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20 years ago, the most common type of rigid spatula (or "turner") was smooth, thin (as in 3mm or less with a sharp edge), and generally made of nylon. These spatulas were not very durable (leading edges tended to melt), but they were very very good for making eggs and other delicate non-stick-pan dishes. And they were dirt cheap ($1 or so).

Here's pictures of the kind of spatula/turner I'm talking about:

thin nylon turners

By 10 years ago, these excellent egg turners had completely vanished from store shelves. At this point, I can't find them, even at thrift stores. Today's plastic turners are thick, blunt-edged, and rough ... absolutely terrible for crepes or omlettes. I'm down to my last 2 hoarded smooth thin plastic turners.

I've searched online, and I can't find any kind of health scare, trend or other information on what would have caused manufacturers to universally change how they made plastic turners. I also can't find anywhere to buy the old style.

So, this question is two-fold:

  1. Why did manufacturers stop making thin, smooth plastic turner spatulas?

  2. Where, if anywhere, can I buy this style of spatula?

AMENDED PER ANSWER BELOW: I am not talking about melamine spatulas, which are rigid. Both of the spatulas in the picture are semi-flexable.

Amended for more clarity: Per the discussion below, I did some actual measuring. The spatulas in question are sharp edged at the front, around 1-1.5mm on the edge, and no more than 3mm in the center.

FOR THE BOUNTY: either tell me where I can buy a new spatula like the ones pictured, OR explain why they're no longer available ... with a reference. Thanks!

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Something like this maybe? amazon.com/OXO-Silicone-Flexible-Pancake-Turner/dp/B000ND5CBG/… –  nico Oct 31 '11 at 9:41
    
You can get silicone spatulas nowadays. –  mines Oct 31 '11 at 10:13
    
I don't demand any particular material, but it does seem that thin, non-stick safe and semi-rigid is tough to find these days. –  dmckee Oct 31 '11 at 23:54
    
nico: that's much too thick, and has a blunt (not sharp) edge. –  FuzzyChef Nov 1 '11 at 2:48
    
@FuzzyChef: don't own those spatulas so I don't know for sure, but it seems to me (from the photos) that the edge is thin and sharp. Sure seems thicker in the center, but who cares? –  nico Nov 1 '11 at 12:20

13 Answers 13

up vote 12 down vote accepted
+150

The old thin utensils where made of Nylon

The reasons they are hard to find is that traditional Nylon is difficult to manufacture and be within food standard guidelines for PAA (Primary Aromatic Amines) migration, and does not bio-degrade or burn safely. For relevant references your local government health department will have papers on PAA migration

Given that many utensil manufactures have moved on too other plastics mostly silicone. Though some use PA66 (Nylon 6,6) which is that thick chunky black plastic stuff

Try wooden spatulas, they are simple, clean, disposable, and you can get them in thin wedge shapes (Asian supply shops)

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TFD, thanks, that's the first clue I've had in a while! Got a link for the above? –  FuzzyChef Nov 20 '11 at 2:52
    
@FuzzyChef It's a country specific thing, e.g. for UK food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/fsisbranch2010/fsis0110 –  TFD Nov 20 '11 at 6:39
    
Thank you! You didn't tell me where to get them, but you did tell me where they went, ending something which has been mystifying me for the last 6 years. Thanks, and have a bounty! –  FuzzyChef Nov 21 '11 at 6:32
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@FuzzyChef The thin shiny Nylon is Nylon 11, or Nylon 12. Which are stronger, more springy, and less water absorbent than Nylon 6,6. As I understand it though Nylon 11 and Nylon 12 mostly suffer from PAA migration. The cheap Nylon 6,6 is highly water absorbent (10% by weight) so probably shouldn't be used in cooking utensils either for hygiene and cross contamination issues? –  TFD Nov 21 '11 at 8:09

You can't find them because this isn't nylon at all. The new ones - which you say you don't like - are indeed nylon. Rough, somewhat bendy, heat-resistant up to 220°C.

new spatula

The spatulas you linked - stiff and shiny - don't look like nylon to me. They look like melamine resin. This is a cheap, hard and shiny plastic. It looks a bit like ABS, but is more brittle. You can still find utensils made out of it, and they are still quite cheap. Here in Europe, they are sold in 1-Euro-Stores, but I found this spatula on amazon.com:

