The Definitive Guide to Wooden Spoons: Top Tool of America’s Greatest Chefs

The Definitive Guide to Wooden Spoons: Top Tool of America’s Greatest Chefs

Posted by Karen Mayo Marsh on 5th Feb 2015

"If you ain't cookin' with a wooden spoon, you ain't cookin."   - Chef Lee Richardson, in an interview with Viking

From Gordon Ramsay to David Gaus to Michael Ruhlman, there is a reason wooden spoons are the overwhelming choice of top chefs and everyday kitchens alike, and are praised by the likes of Fine Cooking, Slate.com, Men's Health magazine and more. Actually, there are a LOT of reasons.

For starters, did you know that placing a wooden spoon across the top of a boiling pot will prevent the pot from boiling over? The spoon doesn't conduct heat, and it absorbs and bursts bubbles before they get the chance to boil over. FoodHacks at WonderHowTo.com have done a great job of describing this in detail with tips and photos. In fact, Viralnova.com says using a wooden spoon is one of 13 Tips That Will Turn Anyone Into A Top Chef!

Photo Courtesy of Mommy Minutes Blog

So why do top chefs prefer wooden spoons? Here are the top 7 reasons why chefs say wooden spoons are superior:

1. Superior Scraping - Wooden spoons - particularly a flat-edge wooden spoon (also commonly called a flat-front or flat-top) are perfect for scraping up all the bits of flavor at the bottom of the pot and around the "corner" of the pot bottom, or keeping scrambled eggs from sticking to the pan. Bon Appetit even wrote that not using a flat-top wooden spoon is one of the 5 Common Scrambled Eggs Mistakes. And, they won't scratch your pots and pans.

2. Insulated - When cooking with heated sugars, a wooden spoon should always be used because it won't crystalize the sugar. So, if you are cooking candy or anything else subject to sudden temperature changes, wooden spoons won't cause sudden crystallization like metal spoons.

3. Heat Tolerance - How many plastic handled utensils do you have with melt-lines across them? Because wooden utensils don't conduct heat, they aren't prone to melting when the handle rests on the pot. And, unlike metal utensils, you can again grab the handle without burning your fingers. And, it doesn't melt on the bottom of a hot pan or when stirring a very, very hot food like silicone, plastic, and rubber utensils can.

4. Strong & Durable - Wooden spoons and utensils are extremely strong and don't break or bend like plastic, silicone and metal. You can scrape heartily to get all the food off the bottom and sides of pots and pans with ease and confidence - yet without scratching your cookware.

5. Versatile Kitchen Tool - Just for stirring? Think again. TOP CHEF, The Cookbook recommends using the back of a wooden spoon to break apart garlic as you sauté it in a saucepan. The secret to a great textured risotto? You guessed it. According to InMamasKitchen.com, "We recommend a wooden spoon for stirring as it will help create that friction while a smooth spoon will glide through the grains. Men's Health magazine says using a wooden spoon is one of the 4 Rules of Cast-Iron Cooking: "Use a wooden spoon to do your stirring. Wood is always best!" In fact, chef David Guas of Food Network's "Chopped", the Cooking Channel's "Unique Sweets", and NBC Today Show says he got his start learning to cook with a cast iron skillet and a worn wooden spoon.

6. Warmth & Beauty - Wood provides a classic feel, a warmth in the kitchen. Among the high tech gadgets, cookware, and tools, wooden utensils provide comfort. Wooden utensils are beautiful & have a history that is rich & cultural.

7. They Last Forever - Lee Havlicek says it perfectly in her Slate.com article In Praise of Wooden Spoons: They're Practical. They Have a Rich Cultural History. And They Last Forever... It's "difficult to imagine a parent passing a silicone spoon down to a child as an heirloom." Yet, wooden spoons, properly cared for, will last forever are are often passed from generation to generation. 

Still not sure if wooden spoons and utensils are for you? Don't take our word for it...

HowStuffWorks.com lists the wooden spoon as #9 on it's list of the Top 10 Cooking Tools.

"Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks from America's Greatest Cooks" by Adam D. Roberts list a wooden spoon #3 on the list of the things you need to cook like the pros.

FineCooking.com writes about Why You Should Use a Wooden Spoon.

Food Network star chef Ina Garten always keeps plenty of wooden spoons and utensils on hand in her kitchen.

Are there any drawbacks to using wooden spoons? No, not really. You can't run them through the dishwasher - they should always be washed by hand and left to air-dry. To keep them in top condition, we recommend rubbing them liberally with our organic wooden bowl and board preserver occasionally. You'll find articles online discussing whether wooden spoons "pick up" scents and flavors. They don't. This is one of those myths that simply isn't true.

And the great news is that all of these benefits apply to all wooden spatulas and utensils! Wooden spoons and utensils are very affordable, too. So stock your kitchen with a good supply wooden spoons and utensils today. And, be sure to check out the Pro Tips below!

Pro Tips for Wooden Spoons:

It's Hip To Be Square - Spoons in particular are used for stirring for longer periods of time. Michael Ruhlman says a square handle is easier on the hand than a round handle - a nice fit without any ache, and a nice flat spot for your thumb to rest.

Flat-Edge Spoon is a Must - Especially for scrambled eggs, or any type of sauce so you can scrape up all the flavorful bits. Chef Lee Richardson says in his Viking interview, "the metal spoon is much less effective at "digging up" all the concentrated flavors we call fond, leaving the best parts to be lost. The wood spoon evidences are in both the equipment and the resulting flavor experience." Need a flat-edge wooden spoon?

Size Matters - You'll generally want longer spoons. Most pots are 8" to 10" tall, so you'll want enough of the handle to stick out of the pot to grab it - even when it's angled across the pot. So, 15" spoons and 17" spoons are great for most uses. If you cook with larger pots, or larger batched of chili, for example, a 24" spoon is recommended for its strength and length.

No Ping Pong Paddle, Please - Choose a spoon that is not too big. Otherwise, it's like stirring with a ping pong paddle. You want the spoon to move through the food with ease and not feel like work. All of our wooden spoons are designed with this in mind and are a joy to use.

We invite you to share your comments, tips, and suggestions by posting a comment below or on our Facebook pageBrowse all wooden spoons and wooden utensils.

Enjoy, and bon appétit!