Why wooden spoons?

RonB

It seems to me that a lot recipes for dough say to mix ingredients with a wooden spoon until...
Why wood? I normally use a silicone spatula or my mixer.
Thanx,
Ron

badge posted by: RonB on April 08, 2011 at 7:10 am in General discussions
tags: dough
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reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on April 08, 2011 at 8:13 am
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Some people like the way they feel in the hand.

They're "non-reactive" with acidic foods.

Some people think that the fact that they pick up the flavor of whatever you're cooking is a good thing (I disagree).

Back in the day you're choices were either thin metal spoons or a wooden spoon. If you're stirring up a heavy batter (say chocolate chip cookies) by hand, a metal spoon could bend - I've had it happen.

With the advent of non-stick cookware, wooden spoons made a resurgence in popularity (they had been gradually disappearing from modern kitchens).

However in this day and age there are many alternatives to wooden spoons which are non-reactive and strong enough to stand up to a heavy batter (assuming you actually need to do that by hand, personally I'm all for a good stand mixer myself) which are also NOT going to pick up the flavor of whatever you're cooking. And which won't scratch your non-stick. Personally I don't like wooden spoons, particularly when we start thinking about hygiene.

In baking, the biggest reason for specifying a wooden spoon has been the issue of needing a spoon that won't bend when you're mixing the dough, but there are plenty of plastic/nylon/manmade materials that will stand up to a stiff dough and which you can actually clean for real. I'd pick a good plastic spoon over wooden any day.

reply by: skeptic7 on April 08, 2011 at 11:00 am
skeptic7

I am one of those that like the way they feel in the hand. I haven't noticed that they pick up an odor or flavor but I mainly use them for baking. They can handle a thicker dough than a spatula without bending. I don't like the newer plastic spoons, I think they stain.
My current best thing to mix with is a flat whisk. Its easy to clean and has fairly thick wires.
This probably acts similiar to a dough whisk but the wires are sealed with plastic into the handle so there is not crevices for old dough to accumulate.

http://www.lacuisineus.com/catalog/-c-0/roux-whisk-stainless-steel-p-1989

The 12 inch whisk is the right size, the 14 inch is too big and the smaller sizes have lighter wires.

reply by: PaddyL on April 08, 2011 at 11:10 am
PaddyL

Ron, I have often wondered the very same thing, and I thought it had something to do with the age of the recipe. Now I wonder whether they might mean, 'not with an electric mixer', as the wooden spoon might mean a gentler mix.

reply by: Mike Nolan on April 08, 2011 at 12:45 pm
Mike Nolan

Wood is naturally anti-bacterial, so providing you handle wooden implements properly they are at least as safe as plastic ones.

For example, throw them out if they develop cracks in them. Whether or not you should wash them in the dishwasher is a hotly debated topic on the Internet.

I recall reading about a chef who was able to demonstrate to his local health inspectors that his wooden implements, properly handled, were actually safer than the plastic ones they wanted him to use.

Wooden implements also come in a much larger variety of sizes and shapes than plastic ones. Personally, I think wooden implements are less likely to damage non-stick surfaces than plastic ones, too.

For years I routinely gave my wife an assortment of wooden implements every Christmas, to replace ones that had worn out. Now that I'm doing the majority of the cooking, she gives them to me at Christmas.

For a while, it was hard to find wooden implements, but they're experiencing a comeback. I like the new bamboo ones.

reply by: Gnancy on April 08, 2011 at 10:21 pm
Gnancy

I'd never thought of washing a wooden spoon in a dishwasher, although I sometimes throw in an old spatula or knife with a wooden handle, thinking it's one step closer to ruining it (the handle). Can you expound on the hot debate on dishwasher washing wooden implements?

reply by: Mike Nolan on April 08, 2011 at 11:25 pm
Mike Nolan

Some claim wood implements absorb odors (or worse) from the detergent, rinse agent and the food remains in the dishwasher, others claim the high heat and humidity (especially during the drying cycle) leads to them cracking faster. Still others say they don't get completely clean.

And of course, others dispute each of those claims.

reply by: Gnancy on April 08, 2011 at 11:51 pm
Gnancy

Thanks. I only knew about the possibility of cracking the wood.

reply by: RonB on April 09, 2011 at 6:59 am
RonB

Thanx all for the comments. I was thinking I would make my own, but I'll stick with my silicone stick ~ Ron

reply by: skeptic7 on April 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm
skeptic7

If you can carve your own spoon, do so. It would be nice to have thicker handles to get a better grip, or to have exactly the right length and shape. I've resanded some of the purchased wooden spoons to get a nice smooth surface and then covered them with mineral oil as a finish. I've also sanded out small cracks in the bowl of the spoon so I can continue to use the spoon. Very coarse sandpaper is your friend when it comes to removing cracks.

reply by: toffee on April 10, 2011 at 7:42 pm
toffee

I have wooden spoons and plastic as well. I am going to cry when the wooden spoon my mom gave me 30 years ago breaks. It fits my smaller hand perfectly and I only use that particular one for my baking. I wish you could take one you loved and get an exact duplicate, as many of the current spoons are not that comfortable when I use them. The diameters are just not the right circumference I guess.