Melamine spatula

I don't know the real reason why they aren't popular any more, but here are some thoughts:

  • People prefer spatulas which are slightly bendy - or even completely bendy, like the silicone ones linked here. It is hard to get a stiff spatula below an egg, because the pan wall gets in the way.
  • Melamine resin used to be a fashion fad in the 60s, but it isn't by now, and maybe customers today connect it with their granny's kitchens or similar.
  • If the bendy nylon spatulas are made too thin, they could be too soft to hold their shape - getting way too bendy.
  • Customers feel that spatulas whose edges get damaged by pan heat are inferior.
  • Heating melamine resin could be dangerous, because melamine itself is toxic, and it could release the melamine. That's why melamine resin dishes are stamped as "not microwave safe".
  • Manufacturers want to sell products at a higher price. Customers who pay a high price for a utensil want a solid thing, not just the cheapest thing made of the thinnest plastic. So the current thickness and surface sells better.

All that said, the modern rough black spatulas I have are much thinner than 4 mm, more like 2 mm, and they are beveled, so they have a very thin leading edge. I don't think they are bad, but then, I don't have experience with your old spatulas.

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I fairly sure the "toxic" part of your comment is the main reason it's no longer available. Eating toxic stuff went out of style a few decades ago. –  talon8 Oct 31 '11 at 14:28
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@talon8 I doubt that there has been new legislation against melamine spatulas, because else they wouldn't be available anymore. There hasn't been a mass scare either. The toxic effect is not readily apparent - you don't throw up food cooked in heated melamine, it just accumulates in the body over the years. Do you really think that all manufacturers of low-end cookware will switch to another material to avoid an elevated chance of liver damage in their customers 30 years after purchase, if the government and customers don't make a fuss about it? –  rumtscho Oct 31 '11 at 17:56
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I'm not talking about melamine resin spatulas. Both of the spatulas in the picture are "slightly bendy". And spatulas like the one you pictured are MUCH more than 4mm in the thickest part ... try 7 or 8 mm! –  FuzzyChef Nov 1 '11 at 2:44
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@FuzzyChef: I just measured my Ikea silicon spatula, and it's 3mm in its thickest part and ~0.5mm on the edge. I seriously doubt anyone sells 8mm-thick spatulas. Please take a measuring tape and check out how much 8mm is... –  nico Nov 1 '11 at 12:25
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Sorry for the misunderstanding, the shiny spatulas did look like melamine on the picture, especially the darker one. But I just measured my own new, rough, black, cheap spatula and it is 1 mm at the front and has a beveled edge. I have never seen a 7-8 mm thick spatula from any material. –  rumtscho Nov 1 '11 at 15:11

I remember those. The problem is that they always melted or broke and were useless after a short time. Good riddance, IMO.

For pancakes, crepes, etc., I use a metal fish turner. It's very thin and flexible, and has a sharp, turned-up edge that works very well for sliding under things. I think it's from Oxo.

Eggs are all I use a non-stick pan for, and I use a very thin metal turner that has a layer of silicone covering it. That seems to work pretty well for fried eggs. The metal core means they can make the blade a lot thinner than many plastic-bladed tools, without it being too floppy. Make sure your eggs are sliding around in the pan on their own before you try to slip it underneath, though.

When I make an omelette, I use a silicone scraper. It's shaped like the old rubber scrapers for scraping down your mixing bowl, very thick in the middle and tapering to the edges. I never "flip" omlettes, though; I just use the tool to pull the edges of the eggs back and to poke it into shape as I roll it against the side of the pan. I use this for scrambled eggs, too.

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I, too, long for a very simple spatula/turner. I do have some OXO and other silicone wonder-spatulas, but I've found that silicone can actually be rather sticky on teflon, and is both too thick, and too flexible to get under some foods.

