The Best Kitchen Tongs

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[Photographs and video: Vicky Wasik]

There's a reason restaurant cooks come to think of tongs as a second set of hands. Just like your hands, tongs should feel sure, strong, and deft—but without the mind-numbing pain of severely burned fingertips that comes with grabbing hot pans. Tongs should be able to grip, lift, flip, jostle, and move most foods, excluding very delicate ones, like fish. They can even be useful for picking up pieces of hot equipment and cookware. With a good pair of tongs, many common cooking tasks—from precision ones, like flipping shrimp, to herculean jobs like yanking a roast out of the oven—become a breeze.

Tongs are an uncomplicated tool that hasn't changed much over the years. The most common design features two stainless steel arms that are connected by a rivet hinge at one end and widen into scalloped grabbers at the other; a metal spring controls the opening and closing action. A locking mechanism and maybe some silicone or rubber here and there are about as many bells and whistles as you're likely to get. Yet despite this nearly universal design, tongs can vary wildly in feel: Some are too stiff or wobbly, while others have wonky locks or can pinch the skin during use. We evaluated 32 sets of locking tongs to find comfortable, well-built, and easy-to-use models—both in basic stainless steel (good for most jobs) and with silicone grabbers (for use in nonstick pans and other damage-prone cookware)—that excel at a wide range of kitchen tasks.

Our Favorites, at a Glance

Our Favorite Kitchen Tongs: OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs

The steep, 13-degree angle on their stainless steel scalloped ends enables the OXO Good Grips Tongs to securely grasp a large range of food shapes and sizes, from a whole chicken to thin spaghetti to tail-on shrimp. The build features a responsive and durable spring, large rubber grips, and pinch-free, stay-cool handles.

Our Favorite Silicone Kitchen Tongs: OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs With Silicone Heads

In scratch-prone, nonstick, or enameled cast iron pans, the scalloped silicone ends on these tongs can withstand temperatures up to 600°F (316°C) without leaving a mark. The body is nearly identical to that of the OXO's stainless version. While that silicone coating makes the tongs safe to use in damage-prone cookware, it also makes the grabbers a hair more bulky, which means they're slightly less deft than the stainless steel version.

Our Favorite Minimalist Kitchen Tongs: Cuisipro Stainless Steel Locking Tongs

With narrow, rubber-free handles, the Cuisipro 12-inch model occupies less space in the drawer than the OXO does, and was the second lightest of all the ones tested. It has a 10-degree head angle, less severe than the OXO's, which means it excelled at more general grabbing tasks, such as lifting ramekins from a hot-water bath, but was less adroit at precision tasks, like flipping shrimp. It also sports a clever streamlined hinge design, in which the spring doubles as the locking mechanism.

The Criteria

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Tongs should be comfortable to hold, with handles that feel springy rather than limp, but they shouldn't have such high tension that they become fatiguing to use. Ideally, the grabbers should be precise enough to pluck a strand of pasta with grace, but still able to handle more substantial tasks, like lifting a chicken or a wet ramekin without damaging or dropping it. And, of course, they shouldn't pinch your skin accidentally when squeezed. Because tongs come in a wide range of styles and sizes, we set mandatory criteria and conducted extensive research before testing.

For general kitchen use, 12-inch-long tongs are the ideal size: long enough to keep your hand safely away from heat and spattering oil, but not so long that they're awkward to wield indoors. Longer versions than 12 inches are better suited for higher-heat applications like grilling, while we generally find the shorter ones to be of little practical use beyond serving. That means only 12-inch tongs were considered in this review.

Unlike in a commercial kitchen, where tongs are often slung over oven-door handles when not in use, home cooks tend to stash them in crocks or drawers—despite the ubiquitous loop on the end for hanging—which means we consider a locking mechanism mandatory for home use. That ruled out nearly all of the unlockable commercial-grade tongs, along with salad-style tongs that are made from one continuous piece of bent metal.

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Silicone-coated tongs are slightly clumsier than plain stainless steel, but won't damage nonstick and other vulnerable surfaces.