Patty

reply by: RonB on April 10, 2011 at 10:15 pm
RonB

Patty - if there are any craft shows in your area, you may find someone who can duplicate your spoon. Take your spoon to a craft show - it will enjoy it, and someone may be able help you ~ Ron

reply by: HMB on April 11, 2011 at 12:06 am
HMB

I love wooden spoons with thick handles -- I look for them at craft fairs because most wooden spoons in the stores are too skinny and not very comfortable to work with. I have different spoons for sweet and savory cooking, and I have one that I use ONLY for chocolate. Also, the craftspeople seem to really know their wood, and I haven't had any trouble with my spoons cracking or getting rough -- unlike what happens with the cheap spoons.

reply by: toffee on April 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm
toffee

Thanks for the suggestion Ron! I will do that.

Patty

reply by: Tom_B on April 14, 2011 at 11:39 am
Tom_B

My wife the bread baker likes wooden spoons because the edges are rounded and don't cut the dough or gluten formation.

reply by: wendyb964 on June 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm
wendyb964

A wee bit off topic: to me the feel in your hand as well as the type of wood make all the difference. My favorite is a long-handled flat spoon paddle, 3"wide) of olive wood purchased in Italy about 20 yr ago. I love my heat-resistant silicone spatulas but with my weak hands/poor coordination the silicone is less efficient for me. Personal preference of non-reactive tools imho.

reply by: meghildreth on June 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm
meghildreth

We are slowly replacing the cheap wooden spoons with nice olive wood ones. I do have one spoon that I will never give up. It belonged to my grandmother, then to my mother, and then to me. I have been stirring things from pudding to bread dough with it since age seven.

I love the way wood feels in my hand. Even my whisk has a wooden handle.

reply by: easyquilts on July 02, 2011 at 2:24 pm
easyquilts

I use wooden spoons because I like the way they feel... I've tried plastic spoons, but they never feel "right". Besides, it's tradition!

Wooden spoons seem to hold up better than plastic, too.... They don't bend, and the wood gets better with age. However, it's hard to find just the right wooden spoon... Or, maybe I'm just too picky... I really don't like the flat ones...

Sandy

reply by: easyquilts on July 02, 2011 at 2:24 pm
easyquilts

I use wooden spoons because I like the way they feel... I've tried plastic spoons, but they never feel "right". Besides, it's tradition!

Wooden spoons seem to hold up better than plastic, too.... They don't bend, and the wood gets better with age. However, it's hard to find just the right wooden spoon... Or, maybe I'm just too picky... I really don't like the flat ones...

Sandy

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on July 03, 2011 at 7:17 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

I don't know about bending - I have plastic spoons that are quite stiff and they don't bend. There are CHEAP plastic spoons that bend but they are, after all, cheap and not really expected to hold up.

Cheap spoons of any material are just not very useful.

reply by: mumpy on July 05, 2011 at 10:09 am
mumpy

this feels weird, but i seem to be the only one who hates wooden spoons because they break!...can't tell you how many wooden spoons i've had break off somewhere along the handle...i will admit though, that the 2 broken pieces make decent kindling in the fireplace.

reply by: MangoChutney - Sandra Too on July 05, 2011 at 11:54 am
MangoChutney - Sandra Too

I don't hate wooden spoons, but the ones I used to have are long gone because they got soaked with lye water in a kitchen plumbing accident. The cheap ones did tend to chip, split, and break. The one good one was the spoon from a salad set. I had wooden spatulas that I used in frying too. They are not gone, but we never use them now.

When I was in graduate school I had some of those cheap plastic cooking spoons that bend. They were not as useless as the companion spatulas that either did not lift things or flipped them over the back when the stuff came unstuck.

What I use for cooking now are some large black plastic spoons that we have had for decades. One finally cracked last year. My husband felt very bad about it, even though they were so old. We have one non-stick spatula that is as old. Ecko, I believe that one is.

My favorite for mixing and scraping is a one-piece spatula that came with my Breville mixer. I wish that I could find another like it. They don't sell them separately. I did ask. When we got this one, I threw away all of those two-piece monstrosities that couldn't scrape and accumulated filth where the plastic handle entered the rubber blade. I also threw away a very old one-piece spatula that was always too hard to be very useful, that had melted in one place and been chewed by a dog.

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on July 06, 2011 at 3:56 am
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Yes, I like that type of spatula but I've never seen one. I have a wire whip that was quite expensive - I think it's either a Cuisinart or a Kitchenaide or some other big name in kitchen gear - that is not only 2 part, but the handle is flippin' HOLLOW!

It's supposed to be dishwasher safe but the very first time I washed it, I took it out to use it shortly thereafter and suddenly found water running down my hand. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from - that dang hollow handle had filled up with water from the dishwasher! I had to pull the thing apart so I could drain it all out! And then it wouldn't snap back together. I have some spatulas that are made in the same way - now not only can you not wash them in the dishwasher, you can't drop them into a sink full of soapy water (the normal way I do dishes) because the handles will STILL fill up with water. So I have to wash them individually with a sponge and running water.

