In December, my oven is primed for its biggest task of the year: epic stints of cookie baking. Over the next three weeks, hundreds of cookies will roll out with different shapes, textures, and sizes, and my most-needed tool won’t be a stand mixer or even parchment paper. It’s a fish spatula.
Why your cookies need a fish spatula
When cookies come out of the oven, they’re soft, delicate, and melty. And while the idea of a warm cookie feels mostly cozy, they’re actually extremely vulnerable. Fats and sugars—two of the primary binding ingredients—are completely molten until they have a chance to cool and harden. Some even have chocolate chunks that create liquid puddle fissures. It’s dangerous business.
A typical plastic spatula has a blunt edge, and if you’ve ever scooped a warm gingerbread dude and the side has gotten smooshed by the spatula, you know a special kind of heartbreak. And that’s even a sturdy sort of cookie. Some cookies are impossibly thin and delicate, like tuiles and lace ones; others are shaped exactly so, like a spritz cookie or a Santa head.
Fish spatulas allow for a seamless dive under even the thinnest of cookies. Since a metal fish spatula is formulated to lift and transfer delicate pieces of fish, the edge is incredibly thin, tapered, and angled. The length is also helpful—most basic spatulas have a relatively squat scooping head, so you can scoop one burger at a time, but if you have a tall gingerbread man, you’re in trouble. A fish spatula can have five or six inches of scooping real estate, so you can safely lift four small cookies—or one large, intricate menorah cookie—in one go.
They’ve also got the goods when it comes to angle: There isn’t much of one. Scooping flat food off of a flat sheet tray doesn’t need the same deep angle that a frying pan does. A fish spatula is slightly offset and made of flexible metal, making it helpfully ergonomic—you can scoop and rotate your body without having to crank your shoulder up as you balance and carry precious cargo to your cooling rack.
The fish spatula is indispensable this time of year, but, of course, your holiday cookies will still be delicious even if they melt out into a large rectangle. (But a fish spatula will scoop that rectangle, too.)
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