Steel, Wood, or Silicone? Choosing the Right Tool for the Job in Your Kitchen

If you’re just setting up your first kitchen–or replacing mismatched hand-me-downs with a set of coordinated tools–you might be confused about which utensils to buy. Should you go with that pretty acacia wood set? Or what about the silicone tools? Is stainless steel good for pots or bad? In this post, I hope to answer all those questions and more!

The Case for Wooden Kitchen Tools

Wood has fallen out of favor in many modern kitchens, replaced by easy-to-clean silicone tools. But there’s a reason why wooden spoons have been used for thousands of years! The virtue of wood is that it lasts pretty much forever. It also doesn’t scratch non-stick pans or ceramic bowls. Wood doesn’t melt or warp; nor does it react with acids like aluminum.

So why aren’t wooden tools more popular? It’s probably down to ease of cleaning. Wood requires a little more care than other tools to prevent it becoming discolored. It’s a myth that wood harbors bacteria–as long as you clean your tools properly. Even if you don’t want to replace your entire set of utensils with wood, you should have at least one classic wooden spoon in your kitchen.

What About Plastic?

Plastic kitchen tools are the cheapest–and, in my opinion, the worst option. While you can get a full set of plastic tools for under $20 at a big box store, they just aren’t going to last. Not only are inexpensive kitchen utensils more likely to break because of poor construction, but plastic tools in particular will discolor, warp, and even melt. Don’t you deserve better than that?

Nylon? No Thanks!

Nylon tools are a popular alternative to plastic. Nylon has a melting point of about 400 degrees, making it dangerous to use on grills or cast-iron pans. Pretty much the only time I recommend a nylon tool is for a pancake turner. The large, thin piece needs to slide quickly and effortlessly under the pancake without melting, yet still be rigid enough to lift without flopping. Nylon can perform that one task really well, but I wouldn’t advise getting an entire set made out of this material.

Silicone Is *Almost* All-Purpose

Let’s talk about silicone kitchen tools. They’re resistant to stains, don’t retain odors, and can withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees. Silicone functions like rubber, and it literally can’t scratch glass, metal, or non-stick coatings.

An argument against silicone is that it tends to be floppy. That’s why I recommend buying one-piece silicone spatulas and spoons with a stainless steel core. You get the strength of steel with all the benefits of silicone.

Heavy Metals: Stainless Steel and Aluminum in the Kitchen

You might be surprised to find that metal kitchen tools aren’t rated higher here. Stainless steel, in particular, is really popular. But metal tools will absolutely wreck your cookware. You should never use metal on non-stick pans since they can damage the coating, eventually causing it to flake off into your food and allowing the underlying metal of the pan to rust.

However, even if you’re not using non-stick cookware, metal is still down there with plastic in my least favorite kitchen utensils. That being said, I prefer metal whisks to those made of any other material; I just think it gets the job done better.

You may find aluminum tools offered as a cheaper alternative to stainless steel. I don’t know your life, but I do know that aluminum tools are prone to denting and breaking since the metal is so soft. I’ve also had issues with pitting and corrosion. You can’t put aluminum in the dishwasher, either–it will develop a powdery black coating that’s really difficult to remove.