Wooden Spoons – A Must in Every Kitchen

August 17, 2012 29 Comments

Wood Spoons

Wooden Spoons – Why Chefs Recommend Cooking With Them

I cook with wooden spoons that are at least 30 years old!

Have you ever read a recipe that calls for “stirring with a wooden spoon” and wondered why? Why not stir with a metal spoon? Or a silicone spoon or spatula? Is it important what kind of wood the spoon be made from?

Even if you haven’t wondered about wooden spoons before, I have done the wondering for you, and I think I’ve come up with some answers.

I think that good wooden spoons are some of the most important utensils to have in the kitchen. Why? Partly because I’ve read it, I’ve seen a lot of my chef friends use them, and because I like how they feel in my hand. But now, I think I can provide a few reasons why a wooden spoon is an important kitchen utensil.

Advantages of a Wood Spoon

  1. First of all, let’s talk about the feel of a wooden spoon. There’s nothing like stirring a sauce or sautéing veggies with a wooden spoon in your hand. Especially one that you’ve owned for a long time. The handles are generally gently rounded and just feel good to hold. This is especially important when you have to stir a dish a lot, like risotto. If a spoon feels comfortable in your hand, you’ll feel comfortable using it. And if you feel comfortable using it, you’ll use it more often. So when you’re making risotto, your hand will feel comfortable stirring frequently.
  2. If you’re using a metal spoon that is basically stamped out and formed from a sheet of aluminum or stainless steel, holding the thin handle can be uncomfortable. Your hand can actually start to get tired from gripping a handle that isn’t easy to grip, and your hand might even cramp up. Sorry, risotto. I can’t stir right now, my hand hurts. Then you end up with a less-than-creamy risotto.
  3. Remember when I said that metal spoons are stamped out? Well, even though the edges are smoothed out, they still have straight sides that meet at 90 degree angles. With repeated stirring, your hand can start to get sore. Now, think about those same hard angles smashing into the food that you’re cooking.A spoon with hard edges can damage delicate ingredients. Wooden spoons, with their smooth and gentle curves are much less likely to bruise, crush or tear your ingredients as you stir.
  4. Another reason that wooden spoons are superior to metal spoons is that wooden spoons aren’t conductive. That means that, if you leave your spoon in a hot sauce for a long time, the wooden handle will still stay cool. (Be care though, I have a bunch of wooden spoons that have funny curves in them from leaving them in a hot pot.)Try that with a metal spoon, and you’ll end up with a burned hand. Yes, you could get around this problem by using a metal spoon with a non-conductive handle, but you’ll still have to contend with those hard angles smashing into your food.
  5. Wooden spoons are especially useful when stirring on a non-stick surface. Metal spoons can scratch nonstick coatings, while smooth wooden spoons will not harm non-stick surfaces. Even when stirring in a regular pot, metal spoons can leave scratches, and they make a scraping noise that can become bothersome over time. Again, wooden spoons to the rescue. They won’t scratch your copper, aluminum or stainless steel pots and are nice and quiet to use.
  6. When stirring acidic ingredients, like lemon curd or tomato sauce, some metal spoons can react with the acids in foods and leave a metallic taste or even change the color of the food you are cooking. Wood is non-reactive. Score another point for the wooden spoon.
  7. Last, here’s a somewhat subjective reason for using wooden spoons: I have a friend who is a professional chef, and he uses the same spoon every time he makes his tomato sauce. He tells me the flavors become part of the spoon and add to the taste of his sauce!I’m not sure I buy the “flavors become part of the spoon” but it sounds good and I do believe the history in a spoon adds something magical to a dish.

As far as I’m concerned, wooden spoons win. Hands down. Choose a wooden spoon that feels good in your hand. I wouldn’t recommend those very inexpensive wooden spoons with the thin, round handles. These aren’t very comfortable to hold which defeats part of the purpose in buying a wooden spoon in the first place.

 wooden spoons

Buying & Caring for Your Wooden Spoons

  • Purchase a spoon made of hard wood. Soft woods, such as pine, will soak up too much oils and juices from whatever you are cooking. And, more importantly, they could leach some “piney” flavor into your food. You are much better off with a spoon made of oak, maple or olive wood, all of which are readily available both online and in large home goods stores.
  • Wash your wooden spoons by hand with warm soapy water and dry them right away. Don’t put your wooden spoons in the dish washer, especially if you have the drying cycle on. The extreme heat can dry out the wood so it will eventually crack.
  • About once a month, rub your wooden spoons with a little food grade mineral oil, let them sit overnight, and then wipe off the excess. This will keep your spoons from drying out.

These days, there are other options besides wood when looking for a spoon that won’t scratch your cookware. I think wood is the better choice, regardless. Metal spoons with wooden or plastic handles, even silicone-coated metal, are not made of one seamless piece of material.

