Christopher Kimball: When I was a kid, a knife was a knife, a whisk was a whisk, and a skimmer was a skimmer. You only had one choice. Today we’re drowning in a sea of consumer choices, and we’re here with Adam, who’s going to sort out that sea so we don’t drown [laughs] when we go into the store. I mean, what is this? [holds up first skimmer; AR chuckles] This doesn’t look like a skimmer to me.
Adam Ried: [laughing] Too much choice for you, Chris?
CPK: What is this? This is, like, for kitty litter. [Points skimmer toward AR; AR chuckles]
AR: That counts as a skimmer. You can use it for kitty litter if you want. But not that one [pointing at the skimmer in CPK’s hand], please. You have to go buy your own.
CPK: That’s a big kitty.
AR: We’re going to do a little demonstration. [CPK puts down skimmer] So I want to drop these frozen French fries [camera cuts to him pouring fries into Dutch oven filled with hot oil] into the hot oil first. There—we’re going to let them fry. [oil sizzles; camera pans to counter with tester skimmers] We tested five different skimmers, and these are designed so that you can get food out of hot frying oil or boiling water really easily. Our five had a price range of $12 to $30, and there are a couple of basic items when it comes to these skimmers. One [gestures with first finger] is the material from which they’re made. This one [picks up first skimmer] is actually reinforced nylon, which is new to the market. This is sort of an interesting choice [places skimmer back on counter; CPK nods].
CPK: So if you put this in hot oil it’s not going to melt on you. [picks up first skimmer]
AR: It’s not going to melt on you.
AR: Obviously you have metal skimmers like this one [picks up handles of two metal skimmers]. You’ll find a lot of them with wooden handles like this [picks up handle of another skimmer and then puts it back down]. Wood [waving hand in emphasis] absorbs some of the odors from the cooking oil, so we weren’t that crazy about that [crosses hands to signal dissatisfaction].
Second issue is the handle. You can see this one [camera cuts to close-up as he pick up nylon skimmer] comes straight out from the bowl. We prefer to have a little angle [picks up handle of one of the metal skimmers] like this one to keep our hand further away from the sides of the pot and the hot oil.
Third thing [holds out three fingers to emphasize], and very important here, is the design of the perforations. [Camera closes in on nylon skimmer in Dutch oven full of French fries] This is the cat litter scooper one with the small perforations [picks out some of the fries with skimmer]. And the idea is you want to drain the oil. You want the oil to be in the pot [places fries onto sheet pan lined with brown craft paper], and you want to put the fries there. And you can see [gestures with skimmer at oil stains on the brown craft paper] that we actually have fairly big stains on the brown craft paper there.
Let’s try this one [picks up one of metal skimmers] with the long slotted perforations. We’re going to take out more fries [scoops up fries from Dutch oven], let them drain for a second, and then put them [places fries on sheet pan] on the brown craft paper. And again [voice goes up in emphasis], you can see [points at scooped base of skimmer as camera closes in] we actually have dripping oil, because it pooled in these areas here [pointing at scooped base of skimmer where oil drips are visible]. That’s not ideal.
[Picks up mesh strainer] This was the best of all possible worlds. This one [scoops out fries] is the open wire mesh with an angled handle. You can see the oil drains right out really easily [places fries on sheet pan]. It doesn’t hold on to any of it, and you really don’t get much [points at oil stain left by fries] on the brown paper there. So this was our winner [pointing at mesh skimmer]. This is the WMF stainless steel mesh wok strainer. It’s $18, but it’s got a handle with a good angle to keep your hands away from the oil, it’s got that open mesh basket, it’s easy to pick up the food, and it’s a great skimmer.
CPK: So the winner at Cook’s Country is this great design [holding skimmer]. It’s the WMF stainless steel wok mesh strainer for $18. It leaves all that hot oil [pointing at Dutch oven] in the Dutch oven and not on your food.
View the full report of our Spider Skimmers testing
Captioned by Media Access Group at WGBH
Tune into Cook’s Country TV every week! Find the stations and air times in your area.