The Wooden Spoon Phenomenon Part 1: The Science


Well ladies and gentleman it’s time to discuss the often unappreciated but ever-so-useful, wooden spoon.  Some people would consider the wooden spoon to be just an old culinary tool that has seen better days – for sure it is not as trendy as a silicone or nylon spoon, but I’d like to suggest otherwise.

The wooden spoon is used for a variety of different reasons, to stir stews and sauces, to turn veggies while sautéing, etc. etc.  Not only does science suggest that wood is better than metal, there are many other uses for the wooden spoon.  From gently stirring, to helpful kitchen tricks like preventing a pot from boiling over, I’m prepared to spoon-feed you lots of information about why wooden spoons should be a priority item to have in your kitchen.


The Science

Imagine, a college student placing a wooden spoon in a pot of rapidly boiling water.  The student notices that the brand new wooden spoon causes extra bubbling, foaming and changes to the color of the water.  Their first thought must have been “unsanitary”, “gross”, or worse, right? …  Wrong, this reaction can be boiled down to basic science.

If you don’t know this already, here is a fun fact for you to chew on.  Wood is a horrible heat conductor and will have a much higher heat tolerance than a metal spoon.  When the wooden spoon first comes in contact with the boiling water you will see foam and extra bubbling because of the temperature difference between the wood and the water.  Why?  First of all, the bubbles are hotter than the wooden spoon.  When they come into contact with the much cooler wooden spoon, they pop and create foam.  The foam is from the bubbles popping!   This phenomenon can be used by kitchen hacks, (like myself), to prevent water from boiling over, but let’s slow down and stay with the science.   As to why the water changes color, that’s quite simple as well; natural wood color leaches in water especially when the wood is brand new and has never been used.   This is completely normal, natural and will diminish with use.

Why doesn’t a metal spoon react the same way?  Unlike wood, metal is a terrific heat conductor.  Its temperature will increase quickly, in fact its temperature increases much faster than that of wood.  There are already so many ways to get burnt in the kitchen; do yourself a favor and put down the hot metal spoon and pick up a wooden spoon – it is safer!

Not ready for this blog to end?  Need another mouthful of wooden spoon knowledge?  Well you’re in luck my wooden spoon connoisseur, next week we will have another blog on all the delicious kitchen hacks a wooden spoon can provide!

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