I really need to replace those monstrosities. It's so hard to justify it though when you spend so much money on something only to find out it's junk. GRRRR!

reply by: Gnancy on July 06, 2011 at 4:55 am
Gnancy

How about this? Photobucket
It's a Chef'n Switchit Slim and comes in some other colors. Also, 650°F heat and stain resistant silicone; flexible work-ends; and top rack dishwasher safe.

JosephJoseph also makes a one-piece "Elevate Small Pink Spatula" with integrated tool rest that looks similar.

reply by: cwcdesign on July 06, 2011 at 8:40 am
cwcdesign

I found a nice rubbery feeling silicone spatula at Target last year that is all in one piece. It's sturdy enough for stirring heavy things and scrapes a batter bowl really nicely. Cleans up in the sink or dishwasher - no hollow handle. Mine's purple and slightly wide - I think it came in other sizes and might have been one of the Michael Graves' designs.

The 2-part ones I had taken apart to use in my studio for applying spackle to paper mache - they work much better for that!

reply by: Mike Nolan on July 06, 2011 at 1:27 pm
Mike Nolan

I don't think I've EVERY broken a wooden spoon!

As to one-piece spatulas, my favorite is still the Viennese cake spatula:

reply by: MangoChutney - Sandra Too on July 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm
MangoChutney - Sandra Too

It's a nice spatula. Not quite the same shape, but nice.

reply by: MangoChutney - Sandra Too on July 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm
MangoChutney - Sandra Too

It looks interesting. Was there anything else remarkable at that place? They have flat rate shipping, but most of what they have for sale I either have somewhere in my mess (eg a mesh teaball and a turkey lacing set), or I don't really want (eg pig-themed clay bakeware).

reply by: easyquilts on July 17, 2011 at 5:56 am
easyquilts

I just bought an orange one piece spatula at Target.... It's large, and perfect for scraping both my bowl and work surfaces. I may get a second one.... Didn't see purple, or I would have gotten that color... My favorite.

Sandy

reply by: rubyr1 on August 03, 2011 at 4:57 am
rubyr1

Quotes from other comments:
I recall reading about a chef who was able to demonstrate to his local health inspectors that his wooden implements, properly handled, were actually safer than the plastic ones they wanted him to use.

My favorite is a long-handled flat spoon paddle, 3"wide) of olive wood purchased in Italy about 20 yr ago

My Reply:
I used wooden spoons all my life - until - I got 15 people violently ill with H-pylori. Every person who ate at my house over a 1 month period tested POS. H-pylori symptoms are almost identical to acid reflux, heartburn, lactose intolerance and indigestion. Which MANY folks have and the docs put them on pills for life.
What everyone who uses WOODEN SPOONS needs to take notice of is, how many of family and friends are taking those type of pills for those type of eating issues.
You can advise them to DEMAND to get tested for H-pylori, because H-pylori is 100% curable ! Then they can eat normal and NOT take pills forever and go on thinking they have a health issue.
The cure is a series of antibiotics that the doc prescribes. OR if you hate meds like I do, there is a natural supplement called Bye Lori brand Mastic Gum that gets rid of H-pylori in the same amount of time as the drugs do. (Cheaper too)
http://www.iherb.com/Life-Enhancement-Bye-Lori-II-120-Capsules/2724?at=0

It took me months to try to figure out what the common denominator was that caused this. I threw out all my wooden spoons, everyone got re-tested and was NEG.
I will NEVER use wooden spoons again !

I took my H-pylori battle to Italy with me as I have tons of relatives with gut issues. I took all the wooden spoons out of my sister in laws house, got all 4 folks tested (POS), then gave all 4 of them 2 bottles each of the Mastic Gum. By the time I left, they all re-tested NEG and were eating with gusto again ! One relative has a medical clinic and now tests everyone to help get folks better. She warns them away from Wooden spoons.

If you take a pin and scratch lightly on your spoons, even after being cleaned in a dishwasher - you can see for yourself the food left behind. They are nothing short of being factories for bacteria.

BEWARE also of Wood Cutting boards ! Same deal with them.

No wood tool or implement is safe.

Love your family ? Ditch the wooden spoons & cutting boards !

Now, if anyone finds PLASTIC wood looking spoons, please let me know!

Be safe, instead of sorry.

Ruby in FL

reply by: Gnancy on August 03, 2011 at 6:33 pm
Gnancy

Yikes! I wonder how the safety of bamboo spoons/boards/implements compare...

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on August 03, 2011 at 6:40 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Pretty much the same. That's why I don't use any of them.

The food safety scientists really do know what they're talking about. There are good reasons why stainless steel and good quality plastic compounds are approved for commercial use, and wooden things generally are not.

reply by: frick on August 03, 2011 at 7:38 pm
frick

mango chutney, why, oh why, would being chewed by a dog hurt a spoon? :)