Bear Claws

Bear Claws

This post has been eight years in the making.

Eight years ago, Maxence and I visited friends in London. On the night we arrived, Zoe made lasagna and a big green salad, which she proceeded to toss in the bowl using two gorgeous wooden instruments, shaped like four-clawed bear paws.

If this had been a cartoon, you would have seen me hypnotically drilling my gaze into her hands, red and white spirals spinning in my eyes. “Where does one find those?” I asked, hoping they were a London treasure I could hunt for. “Oh, the bear claws? I got them as a gift back in the US,” she explained. If this had been a cartoon, you would have seen the balloon of my hopes deflating with that elegant sound balloons make when they deflate, and falling, a limp rubber thing, to the ground.

Ah well. This did nothing to detract from the pleasures of the London weekend, and I put the bear claws out of my mind.

Fast forward eight years, and I found myself spending time in Canada, in Stratford, Ontario to be exact. And on my very first day there, while walking around the city center, my eyes locked with a stack of the long-yearned-for utensils in the window of a Canadian arts and crafts shop.

I couldn’t believe my luck. I bolted inside, and excitedly purchased a set.

Bear claws are made by a company called Kootenay Spoons in British Columbia, the westernmost province of Canada, where they’re handcrafted from beautiful birch wood and finished with walnut oil, and have been since the mid-eighties.

I’ve now had a chance to test drive my bear claws at home, and I couldn’t be happier with them: they’re very pleasant to handle, and I love the feeling of control that you get from having your hands very near the food. It seems the closest you can get without actually using your own hands to dress the salad (which some people do, but I dislike the sensation).

In addition to salads, the label suggests using bear claws to toss rice and bean dishes, lift pasta from the pot (long pasta, I presume), drain hot vegetables, and lift roasts from the pan.

Like all wooden utensils (ahem), bear claws should not be placed in the dishwasher, but simply brushed clean in soapy water, and rubbed with olive or walnut oil every once in a while to keep the wood shiny and happy like the people.

Have you ever come across these bear claws and used them? What did you think?

Note: Kootenay Spoons sells bear claws and other wooden utensils on their Etsy shop.

  • Those are beautiful! I’ve seen similar products referred to as “salad hands.” Sur La Table has them in acacia wood, as well as bamboo.
    Never used ’em, but I can definitely see the appeal.

    • Thanks for the links! These models look great too.

  • pat

    Coming from the second province from the left, Alberta, I’ve seen these often and they’re sometimes called ‘salad hands’ Didn’t know they were particular to this part of the world.

    • “Salad hands” is a fitting name too!

  • I also come from Alberta, and you can find them all kinds of places here, from all kinds of different makers. There are local woodworkers that make them, in addition to the ones brought in from B.C. They’re often sold in a set with a beautifully carved matching salad bowl.

    • Ah, don’t get me started on the beautifully carved wooden bowls… :)

  • Oh I’m so pleased that Canada was able to fulfill your burning need for a great kitchen utensil! Although I was sure to find a recipe for delicious donuts on here when I saw the post title “Bear Claws”, I loved your story and laughed so hard at the cartoon descriptions!!

  • Wow these are so lovely! We got a huge beautiful wooden salad bowl for a wedding gift and these would go amazingly with it. I want them!!

  • I concur with Pat; as a Canadian I’m glad to know you enjoyed this lovely innovation of ours.

  • Tamara

    Hi! Very funny these “salad hands” as we call them in Holland. I first saw them on Nigella Lawson years back. Very practical hands-on :) utensil

  • Rebecca

    I received a pair of these about 5 years ago and I love them! I use them all the time and others who’ve been over for diner have commented on their utility as well! They really are great!

  • I love these! I bought mine oh, ten or so years ago in Hawaii (wow, that long!) – they’re called Huli Hands which is so cute, and the ones I have are like the bear claws, ergonomically curved and smooth dark wood (kind of like this pic)
    Although, other Huli Hands pics make them look more like ’80s hair picks lol :-)
    I love mine and use them often! (But don’t oil them enough :-( good reminder)

  • Monique

    As another loyal Canadian reader (originally from Saskatchewan, now living in Québec) I must confess that I’ve never thought of these utensils as special – although I use mine faithfully. They can be bought at many large grocery store chains, specialty kitchen stores, and are also staple item at craft sales made by local wood workers here (as Ginger mentioned above). Although now that I know they’re so unusual, I think they may become my gift of choice for foodie friends and visitors from overseas :) Thanks for sharing.

    • Funny how things can be super common on one continent and a rare, coveted item on another. I do think these would make a great gift for overseas friends, especially if they come with the “local wood worker” story.

  • Oh Clotilde your description of seeing our Bear Claws used is so funny….pinwheel eyeballs have never been associated with our kitchenware before. Our Bear Claws are the original creation of my husband Michael Ferrier in 1985; we have been copied by everyone in the world in a variety of materials. Glad to read on your site that so many people love theirs (even the copies) Ours are made of Birch (like Maple it stands up to dishwater and high heat) and finished with totally foodsafe Walnut oil. Thanks so much for this great testimonial, I’ve gotten several inquiries today because of your blog. best wishes, Antonia at Kootenay Spoons

    • Happy for the chance to feature your work and support your business, Antonia!

