The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Fish Spatula

This short blog reflects a recent, and somewhat surprising experience I recently had. I was out shopping with a friend and we swung by the grilling department in a couple stores. I wanted to see what charcoal they had in during the winter. My friend is a griller too, but I’d call him a casual griller. We were over looking at the grill accessories to see what was new and I spotted a fish spatula. I was looking it over to see how it compared to the Steven Raichlen Best of BBQ Fish Spatula I already owned. As I was looking it over I asked my friend: “You have a fish spatula don’t you??” I was rather surprised at the answer: “No, but I don’t really cook fish on the grill.” Now I don’t cook a whole lot of fish on the grill, but I do get a lot of use out of my own fish spatula. As I was explaining some of the uses I put my fish spatula to, it occurred to me that others may think the same way.

What makes the fish spatula (left) different is the shape of it’s head.

I wonder if more fish spatulas would be sold if they were called “wide-headed spatulas” instead. First I will explain the features of the wide-headed, I mean fish, spatula that I own and then I’ll talk about some of the other uses I put it to. The first thing you will notice about the fish spatula is it has a head which is about twice as wide as a normal spatula. Less noticeable is the head is also a little shorter from front to back than a standard spatula. This reflects the shape of the typical fish. The head had a very sharp front edge, sharper than most regular spatulas. It also is curved along the entire front edge. Regular spatulas usually have a somewhat sharp front edge which is square in the middle and rounds off a bit at the very ends. The fully curved sharp edge makes it easier to slide under the fish, which can be delicate and will tend to stick to the grill if you don’t prepare them properly. But as I’ve found, fish is not the only item with these characteristics. The head of the fish spatula also has lots of holes in it. These holes are to allow the fish to release it’s moisture so it doesn’t get soggy. Just a guess but I also think the holes may help keep the item you pick up from sticking to the spatula. My fish spatula has a long handle which allows you to reach to the back of the grill while keeping your hand cool. The handle is made of bakelite, a high temperature resistant plastic. It insulates the handle from the heat and is easy to clean. I much prefer this type of material to a fancy looking wood handle. Sure the wood insulates to a certain point and wood sure looks nice when you first get it. but wood burns at 451 degrees (233 C) or so and over time what once looked nice ages and deteriorates. A bakelite handle is easy to clean, can go in the dishwasher and remains good looking over time. If you are going to use your tools a lot I value easy cleaning and good long term appearance over the initial beauty of wood, which is harder to clean and harder to keep looking good over time.

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All of these items are good candidates for the fish spatula, either for helping to pry a delicate item off the grill, for picking it up, or for flipping the food. Paninis (top left), Meat Loaf (top right), Quesadillas (middle left), Meatball Subs (middle right), Ham Steak (bottom left), and Beef Tenderloin (bottom right).

Now what is a fish spatula good for? Sure it is great for delicate items like whole fish, plus fish fillets, tuna and salmon steaks. The wide head supports the rather delicate tuna or salmon steaks and keeps them from falling apart. This also works great for thin somewhat delicate items like butterflied chicken breasts or thin cuts of beef steak or ham steaks. Sometimes I will use the sharp edges and wide shape of the fish spatula to help release an item from the grill so I can then grab the item with tongs to flip them. IMHO the fish spatula is the tool of choice for picking up folded tortillas used for items like grilled quesadillas. The sharp edge helps you pick up the tortilla and the wide head supports it perfectly. The same is true with meatloaf. I recently made a cedar planked meatloaf and the fish spatula was the perfect tool for lifting the meatloaf on and off the cedar plank. Another good use is on beef or pork tenderloins, which are long and narrow. Just as the fish spatula is great for picking up quesadillas, it is equally great for picking up sandwiches and paninis. Both can tend to stick to the grill and the sharp edge of the fish spatula really helps here. Once you’ve started lifting it, the wide head of the fish spatula is a natural for supporting the sandwich so it doesn’t fall off while you are moving it off the grill. I also sometimes use the fish spatula to help me get items like chicken wings off the grill quickly. You can scoop up a half-dozen wings at a time using the wide head of the fish spatula.

I’ve described many good uses for the fish spatula. Before closing I will mention the one case when a fish spatula is not the tool of choice. If your grill is crowded, you may not want to use the fish spatula, because you do need more room to remove it. Other than that, the fish spatula is relatively inexpensive and is a great tool to add to your arsenal. To make it easier to wrap your brain around the idea, just think of it as wide headed spatula and not just a spatula for fish.


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