Food particles can get into the fine cracks between the different materials so that bacteria can grow. While I really like silicone for some applications, I don’t think that any material can beat wood when it comes to spoons.

onlinesources: Wooden Spoons

There are lots of sources for purchasing quality Kitchen Gadgets and Housewares including whisks, spoons, measuring devices and all the fun gadgets we home cooks have come to love.  I suggest you check out your local department stores and kitchen supply shops but if you’re looking for a wide selection of products and prices, you may want to check out Amazon.com where I buy many of my favorite pieces of cookware.

Amazon.com – Kitchen Gadgets
– Started out in the book business but now they sell just about everything. Good prices, ok service, these are the folks many of have done business with and feel comfortable with.

Wooden Spoons

Last modified on Tue 9 December 2014 4:21 pm

Filed in: Tools & Gadgets

Comments (29)

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  1. Adam says:

    I couldn’t agree more, certain things are just as timeless now as they ever were. These also make for great gifts.

  2. rumana says:

    how do I know the stains on my wooden utensils are food stain not mold? Also what would be the best place to keep them..outside on the counter or in the cabinet drawer with other spoons?

    I don’t know Rumana but I’ll try to find someone who does and get back to you. I also don’t know the “best place to store wooden spoons but I store mine in a pitcher on the counter. – RG

  3. I love this article, my husband and I make wooden utensils up here in Troy, Montana.

  4. Koukalaka Carreira says:

    Having a hard time finding wooden utensils sold as sets.

  5. Ben says:

    So, non-wood spoons grow bacteria in divots scratches and gouges but wooden spoons don’t? Cmon it’s obvious you think wooden spoons are superior but you don’t need to dilute your valid arguments with bias.

    Basically i think it comes down to: if you’re not using nonstick or stirring something acidic or hot (all situations where wood is superior) it’s down to personal preference or a perception of altered taste (if you can taste metallic compounds in food due to a spoon then the spoon is either old or cheap’n’nasty and is literally rusting into your food)

    Personally: having done a immunology/microbiology degree at uni I prefer wood (as Id rather have a natural substance in contact with my food) but unless it’s a super dense expensive hard wood it will crack with wet/dry cycles and get worn and bacteria looooove crevices to hide in

    The ‘fragile ingredient’ theory sounds like a complete load of waffle. a) if your spoon edge was sharp it’d cut your mouth, look under magnification at what an unsharpened metal edge really looks like – rounded – and b) what are these fragile foods that are ruined by a spoon edge (but not by being folded or stirred??)

  6. Tomas says:

    In my experience wooden spoons are the best. I’ve got couple of metal and plastic ones, but haven’t use them for a long time. I don’t know, for me wooden spoons are more handy. Feels better when you are cooking if we compare with metal, cold and heavy spoon.

  7. Tom says:

    There are good culinary reasons for wooden spoons. For example, when making a custard it will take longer for the mixture to “coat the back” of a metal spoon because there is less friction. Result? The custard will be overdone. The same is true of spaghetti sauce.

    I’ve never oiled a wooden spoon in my life. My spoons get plenty of oil/fat in the cooking process.

  8. RLSeipleSr says:

    I cannot get my head around using a wooden spoon for cooking! I’m a home brewer and one of the last things that I would use in my beer is a wooden spoon … I might as well stir it with my hand … contains the same amount of bacteria, etc., as a wooden spoon would.

  9. Selah says:

    I had a wooden spoon that really did pick up a certain “flavor” – if you will. I apologize that I cannot remember the exact recipe that I was using, but the wooden spoon did change the taste of the recipe. From that time, I use certain wooden spoons for sweet recipes and others for spicy main dishes exclusively.

  10. David says:

    Hello, I just wanted to say real quick as a woodworker and one thats going to be making spoons for a friends restaurant, I recommend not using oak, walnut, ash, etc. or any open grained wood. Use hard dense close/tight grained woods like Maple, Cherry, Hickory, Olive, Birch, etc. The open grained woods will be a little more prone to bacteria, chipping,etc.

    • Ernz says:

      Do you have a wood business? thanks for the info

    • Janelle says:

      David, I have recently converted to a chemical free life (food, household and personal hygiene products etc) and my daughter pointed out that my wooden spoons would have been bought containing chemicals, before they even began their work in my kitchen. Do you know if this is true?

  11. emex says:

    woow goodie

  12. Steve S. says:

    And as luck would have it, there’s something of a spoon-making Renaissance happening among woodworkers these days. It’s getting easier and easier to find really ergonomic wooden spoons that are much nicer than the ones you usually find in department stores. You can find quite a few spoon makers on the internet now.

    I’m an amateur woodworker myself, and I have made a lot of wooden spoons, including all the ones in my own kitchen. It’s true that hardwoods tend to be better than softwoods, and that close-grained woods are better than open-pored woods, but most any wood can make a good spoon. Maple, beech, cherry, and walnut are all good choices. The important thing is that it’s comfortable in your hands.

    And contrary to popular supposition, wooden utensils are not more prone to harboring bacteria than are other common kitchen materials, especially plastics. The studies done on wooden cutting boards indicate that wood may actually harbor less bacteria than plastics do. Here’s a link: http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm

  13. Steve Tomlin says:

    I should start out by saying, I’m biased: I make handcarved wooden spoons for sale.

