Your Kitchen Is Probably Missing a Spurtle

This Scottish porridge stirrer is actually pretty versatile!

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May 19, 2023

Photo by: Sabrina Choudhary

Sabrina Choudhary

My grandma owned every kitchen gadget under the sun. Her house was full of melon ballers, nutcrackers and salad spinners. When I visited my mom in April, we sifted through the boxes of my grandma’s old kitchen stuff, looking for things that might be useful in my apartment. I accepted an adorable aqua Dutch oven, a glass baking dish and a set of tiny coffee spoons. I could imagine all of them slotting neatly into my cooking routine. But I had no clue what to do with the stick we found next. I asked my mom what it was, and she looked at me blankly.

“It’s a spurtle,” she said, like it was obvious.

“You just made that up. That can’t be a word.”

“Yes it is. Look it up!”

And sure enough, the spurtle is real. You can buy your own wooden spurtle set on Amazon or Walmart, and QVC sells a silicone set. I let my friend keep my grandma’s spurtle and ordered my own four-piece wooden set on Amazon, determined to find out whether they should claim drawer space in my kitchen — and yours.

What is a spurtle?

There are two types of spurtle, both from Scotland and dating back at least to the 15th century. One kind looks like a dowel and is meant to stir porridge, which it’s still used for today. In fact, this October will mark the 30th Annual Golden Spurtle® World Porridge Making Championship® held in Carrbridge, Scotland. My grandma owned the other kind of spurtle (a couthie spurtle, if you want to get technical), which is shaped more like a spatula. This one is more versatile, made for stirring broth and flipping oatcakes.

Is it actually useful?

After some very scientific home testing, I’ve concluded that there’s not much a spurtle is bad at. For instance, I don’t make Scottish oatcakes, but I do make pancakes, and I correctly guessed that a spurtle would make a decent spatula. It was also practical for making stir-fry, though no better or worse than anything else I’d use to stir green beans. I successfully made a couple of omelets with it, but I don’t think I’ll be swapping out my rubber spatula moving forward. It was difficult to turn up the edges of the omelet as it cooked the way I normally do, but folding it and transferring it to the pan was easier with a sturdy spurtle than a bendy spatula. It was also helpful for scraping egg bits off of the pan afterward.

All of that said, I found two tasks where the spurtle truly excels. First, I love the thinnest spurtle in my set for mixing coffee in my French press. Because the spurtle is so narrow, it’s much less clumsy than a wooden spoon, which always seems to bump the sides of the container.

Second, the spurtle is the ultimate tool for cooking ground meat. I’m not kidding when I say I achieved the best turkey taco meat I’ve ever made in my life. I was kind of taken aback.

Why does it work so well? The short, straight edge cuts through lumps better than the dull curve of a wooden spoon, and you can aim at clumps a little more precisely. The paddle also has more surface area, which helps you turn everything over more frequently, ensuring that none of the meat cooks too fast and dries out. You’re left with juicy, finely ground, evenly textured meat.

Should I get one?

In the earlier examples, I found that you could use a spurtle, but I probably wouldn’t reach for one if my wooden spoon or rubber spatula or plastic spatula was clean. I think the key to embracing the spurtle is not treating it like an exact replacement for any of these tools, but letting it shine where it’s great. Stirring coffee and cooking turkey with a spurtle is a luxury, and I will not be going back to a wooden spoon.

So, if your grandma has an extra spurtle lying around, I say put it to use. There are so many tasks it can accomplish, just waiting to be discovered.

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