Not your Grandmother's Spatula.
For the everyday cook there are very few "specialty" items that are truly necessary. Of course, that doesn't mean we all don't have a small army of gadgets clogging up our kitchen drawers. It is easy to get bowled over by television shows and magazine ads for beautifully crafted kitchen "essentials" that promise perfect results. After enjoying a truly ethereal berry souffle a couple weeks ago I was seconds away from ordering my own set of souffle cups, the lingering notes of that puffy, eggy sensation still on my lips. Red flag, my practical side said. Have you ever even attempted a souffle?!
So, in the name of simplicity, let us turn our attention to the most humble of kitchen gadgets: the spatula. For a beginner cook, or at least a cook in the skeleton kitchen of a dorm or apartment, a rubber or silicon spatula is essential for a number of reasons.
Hold the phone... silicon? You heard right, silicon has been making its way into the domestic kitchen for a few years. An upgrade from just simple rubber spatulas silicon is more heat resistant and does a better job protecting itself from odors and unsavory looking stains. This makes silicon a perfect multi-use tool for mixing hot pan sauces without fear of ruining the utensil. Most are also dishwasher safe (I suggest removing the spatula from the handle if possible and allowing both pieces to dry separately). Furthermore, they are a safe alternative to metal or wooden utensils that can damage the non-stick surfaces of pans (leading to broken eggs and torn pancakes). Silicon takes other shapes easily and is delicate enough to fold egg whites or whipped cream safely. With an increasing variety of silicon baking tools (such as cupcake liners) there is sure to be at least one or two spatulas within any student budget. But, whether you choose a hum-drum rubber or the hip, new age silicon spatula be sure to carefully read the manufacturer's instructions on cleaning, use and storage. Taking care of your utensils is the first step in maintaining an efficient (economical) kitchen.
For something fun and little funky I like Fiesta Products Head Chef's collection available at fiestaproducts.com