My Recipe Box

Cool Tool: Offset Spatulas

This devoted baker can't get enough of these versatile kitchen helpers

A starter set of offset spatulas. Abby Dodge recommends these sizes: one that's small and narrow, one that's small and square, two long, sturdy ones for transferring cakes to a plate, and a wedge-shaped one for pies.

by Abigail Johnson Dodge

I own 25 offset spatulas (yes, 25—I counted) in varying sizes and shapes, and I use them for all sorts of wacky things. It's one of my very favorite tools, both in and out of the kitchen.

Just what exactly is an offset spatula? It's like any other spatula with a stiff metal blade except that the blade bends up where it meets the handle, which is why it's called "offset." Why would this be desirable? Think about trying to wiggle a regular flat spatula under a pancake on a crowded griddle or trying to turn a hamburger in a packed pan. The offset lets you get in there without disturbing the other items.

I've been collecting offset spatulas for more than 20 years, and, along the way, I've picked up some real beauties. (I must admit that scouring tag sales, flea markets, and kitchen gadget stores for these treasures has become a bit of an addiction for me and possibly a bit of an annoyance to my husband.) I'm often asked what size and shape are best for an offset spatula. The answer is that it depends on the task or project at hand.

While I love and use all my offsets, I could probably live with only three sizes and shapes: one that's long (14 inches) and sturdy, another that's wedge-shaped, and one that's small and square. Actually, let's make that four—I couldn't frost a cake without my small, narrow one.

The long, sturdy offset has tons of uses. It's perfect for heavy jobs, like evenly spreading batter in a jellyroll pan or transferring a cake from a cooling rack to a plate. For a 9x13-inch cake, I whip out two of these long spatulas and can have complete confidence in their strength to support the cake as I move it.

I also use this size spatula to smooth the tops of frosted cakes. I run the blade through a flame to heat it and then slide it across the top of a mousse cake or frosting. I have yet to find another tool that's as easy to handle and that smoothes and levels the tops as well as this old friend. It's also great for lifting a multitude of cookies off a baking sheet. These long ones also have smoothed the sides of a volcano (for a certain 4th-grade science project) and reached down between the porch cracks to pinch and retrieve a bracelet (the offset blades gave my hands more space to maneuver without banging into each other).

My small wedge-shaped offset spatula is the no-brainer choice when it comes to serving cake or pies, and the larger one is invaluable as a pizza server. As for more unusual uses, my husband has often threatened to use it to spread spackle and grout. And while I will certainly admit that it would work, he'll have to buy his own for those tasks.

My blade on my small squarish one is about 2-1/4 x 2-1/2 inches. It's an unusual size, and one I didn't think much about until I was cutting bar cookies for a Fine Cooking photo shoot many years ago. Not only does the spatula make lifting easier, it's also sturdy enough to actually cut the bars without scratching the pan.

My fourth and final pick is my small narrow spatula. Nothing spreads frosting on a cake's side better than this little betty. Again, because the blade is offset from the handle, I can spread the sides evenly and swirl the top beautifully without my hand getting in the way. It's also great for spreading mustard or mayo on sandwiches, too.

Photo: Sarah Jay

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