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A lifting spatula is a kitchen tool which is designed to help cooks manipulate food. There are a number of different styles of lifting spatula, ranging from slender cake spatulas to wide, sturdy slotted spatulas which are designed for grilling. Many kitchen supply stores sell a wide assortment of spatulas, including lifting spatulas in several basic designs. These versatile and extremely useful kitchen tools make great gifts for people who are moving into new homes or establishing a kitchen from scratch.
As the name suggests, lifting spatulas are intended to facilitate lifting. They are usually flat, so that cooks can slide the spatula under the food in question, and they have reinforced handles so that cooks can lift food confidently or wedge the spatula into something without being concerned about breakage. Materials like metal and silicone are commonly used in lifting spatulas, since these materials are heat resistant; handles can be made from silicone, plastic, or wood so that they remain cool to the touch.
Handle variations for lifting spatulas vary. In many cases, a lifting spatula will have an offset handle to provide more leverage. A flattened angle can work on large surfaces like grills, while angled handles are extremely useful in close quarters, like pans of lasagna and other baked foods. A good lifting spatula will have a solid handle which is sturdily connected, as few things are as inconvenient as breaking a spatula while serving food.
The body of a lifting spatula can be wide, narrow, solid, or perforated. Obviously, the more narrow a lifting spatula is, the less sturdy it will be, but slender spatulas can be used to serve small wedges of cake, or to slip into corners where a larger spatula won't fit. They also work well, incidentally, for frosting cakes evenly. A perforated spatula can allow grease to drain while food is lifted, which is convenient when frying or frilling. In some cases a lifting spatula may be slotted, to facilitate even faster drainage. Solid lifting spatulas can be used in a variety of ways, from flipping pancakes to wedging a piece of sheet cake out of a pan.
You don't need to spend a lot of time picking out a lifting spatula. Try to avoid spatulas which are obviously poorly made, and you may want to steer clear of lifting spatulas with plastic components which might melt if left on the stove. If you're looking at a lifting spatula with a silicone body, flex the body; if white streaks appear, the silicone is of poor quality, and it may break down. Most lifting spatulas are safe for dishwasher use, although you may want to check for seams where food might collect.