Most tong manufacturers offer versions with scalloped ends in either stainless steel, silicone, or nylon, the latter two for use in nonstick or enameled cookware. Since silicone has a higher melting point and a tackier grip than nylon, we excluded nylon from testing. We've used nylon tongs in the past and know from experience that they easily melt and deform when exposed to normal heat levels during cooking.

We also excluded gimmicky versions that try to incorporate a spatula or whisk into the design. Tongs are not spatulas, and spatulas are not tongs; attempting to force them into a single build is futile, resulting in a tool that fails at both tasks

To finalize our list of tongs for testing, we looked at the best-selling items on major retailers like Amazon, and cross-referenced reviews from other reputable brands, like America's Test Kitchen. We gathered 32 sets of tongs that met our criteria, but half never made it past our initial vetting: As soon as we got our hands on them, deal-breakers became immediately apparent. Some tongs pinched the skin painfully when squeezed; others had sloppy, inconsistent locking mechanisms. The most egregious flaws were loose hinges, which created too much movement when we opened the tongs and twisted the arms in opposite directions. That's a recipe for disaster, not deliciousness.

The Testing

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Finding the best pair of tongs required subjecting each model to a wide range of kitchen tasks. Our testing focused on grabbing items as diverse as large, wet chickens and small, hard ramekins, all while charting how comfortable each pair was to work with.

Lifting Large Foods

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Lifting a large steak or moving a roasted chicken from one vessel to another is not when you want to discover that your tongs feel less than secure. To test how well each model gripped large foods, we first lifted a six-and-three-quarter-pound raw whole chicken by sticking one arm of the tongs into the cavity and clamping down on the breast with the second, then shaking the bird to see how secure it was; we then practiced moving the bird from the countertop to the oven, just to see if any problems emerged. We repeated the test by pulling a cooked chicken out of a cast iron pan in the oven and setting it on the countertop, then examining it for any damage to the crispy skin.

We found that tongs with scalloped grabbers that were more or less parallel to each other felt less secure; those with ends that angled toward each other made for a surer grip. Meanwhile, tongs with overly sharp or pointed scallops could easily tear chicken skin and flesh, making them more of a predator than an ally of the foods in your kitchen.

Picking Up Thin, Wet Foods

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We frequently shove our tongs in big pots of boiling water, whether to snatch up a strand of spaghetti or grab a green bean to test doneness. We evaluated both, lifting green beans (precooked and cold, to maintain consistent doneness for all tests) from a pot of cold water and fetching individual strands of spaghetti (as well as heaping tangles of it), to see how easily each set of tongs handled the task.

Then we placed three beans together on a plate, like planks, and tried to pick them up without disrupting the order, the goal being to see which tongs were agile enough to accomplish such a delicate job.

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In nearly every case, stainless steel grabbers were nimbler than silicone-coated models in the bean and single-spaghetti-strand tests, but less so when pulling up clumps of pasta. This makes sense: The silicone coating is grippy, but also adds thickness and bulk to the tong heads, making them less than ideal for detailed work.

Turning Small Foods

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Precision is high on the list of criteria that good tongs should meet. After all, two or three misfires at nabbing something in the pan is often enough to make us look into the countertop utensil crock for a plan B.

We loaded a sauté pan with batches of tail-on 31/40 shrimp and flipped them repeatedly to see how well the tongs gripped the slick tail shells in close quarters. This also required us to pay attention to the spring tension: Because we kept the tongs hovering slightly closed over the sauté pan for minutes on end while we fussed with the quick-cooking shrimp, the tools were in a constant state of tension. The stiffest models tired our hands quickly.

We typically preferred stainless steel grabbers in this application (though not in a nonstick pan), as thicker silicone-coated scalloped ends felt clumsier and could obstruct our view.

Evaluating Heat Transfer

Tongs that get too hot to hold are useless, no matter how well they function otherwise. Most tongs are made from relatively thin sheets of metal, which maximizes surface area, allowing them to cool quickly and keeping the handle temps comfortable. But not all do this equally well.

To test just how far up the handle heat could crawl, we submerged the tongs in a three-quart saucepan filled with about two and a half inches of boiling water (just enough to cover all the tong grabbers) for five minutes, allowing the hinge ends to stick out. Then we pulled them out and recorded the handle temperatures with an infrared thermometer, focusing on the rubber grips where applicable, or the equivalent location on the all-metal tongs. The average handle temperature was 102°F (39°C)—warm but comfortable—but one pair got hot enough to distort the rubber grips.

