Choosing the Best Cooking Tongs
Getty ImagesTongs belong in the "sliced bread" category of great inventions. Given the fact, however, that they're such a straightforward tool, you'll find a wide range of permutations.
If you are in the market for a pair, one of the most important things to pay attention to is their spread: If they open too far -- more than about six inches, say -- then you have to constantly work at keeping them partially closed while they're in your hand, which gets tedious very quickly. If they don't open wide enough, you won't be able lift a substantial cut of meat out of the pan very easily.
You should focus on the pincer end as well. In general, wide, scalloped slightly cupped pincers give you the firmest grip on food without tearing or piercing it. One last thing to consider is length: Most tongs come in 9-inch, 12-inch, and 16-inch lengths. Although you'll have the greatest control with 9-inch tongs, the 12-inch ones are more versatile.
BEST INEXPENSIVE TONGSOXO's 12-inch Good Grips Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs ($10.93 at amazon.com) are fantastic. OXO's standard cushiony padding on the arms prevent your hands from slipping, and the pincers can handle heavy lifting -- a pork shoulder, a lobster -- yet are deft and gentle enough to flip a sautéed trout fillet without damaging the tender flesh. A version with nylon heads ($12.09 at amazon.com) is meant for use with nonstick cookware. The lock on both OXO tongs is a large pull-tab that doubles as a hole for hanging within easy reach of the stove.
Edlund's 12-inch Scalloped Locking Tongs ($9.99 at amazon.com) are light and sturdy but have more sharply defined scallops than those on the OXO tongs; that means you won't have quite as precise or delicate a touch when it comes to foods like fish or vegetables. Avoid the model with the squared-off, toothy pincers.
Vollrath's 12-inch Kool-Touch One-Piece Versagrip Tongs ($9.95 at amazon.com) are aptly named: Their shallow pincers handle both a hefty porterhouse and fragile fish fillets with ease. The fact that they don't have a locking mechanism is regarded as a plus by those who tend to regard that feature as a fiddly waste of time and motion. Available in a range of colors, they're cheap enough so that you can buy different colors for meat, poultry, etc., and they maintain their tension after years of daily use.
BEST EXPENSIVE TONGSAll-Clad Professional Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs ($21.95 at amazon.com) have great solid-state appeal, although small hands may find the tension a bit on the stiff side.
There's a bit of a learning curve involved when it comes to Rösle's 12-inch Scalloped Locking Tongs ($24 at williams-sonoma.com), but they are wildly sexy in a luxury-car sort of way, with a nifty one-handed automatic lock: They open when they're pointed down and given a little squeeze, and they close when they're pointed up. They're also available in a silicone-headed version ($30 at williams-sonoma.com) for nonstick cookware.