Why an Offset Spatula Is the Tool I Can’t Bake Without

Why an Offset Spatula Is the Tool I Can’t Bake Without

A person using an offset spatula to frost a cake on a cake stand
Serious Eats / Eric King

An offset spatula can be found in the tool kit of most every recipe developer, chef, and food stylist, but I’m willing to bet a lot of home cooks don’t have one. And for why! Why shouldn’t you be able to create ethereal swoops on a chocolate buttercream-covered birthday cake, or spread ultra-even, level layers of filling and frosting, or pry pristine muffins from their tins with ease?

An offset spatula is affordable, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and can be used to perform so many kitchen tasks. Really, half of the fun of buying one is seeing what utensils you find they replace in your routine. 

What’s an Offset Spatula? 

two differently sized offset spatulas on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Eric King

So, what’s an offset spatula? Think of it like a butter knife (but thinner and more flexible) with a piece of stainless steel that’s about the length of its handle, or sometimes a little bit longer depending on the size. They usually come in lengths like four-and-half, eight, or 9 inches (the blade lengths) and even larger if you’re running a small bakery out of your home. What makes them “offset” is the two points where the blade bends at an angle: veering down once near the handle, then jutting out straight again to form a long, flat surface. This design makes it so that you can angle into baking tins to shimmy under brownies or frost a sheet cake without having to awkwardly angle your arm or wrist or damage your hard-won creations. 

The blade rounds at the end, which not only makes for aesthetically-pleasing swoops when spreading, but also ensures an offset spatula’s more gentle than an other spatulas (like an offset turner), whose sharp points can tear into the edges of freshly-baked cake layers. Their flexibility also helps them bend to sit flush with the edges of a tin to loosen a cake layer, or angle under pieces of sheet cake. Thanks to its design, when you hold it like you would a normal spatula, the blade wants to stay parallel to your work surface (or the top of whatever you’re working on) so you can produce even layers of dough, frosting, or filling. I use mine all the time for smushing and tamping shortbread and other doughs into a tin. 

It’s the right tool for so many jobs, and after using it, you’ll wonder how you stumbled through many baking and cooking tasks without one. When I started as a baking content creator and recipe developer, my first offset spatula changed the game, making my bakes way easier—and better to look at.

What Can an Offset Spatula Be Used For? 

Here’s a quick, non-exhaustive list:

  • Spreading buttercream, whipped cream or other frostings on desserts 
  • Angling under brownies or muffins to lift them from their tin
  • Lifting delicate things like cookies, roasted vegetables, or tofu from a baking sheet
  • Getting perfectly smooth sides, or elegant swoops on frosted layer cakes 
  • Spreading peanut butter, jam, or other toppings on bread 
  • Making swirls in hummus as the perfect channels for olive oil
  • Shimmying under rolled-out sugar cookie dough to transfer cutouts to a baking sheet
  • Spreading a level layer of dough like shortbread into a tin
  • Spreading filling evenly and easily for cinnamon rolls, babka, or in between cake layers
  • Slicing and serving cake
  • Flipping burgers

What’s the Best Offset Spatula?

While Serious Eats hasn’t formally tested them, Ateco makes my favorite mini (4.5-inch blade) offset spatula. I like the angle of the offset, the flexibility of the metal, and that it takes up little drawer space. And at $7 (at the time of writing) it’s not a huge financial commitment. As for longer offset spatulas, I like the Williams-Sonoma Soft Touch 8-inch model because its silicone handle makes it super comfortable to use (and easy to clean in the dishwasher). And the large OXO Good Grips Bent Icing Spatula is an SE editor top pick.


Should I buy a small or a large offset spatula? 

Different sizes of offset spatulas have different strengths. In a bakery setting, larger models like the 8- or 9-inch blades (or bigger) help bakers speed up the process of transferring several items at a time from tray to cooling rack. But even if you want layer cakes with ultra-smooth sides at home, or you need a perfectly level sheet cake, a large offset spatula isn’t a bad thing to have on hand. As a matter of fact, I’ve used one to transfer a small layer cake that had been assembled, frosted, and chilled from my decorating stand to my display stand. 

If I could only choose one size to keep, though, it would be my mini. It’s a workhorse that I’m constantly reaching for—and it doesn’t take up more room than a spoon or fork would. 

What’s the difference between an icing spatula and an offset spatula?

The offset spatula is the cousin (or more like sibling?) to the icing spatula, which is the same thing as an offset spatula, but with no bends. Some bakers like to use these when smoothing out the sides of a cake, or to make decorative striations in buttercream. However, they really can’t do anything an offset spatula can’t do—and offset spatulas can do way more thanks to the added benefit of their angled construction. This being said, some manufacturers do call offset spatulas “icing spatulas.”