Explaining why one pair of tongs got hotter than another wasn't so easy. We looked for correlations between various tong stats and the temperatures they reached, but no obvious chain of causation presented itself. The most noteworthy correlation we could see in the data was that the heavier tongs tended to get hotter than lighter-weight ones, which could indicate that the more mass a pair of tongs has, the more it becomes a heat sink. But even there, the data wasn't clean enough for us to draw a definite conclusion, possibly because multiple design factors come into play here, complicating the answer.

In any event, we disqualified any pair of tongs with handles that surpassed a tolerable temperature of about 130°F (54°C).

Non-Cooking Tasks

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The OXO tongs have more steeply angled grabbers, but that made them a little worse for picking up ramekins. The Cuisipro tongs' less angled heads grabbed ramekins more easily.

With a good pair of tongs, you won't think twice about grabbing hot sheet pans, wire racks, and fresh-from-the-oven ceramic ramekins. To see how well the tongs could snatch slick glazed surfaces, we used each pair to lift a pudding-filled three-and-a-half-inch ramekin from a water bath. We tested at roughly three angles of approach: pulling straight up from above, pulling at about a 45-degree angle, and coming in from the side.

Silicone grabbers outperformed stainless steel on the ramekin tests, where they did a better job of gripping the hard and wet surface. Stainless steel tongs with angled heads held on less securely, because they put more pressure on a single point at the very tip, where the grabbers met.

We also used the tongs to remove a hot toaster-oven rack and pan, then used them to rotate half sheet pans weighed down with a halved watermelon, to simulate turning a sheet tray in the oven.

While both styles were able to accomplish this, some silicone tongs struggled with the task due to their construction. In some tongs, the metal underneath is shaped exactly like a scalloped tong grabber, with the silicone forming a tight-fitting coating over it. In others, the metal underneath is more of a shank, with the silicone extending farther to complete the scalloped shape. The latter type lacks a strong metal backbone at the scalloped edges, allowing the silicone to twist and bend with pressure and making pan manipulation more difficult. We preferred tongs in which the silicone covered a scalloped stainless steel shape, which flexed less.

Key Measurements

We used digital calipers to measure key areas of each pair of tongs, from the thickness of the steel and the silicone coating to the size and depth of the scalloped ends and maximum spread of the arms. Some tongs opened to nearly eight inches wide at the tip, while others struggled to reach five inches, which limits the size of the food you can grab. We didn't find the wider tongs to present any comfort issues, but the narrower tongs were a little too limiting in terms of what they could theoretically grab.

We paid particular attention to the amount of lateral movement in the arms by closing the tongs and pushing the scalloped ends in opposing directions, then using calipers to measure the distance of that movement. Our winning OXO tongs had the tightest tolerances here, with under a quarter inch of movement between the scalloped ends. The last-place tongs in this category moved nearly twice as much, and were one of the few models that struggled to lift a chicken.

Spring Tension

Some tongs are stiff, and others flop around under their own weight; a good pair sits somewhere in the middle, neither a chore to squeeze closed nor loose in the hand. A little resistance is good.

Most of the tongs we tested employ a torsion-style spring (i.e., a coiled one) to push the arms apart, though some use a ribbon spring. To find out how many foot-pounds of torque* are required to close the tongs, we built a jig to hold one arm securely to a tabletop. We tightened a band clamp on the free arm, seven inches away from the hinge; suspended a bag from that; and filled it with quarters until the scalloped ends closed. Then we weighed the coins on a scale, repeated the test, and converted the findings to foot-pounds for each of the sets of tongs. The torque required to close the springs is equal to what the springs push out when they open.

With all the springs tested, we found that the most comfortable tongs required between 0.25 and 0.5 foot-pounds of torque to close, just enough to feel responsive but not so tight that they're fatiguing. Most tongs fell in this range, as did all of our top picks; any outside that range were eliminated. (Though we also found that many springs tighten with use, so it may be worth starting with tongs that feel just a hair looser than you want to account for later tightening; see the "Abuse Test" section below for more.)