Here is an unlikely source - IKEA, of all places, has the closest thing I've found to the old-style thin plastic turner, their RUFSIG 2-piece utensil set. It comes with a masher/whisk-ey thing that is entirely useless. The material is reinforced polyamide, making it a relative of nylon, but it is flexible enough to get around in the pan, but with a sharp enough edge to get in under thin foods easily. It is not as thermally resistant as silicone, but it has a respectable temperature limit of 428°F and I've used mine for a few years now without noticeable degradation of the edge. Of my 5 turners (some quite fancy), this one is actually my favorite, and only cost $1.49. Unfortunately they don't sell it online (only through the store).

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I found this question while looking for my favorite type of spatula, which looks like the light blue one in your picture. Mine say "LOPOL product by Hutzler no.717" on the back, and so far, I have found them on ebay and at gourmac.com.... it says they are fiberglass and nylon, BPA free, and made in the USA.
I am thrilled to have found them- I have had 2 of them for YEARS and constantly go to them for almost everything.... they are stiff enough to stir a huge pot of food and scrape the bottom/make sure nothing is sticking, but thin enough to not be all clunky and awkward. I have never had trouble with them melting or anything, but maybe you were talking about the other one in the pic.
Hope this helps you find what you are looking for!

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Yeah, I've been ordering them direct from Hutzler by the box, so that I can stock up for the next time they become completely unavailable. –  FuzzyChef Mar 27 at 0:48

I know the ones you're talking about. I haven't been able to find them either. This is the nearest I've been finding:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00004SZ6Q?qid=1320181838&sr=8-2

Thin, but not as flat...

Or... If I'm not using Teflon, I'll resort to a thin metal one, but I prefer the old fashioned ones too.

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http://www.usimprints.com/store/all-promotional-products/product/thin-slotted-turner/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=product%2Bsearch&utm_campaign=base

this is a link to the closest I could find by your description and photos. I find bendy non-silicone/melamine spatulas at the dollar store or in large "first apartment" style sets from big box store like target and stuff like this:

http://www.target.com/p/Chefmate-51-pc-Kitchen-Gadget-Set/-/A-10717429 I am not privy as to why these spatulas have gone out of vogue, I too find them remarkably handy.

I usually find them quite easily at thrift stores. that is where I got my last couple.

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Hmmm, the ones in the Target set are the thicker style. The promotional spatula is exactly right; too bad I can't buy them in groups of less than 500! I'll see if I can find any at the dollar store, if so you'll get the bounty. –  FuzzyChef Nov 18 '11 at 5:14

I'm pretty sure you've answered your own question. "These spatulas were not very durable (leading edges tended to melt)". In our litigious world, I'm sure manufacturers' lawyers consider the possibility that you will be consuming particulate plastic matter more important than much anything else.

It's also likely that manufacturing capabilities have improved to the point that the bulk of the cost to get a spatula to you is in the transportation and logistics, so a few extra cents to make a spatula that shows better on a store shelf just makes sense, better utility or not.

That said, I'd bet you could still find a spatula like that in Chinatown, or your local equivalent.

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Chinese stores are the first place I looked. They were available there for a few years after they stopped being available at Smart & Final, but alas, no more. –  FuzzyChef Nov 21 '11 at 6:30

I have "OXO Good Grips Silicone Flexible Turner" (silicone with very thin metal inside - check amazon.com) but am looking for one myself that's slim/narrow. So far here are what I've found on my search "Chef Craft 21313 1-Piece Flexible Turner, Blue or Gray, 10-Inch" or "Epicurean Gourmet Utensils Nylon Turner" or "Tool, Turner Flexible Nylon" OR "Joseph Joseph ELFLT0100SW Elevate Flexible Turner" .... also check homegoods.

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While these types of spatulas are not available online, they are available in Indian local markets. It will cost you only about $2 or $3. These types of spatulas are still in use here. Sorry, I can't send you a link as they are not available online. I don't know if it's feasible for you to import one from India. You need to contact some Indian counterpart for that, if you are really interested.

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If you do a search on Google Shopping, there are several options, from the looks of it...

Google Shopping Search for Melamine Spatula Turner

Several of them were quite cheap, for instance, a case of 24 for $27. That should last anyone a while!

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The spatula on the right is from Hutzler; they have a website where you can order them. Best spatula ever!

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Look on eBay for Foley Spatula. This is exactly what you're seeking.

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