Posted on 02 Mar 2015 20:25
At any one time, I have at least 4 wooden spoons in my utensil holder. Right now, I have around 7 of all shapes and sizes. When I'm cooking and need a spoon to stir, scrape, or beat, I almost invariably reach for a wooden spoon. So too do most cooks. Why, in this age of metal and plastic, are wooden spoons still a must have for the kitchen?
Why use them at all? I'll list out several reasons, in no particular order, that, in my opinion, make wooden spoons a still viable tool in a technological age. wooden spoons a still viable tool in a technological age.
Wooden Spoons are Lightweight and Strong
When you're looking at a stainless steel spoon, or other utensil, it may seen odd to to think of wood as strong. After all, you can break most wooden spoons with your bare hands. Maybe over your knee. Some metal spoons are hard to even bend. Plastic spoons, on the other hand, will bend before they break. Well, despite the fact that you can break a wooden spoon, relative to its weight, a wooden spoon is very strong. Compare the weight of a wooden spoon and a metal spoon. The wooden spoon is so light in comparison, it is simply easier to work with while cooking. Wood feels good in your hand.
Now, since wood is so light relative to its tremendous strength, wooden spoons can have handles of varying lengths without becoming a two-hander. You can have long handled spoons for big giant pots, an although the handle will be thicker relative to the longer length, it will still be quite light compared to a metal spoon of the same length. Try making a risotto with a heavy metal spoon instead of a wooden one. You'll see what I mean.
Wooden Spoons Don't Conduct Heat Well
You don't need a plastic or rubber handle on a wooden spoon. Wood is a poor conductor of heat. It won't heat up and burn you. You may have been warned against leaving a wooden spoon in a pot while it is cooking lest the wood pick up all sorts of flavors and smells. And, it may affect the taste of what's cooking. But if you do leave it leaning in the pot (I do this all the time), it is going to take a lot longer for the handle to heat up. How many times have you left a metal spoon in a pot, came back to grab it, and burned your hand on the handle?
This is not to say that wood never ever heats up. Eventually they get hot. If you cook with gas burners, and you leave a spoon in a pot, the ambient heat of the flame, coming around the edge of the pot, can also heat up the handle.
Wooden Spoons Don't Scratch
Wood is softer than pretty much everything you cook with. This means it will not scratch a pot, whether it be a nonstick post or a metal pot. They also don't clink around and make a racket, which is nice when you're cooking and talking, like I often do. Again, try making that risotto with a noisy and clunky metal spoon. The spoon gets hot, it's heavy, and it's noisy.
Wooden Spoons Come in Many Different Shapes
Some wooden spoons aren't even spoons. I have a wooden "fork" that is great for a sort of whisking job when making a roux, while still being able to scrape around the corners. You can get a wooden spatula, both tiny and large. Great for when you need to be able to scrape the bottom of pans. Some wooden spoons have an angled flattish bottom, to help get in the corners. Some have an oval deep bowl and some are quite flat. It is true that in the "old days" they made wooden spoons better. Your great grandmother might still have a wooden spoon she bought 40 years ago while you are constantly breaking and replacing yours (they are cheap). Course, that old wooden spoon probably has a lot of disagreeable smells in it.
Are Wooden Spoons Essential Kitchen Utensils?
Most cooks will tell you yes, wooden spoons are essential. I would not go that far, as it would only be my opinion. There are some drawbacks. For instance, if you make a lot of sweet as well as savory dishes, you're not going to want to use the same wooden spoons for both. You would not want to stir your pudding with the same spoon you use in garlicky pasta sauces, for example. Some cooks use little pieces of colored tape to keep track of 'sweet spoons' and 'savory spoons.' The tape, of course, comes off eventually due to washing.
While wooden spoons can be cleaned in the dishwasher, which does a thorough job and helps combat smells, they also get splintery looking. Basically, they will begin to look like they are rough instead of spoon. A light sanding with sandpaper will take care of this, though, if you care to go to the trouble.
Silicone Spoons Instead of Wood
There is nothing you can do with a wooden spoon that you can't do with some other utensil, it's true. Nowadays we have silicone spoons, many of which can take the place of wooden spoons, being very heat resistant, non-scratch, and stiff enough to do the job of wooden spoons. However, you can get three wooden spoons for the price of one silicone spoon.
Bamboo Spoons Another Great Option
You may be concerned about using anything wood because of sustainability issues. However, another great option available today are bamboo spoons, as shown in the image above. Extremely strong and light, renewable, and quite affordable.
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