* A foot-pound is a measure of torque. It is equal to one pound of force applied at a distance of one foot.

Abuse Test

After reading a few Amazon complaints about springs failing, we turned back to the jig. Using the same setup, this time we attached the band clamp to a reciprocating saw, which moved one arm and the spring in three-quarter-inch bursts to the tune of 3,000 times over the minute-long test. Then we retested how much weight was required to close the tongs; in most cases, it required more effort, but not so much that it became uncomfortable. On one pair of tongs, the slip-on scalloped silicone end popped off during the rapid movement, but none of the springs failed.

Granted, rapidly pulsing the tongs in small, three-quarter-inch movements is not the same thing as opening and closing them in one's hand, so the changes to the spring tension in our test may not play out over the lifetime of the tongs with normal use. But if there is a takeaway here, it's that buying a pair of tongs that's ever so slightly easier to squeeze than you'd prefer may be better in the long run than getting tongs that feel too tight.

How We Chose Our Winner(s)

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After the performance testing, we eliminated any tongs that earned low marks for grip ability, like one model that failed to grip the raw chicken. Other failures that earned a DQ included tongs with rubber handles that melted during the heat transfer test, were unreasonably heavy, had fussy locking mechanisms, were slow to open fully, or had narrow spreads when open.

No single set of tongs ranked highest on every performance metric. Tongs with steep gripper angles, like the ones from OXO, aced the precision testing but didn't come out on top for general grabbing tasks, like lifting ramekins. The silicone models without full metal backbones underneath didn't grip sheet pans or oven racks well, but did a fine job nabbing green beans and getting a firm hold on ramekins.

Ultimately, we made our picks based on which of these tasks we considered most crucial to the average home cook's culinary needs.

Our Favorite Kitchen Tongs: OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs

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Precision in a crowded pan, long rubber handle grips, good spring strength, a consistent locking mechanism, and beefy but comfortable handles pushed the OXO Good Grips stainless steel tongs to the top of our list.

The 11 scallops on each grabber, a common number across the board, didn't slip or tear the meat during the chicken tests. The heads turn in from the arms at roughly 13-degree angles, and the three scallops at the tip touch the opposing ones with slight pressure, meaning there's good contact across the entire top edge of the tongs.

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OXO's grabbers up close.

Multiple people on the Serious Eats team, representing a range of culinary experience, felt that the tongs were comfortable. Of all the models with rubber grip pads, these offer the greatest amount of protected surface area, spanning the first five and a quarter inches from the hinge. Even large hands can hold the tongs by the rubber grips with no trouble.

They're also built for large-scale tasks: The opening between the scalloped ends was the third largest, at seven and three-eighths inches (and above the average span of six and five-eighths inches). The OXO's scalloped head wasn't the widest, but our testing didn't find a correlation between that measurement and performance.

While it's not the lightest model we tested, it had the least lateral movement, which speaks to how well these are manufactured—a theory supported by a near five-star reputation on Amazon. After the abuse test, it was one of two models that kept a consistent spring strength, while others needed twice as much effort to close.

The OXO won points with users who felt the spring strength was comfortable. The 0.36 foot-pounds of torque applied to close the tongs was well below average (about 0.5 foot-pounds), making these tools perfect for smaller hands or cooks with compromised hand strength. They were among the most comfortable to keep partially closed during the shrimp-flipping test.

Our only issue with these tongs is their limited ability to grip round, hard items, like ramekins. The angle of the head makes it hard to grab the curved ramekin at certain angles; for this task with this tool, we'd stick to pulling straight up, so the scallops can lock in below the rim. In the end, a deficiency in this category wasn't enough to overcome the OXO's precision, a feature most home cooks are going to call upon more frequently than the ability to corral slippery ceramic ramekins.

Our Favorite Silicone Kitchen Tongs: OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs With Silicone Heads

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If you do a lot of cooking in a nonstick or enameled pan, the OXO Good Grips Silicone Tongs are the best version of those tested. While it's very similar to our winner, it's not an exact copy. When fully opened, the spread of the tongs is more than an inch narrower between the scalloped ends; the lateral movement is a little sloppier than average; and, while it initially required much less force to close, the spring stiffened by more than 50% after the abuse test. OXO says they're in the process of updating the silicone tongs so they'll be manufactured in the same factory as the stainless steel version, meaning some of the differences between the two models should soon be resolved.

