Posted by: Jack Henry | August 30, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Spatulas, Flippers, and Turners

Here’s something I’ve wondered about, after working in kitchens from the Pacific Northwest down to Southern California. Is there a regional difference in what people call that thing that you flip hamburgers with vs. that thing you scrape a baking bowl with? I’ve called both things a spatula, but I decided to look into it and compare these things:

· spatula

· pancake turner

· burger flipper

· icing spatula

I found some answers and photos in an article from the Kitchenboy blog. Rather than repeat everything, I’m going to sum up the information here and share some photos with you.

There are three basic categories for spatulas – the classic spatula, a turner, and an icing spatula.

To start, let’s look at the classic spatula.

This is what most people think of when you mention the word spatula. The primary purpose is to get all the batter or soft dough from a mixing bowl, but other uses include folding and blending ingredients, where a more gentle approach is required.


The turner is the product that some people have in mind when they ask for a spatula, this creates frustration when kitchen shop employees direct them to the “other” spatulas. [KC – This is what some of us might also called a “flipper.”]

Sometimes known as pancake turner, this tool is used for turning food so the other side can cook and then lifting or removing food from a pan. We have all used them while preparing pancakes, bacon, hamburgers, fish, potatoes, eggs and cookies.

And finally, icing spatulas.

The icing spatula is long and thin, available in varying lengths, the size of which is based on surface area to be iced.

Within the icing spatulas, there are two styles – offset and straight blade. The offset versions are designed to keep your fingers out of the icing, always a good idea.

So, I guess the answer is that, indeed, they are all spatulas, but if you want a specific type, it might be best to add what it is for (scraping, pancake-turning, icing) if you don’t want to upset the people at the kitchen supply store.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


  1. […] more thing: before I left, I caused some uproar among folks by sending out an article on spatulas. Who knew that would be so exciting? Since I’m just getting back in the groove today, here is a […]

  2. Sorry but you are wrongo. Those are indeed rubber scrapers pictured. A spatula, is used to smooth icing on a cake both flat and offset varieties are used. The other utensil, is a turner or flipper, both metal and plastic are made. learned this in the 80’s basic cooking class.
    Ask a baker what a rubber scraper and a spatula are. Good luck🎂🍔

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