over your hand.

A scraper can be used, but most are not much longer than a standard table knife, so you have the same problem. Also, they are somewhat 'dished' instead of flat, and do not do a very good job of transferring the condiment evenly to the bread.

The Elusive Metal Spatula!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
All photos by author
All photos by author
All photos by author

Now What?

Alas, the plain and simple spatula was nowhere to be had. Not in the grocery store kitchen gadgets aisle; not at the home-goods store; not at the hardware store; not at the department store; not at the library.. oh, nevermind--that was a different search!

I've looked high and low, and this tool seems to have evaporated from the marketplace! I have a 'sort of ' new one bought about 4 years ago (shown in the photos)---but a second one would be nice to have as a backup, or if two cooks are working.

I have an antique one, but I don't like using it anymore, as the blade is all rusted, stained and cruddy looking. The search goes on....


Ah, one of my dear daughters found the correct tool, and gifted me a pair of them! Bless her ever-lovin' heart!

© 2011 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Memmalee,

    So happy to have been of service. Sadly, a "palette knife" is a much smaller tool, and found in artists supply stores. The overall length would be only about half that of the spatula, and the width barely over half an inch. It would not serve the same purpose at all. Yes, semantics are important.

    Thanks so much for your comment; it's much appreciated.

  • Memmalee profile image

    Memmalee 5 years ago from Newcastle, New South Wales

    LOVE this information! Thank you so much for your insight! I've found quite a few on eBay under spatula but my mum always taught me it was a 'palette knife' and eBay have plenty under that description without the confusion of the scrapers too. I'm all for semantics! Thank you :)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello again, formosangirl--

    Yes, I have seen the cake decorating style--it has a double bend between the handle and the business end of the blade, and that is just what it is--a cake decorating spatula, or some folks call it a frosting knife. I was shown a few of those as well in my search.

  • formosangirl profile image

    formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

    Hi DzyMsLizzy, I have never seen the tool in your last 2 photos. It looks very similar to a cake decorating instrument, except the cake one is not straight.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, homesteadbound--

    Yes, those are, indeed, the two tools most often mistaken for spatulas.

    I'm glad I was able to be of service. ;-) Thanks much for stopping by and commenting.

  • homesteadbound profile image

    Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

    When you said "spatula" the two tools that came to mind where scrapers and turners. I would not have known what a spatula was before this article. So I learned something today. Thanks!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, homesteadpatch--

    Thanks much for stopping by. Yet another term I'd not heard used for the spatula. Frustrating, indeed.

  • homesteadpatch profile image

    homesteadpatch 6 years ago from Michigan

    I've heard the spatula called a cake knife as well. Having worked in purchasing for a number of years, I've played the "what's it called" game many, many times. I can certainly relate to this!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Arlene V.Poma--

    Thanks so much for your comment and compliment--also the votes! Much appreciated, and you obviously know your kitchen tools. ;-)

  • profile image

    Arlene V. Poma 6 years ago

    I had something fall behind the refrigerator over the weekend and have not retrieved it. I think it is a turner. My heart goes to my stainless steel spatulas. As long as I have those, I am happy. Must be the design. Voted up, useful, and interesting. Who would ever think of this? Brilliant!