    With that out of the way, great article! Wooden spoons are so common and seemingly simple that a lot of cooks forget how essential they are – it’s how we manipulate the food we’re cooking – so it’s terrific to find someone singing their praise.

    Nice to see that you’ve a selection to choose from too, a brilliant sauce spoon won’t toss around a stir fry or get under the edge of an omelet as well as one that’s made for the job and having handmade kitchenware adds something extra, just in the same way that homemade food always tastes the best.

    On the hygiene issue, wood is naturally anti-bacterial and studies into chopping boards have found wood to be a more hygienic material than plastic. http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm

    I have my own website blog where I write about the carved wooden spoon scene in the UK, including an annual spoon carving celebration, Spoonfest!

    best wishes, Steve Tomlin

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Thanks Steve for you comments and information about hygiene. I’ll be over to look at your site later today.

  14. Barbara D. says:

    I do not know about all the woods mentioned here and have actually put off purchasing wooden spoons until I had more information on the best ones for a home kitchen. I do know from personal experience that Burch is a great hard wood and is known for its non-warping trait. I use to own a house built in 1940 that was made of lathe and plaster which was also 10 miles from the beach. The house had a floor furnace in the living room that only serviced some of the room and not all of them so in the winter it could get pretty cool. In the summer it would get so hot from the sun beating down that it would create condensation on the plaster wall because houses were built without insulation in those days. A carpenter must have been the first or one of the first people who owned the house because besides the closets in each bedroom which were built into the walls, birch was used in the bathroom wall cabinet, the hall linen closet, the kitchen cabinets, both top and bottom. Birch was also the wood chosen to build a mini secretary with a place to set the old hand held phones, a telephone book shelf, and 3 drawers for miscellaneous things like dishtowels and cookbooks.

    My family lived in this house for 49 years and none of these cabinets, the doors, the drawers or closets ever warped with all the moisture they were exposed to. The only reason I every would have replaced the kitchen cabinets would have been to update it and not because they warped (the house was under 700 square feet and the kitchen cabinets were only 18 inches on the bottom and 12 inches on the top. The top ones were only large enough to place a large dinner plate with not much room to spare. A place for everything and everything had to be in its place). Thanks for all the information. I will be purchasing my new wooden spoons in the near future now that I am armed with the proper information.

  15. Tom Bartlett says:

    Wood spoons are definitely the way forward! I love the way that a well used wooden spoon tells a story: the way the edge gets worn from how you stir, the singed spot from when you were distracted by a phonecall, the slight yellow colouration from that time you cooked a curry. Plastic and metal utensils just don’t build up a character in the same way wooden ones do.

    • Karen B says:

      I agree Tom Bartlett. A wooden spoon tells a story. And they do build up character.. I have a dozen of my own that must be 40 years old. I have my mom’s spoons that are probably 70 years old. There are spoons to make gravy with, blueberry compote, strawberries and cream, pasta sauce, custards, beef stew, lobster bisque…never mind the fact that some of these spoons I remember cooking with my mother.

  16. pockpock says:

    Why do you focus on metal spoons as an alternative? I didn’t even know those large metal spoons are used for cooking for the very same reasons you criticize them. I only use ceramic spoons as I find wooden spoons somewhat disgusting. It appears to me that they would soak with water and nutrients and form a perfect bacteria herd, that i could never wash properly.

    • I like my wooden spoons and have been cooking with them for years. There are some who disagree with this but I’ve been told the wood has properties to prevent bacteria from growing on them. Whether that’s true or not, I am not a food scientist but I have also never become sick from using them for over 40 years of cooking. I do wash them with soap and water each time I use them. I do like the idea of ceramic spoons and will have to pick some up. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Great article! Cooking is a very delicate precedure and the utensils play an important role, not only concerning the taste, but also our health. Due to the fact that I live in Corfu, Greece, and we have acres full of olive trees, we use olive wood for manufacturing spoons, spatulas, chopping boards, glasses,etc.
    I am glad that more and more people use wood and not plastic, and that there people like you that share their knowledge about issues like that!
    Thanks for sharing!

  18. Campingbesteck says:

    Awesome blog, I got too much information about wooden spoon.

  19. Lora says:

    I use only wooden utensils in my kitchen. There is nothing than a wooden spoon for cooking rice or fry onions. I love your post and your spoons. But on my mind you need to buy a set of new good quality spoons :-). I recommend beechwood – perfect hard wood material for wooden tools in kitchen. Beech wood is growing in North Europe and is great for cutting boards, wooden spoons, trivets and other tools.

  20. Diana says:

    Wood is a popular traditional choice for some utensils, such as spoons and bowls. Wooden spoons are utensil commonly used in food preparation. Wooden spoons are some of the most important utensils to have in the kitchen.

  21. Shaun William says:

    I love this post, I use wooden spoons and they are very comforting. It makes me feel rustic in my modern kitchen. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Allen Lenz says:

    What about bamboo spoons?

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