Despite their variances, OXO's silicone tongs come close to the winner where it really counts: They have the same comfortable grip, and the scallops are the same shape, with a head at the same angle. Other silicone tongs in our test had a thicker layer of silicone, but often those pads weren't bonded to the tongs, as they are on the OXO. Thicker silicone coatings are also bulkier, making for a clumsier experience when performing precision tasks. The OXO's silicone tong ends also have a full metal backbone, so you're not working more to spin pans or bear down on hard surfaces.

Among the silicone-grip tongs, the OXO's handles heated to 100°F (38°C) during our testing (second place), which is about 40° cooler than a competitor's silicone model on which the pads ended up distorted.



Our Favorite Minimalist Kitchen Tongs: Cuisipro Stainless Steel Locking Tongs

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Some testers remarked that the winning OXO stainless steel tongs, while very good, were bulky. With handles just over five-eighths of an inch wide, rubber grips, and an above-average weight, the OXO can feel clunky in the hand. If you're looking for a stripped-down, no-frills pair of tongs, the Cuisipro stainless steel locking version is as basic as they come.

At around 10 degrees, the angle of the heads is less severe than on the OXO, so they do a better job of gripping things like ramekins. But only the centermost scalloped ends touch when closed, meaning these tongs work well when you're picking up a single strand of pasta, but are a little clumsy when grabbing two or three green beans. Twisting a sheet pan left or right is harder than with the OXO, but yanking out an oven rack is a breeze.

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The Cuisipro's more open handle shape makes cleaning easy.

Despite the lack of rubber pads, the handles on the 3/64-inch-thick, all-metal Cuisipro kept cooler, at 91°F (33°C), than the OXO, and well below the 102°F average. Because the inside edges of the handles aren't curled as much, cleaning their inner surface is easy to do. Some reviews on Amazon claim that the Cuisipro's inner edge pinched them, but we were unable to reproduce a true pinch, even when we tried to do it on purpose (yes, we are willing to hurt ourselves for your benefit).

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Cuisipro's spring is ribbon-style and doubles as the locking mechanism. The OXO's locking mechanism is shown for comparison—its coiled, torsion-style spring is hidden inside.

In contrast with the OXO tongs, the five-and-a-quarter-ounce Cuisipro tongs have a firmer, ribbon-style spring. Most of the tongs that featured a non-torsion spring design—which you can identify by looking inside the tongs, where they meet—were stiffer than average. Still, the Cuisipro is comfortable to use, and the locking mechanism is a large hoop that is easy to pull closed and comfortable to bump open. In fact, in a bit of clever design, the ribbon spring does double duty as the locking mechanism. There have been reports that the rubber coating on the OXO locking mechanism can crack over time. While there's no such problem with the Cuisipro's spartan closer, we won't be banging it on our countertops to unlock them any time soon.

Our Favorite One-Handed Kitchen Tongs: Rösle Locking Tongs

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One pet peeve with most locking tongs is that, even if it's possible to unlock them with just one hand, most models require a free second hand to pull a tab and lock them again. Oftentimes when you're cooking, there's no second hand available to do that when you need it. For that reason, we looked far and wide for true one-handed locking tongs.

The best of the bunch are the Rösle Locking Tongs. These feature a sliding mechanism that's activated by the tongs' angle: Point them toward the floor, squeeze, and they unlock; point them toward the ceiling, squeeze, and they lock again.

It takes a few minutes to get used to them, but after that it becomes second nature. While the locking and unlocking mechanism is more sensitive than seems desirable—if the tongs are held even just slightly off from parallel to the floor, you can activate the mechanism—we never had them lock or unlock on us at a critical moment while cooking. The fact that the tongs have a stiffer-than-average spring may help explain why accidental activation was less frequent than we had expected.

The Rösle tongs are built like a tank, but, on the downside, they're also about as heavy as one, weighing a hefty seven and one-eighth ounces—as heavy as any tongs in our tests. Whether that single-handed locking and unlocking action is worth the weight (and the relatively high price tag) is a decision we'll leave up to you.