  • Liz Thomas

    Oh! I want! I want!

  • When I saw the heading of your blogpost and given the Advent season approaching fast, I first thought you were going to write about a recipe for Christmas “cookies” called “Bärentatzen” (bear paws) made from chocolate, eggwhites, ground almonds, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom and shaped into that bear paw shape by pressing the dough into a special wooden mold. They come out looking like this and taste really nice.

    I do like the bear claw spoons a lot, too.

    • According to Elaina’s comment above, bear claws are also the name of a doughnut! I’ll have to look into both recipes. :)

      • Bear Paws are a soft yeast doughnut, spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon (usually swirled in the dough like a cinnamon bun) and covered in either a plain white or maple glaze. Sometimes there are raisins or apples added.

  • Doh! I didn’t know you were supposed to do that with wooden utensils! Thanks for the tip!

  • Kai

    I got something similar as a birthday gift, for tossing salad. But I mainly use them as a serving utensil for long pasta (spaghetti, fetuccini, etc.) during parties. Guests never fail to marvel at the ingenuity of it.

    I’m from the Philippines, by the way, and I think the pair was bought locally.

    • Liz Thomas

      Hi Kai,

      I’m in Macau, not far from Philippines. If you can find out where you can get them then I’d be really grateful as I could ask one of my Philippina friends to get a pair for me.


  • Katy

    Oh! Amazing! But sad face for me, they don’t ship to the UK :( My Mum lived in Canada for a bit in her early twenties so I thought this would be a great Christmas present. SHAME!

  • Heather

    My husband gave me a set of these for Christmas years ago: I think they’re tucked away in a cupboard somewhere. I will have to pull them out and use them more often.

  • I had no idea these were originally crafted in BC! I only knew them as “salad hands” as well, but I am happy to start calling them by their given name, so to speak! ;)

    • Antonia of Kootenay Spoons wrote above that the original design of their bear claws has been copied a lot. If that’s the case, perhaps their bear claws can be the only ones we call bear claws, and every other version we can refer to as salad hands. :)

  • They are for sure great for salads because they don’t mosh and squash leaves. Just keep in mind to use them before you spice salad with vineger. Vineger might damage wood

  • Susan

    Both bear claws and beaver tails (queues de castors) are Canadian beignets.

    Thank you Clotilde, You just helped me figure out a Christmas gift for a foodie here in Paris. The bear claws will be perfect. :)

    • So pleased to hear it, Susan, hope the recipient is as excited as I was!

  • Like a few others, I was expecting a pastry recipe – the one I know is sort of a danish-type dough with a date filling and sliced almonds for the claws. I actually had a set of the server bear claws that I bought years ago on a weekend trip to the Kootenays but somehow when we moved from Washington state to Germany the packers only got one of them in the carton. I never thought to look for them online, and I am so glad to see ordering information so I can replace my set!

  • msue

    Oh, if I’d only known…like others have said, these are not a rarity here. I have an identical pair from Canada in my drawer, plus a couple of others that I use from time to time. I LOVE the workmanship, artistry, and above all, the functionality of this handy (pun intended) tool. I’ve always called them salad hands, FYI.

  • Teri Angcos

    I was fortunate to spend a good part of the year in Alaska about 11 years ago. Your description of seeing “bear claws” for the first time is exactly how I felt! I could not take my eyes of the salad tossing. Of course, I asked the hostess where I could get some. She laughed and said “it’s an Alaska thing, you will find them before you head down to the lower 48”. And, I did! Been using them ever since! Thanks for bringing back some fond memories!

  • I have my very own pair, I must have found them in some little shop in NZ…somewhere, can’t be sure. They have been languishing in a kitchen drawer & you have inspired be to get them out :)

  • oooOOOO i’d seen these a while back on some cooking show and never came across them in real life since. thanks for the link!!

  • Love these! They’re pretty to use and functional – so much more attractive than the x-crossed variety. I agree with you – I don’t like mixing up salads with my hands!

  • Richard

    Here are bear claws from New York.

    Here is the recipe……

  • Maria S.

    I saw these the first time a few days ago at Thanksgiving dinner here in Los Angeles. I don’t know if my eyes made pinwheels – there were a lot of fabulous, delicious dishes to distract me – but I, too, thought. . .hmmm. gotta get me some of those and then today I check your blog and presto! I know more about them. Watched your interview at the Toronto bookstore. Very neat. Book looks interesting.

  • Joan

    Can imagine the BearClaw world waiting patiently for your Stratford visit! It’s such fun…such finds…

  • These look neat! I was visiting family in Alaska. Took a walk downtown and saw these in a lot of the shops. I wanted to buy some so bad but I had to resist. They add a nice fun touch to a normal salad bowl. Love the blog!

  • AMR

    I use mine swimming…I’m now able to reach incredible speed with the front crawl. :)
    I loved the cartoony description of your reaction seeing them in action for the first time. I could just picture it.
    Best wishes from Ottawa, Canada
    I hope you enjoyed your visit here. X

    • Thanks for making me laugh. Will they allow it at the olympics you think? :)

  • Sam

    Hi there Clotilde, we call them “salad hands” here in Tasmania (southern Australia) and they are very popular gifts for visitors and overseas friends as they are light & compact to pack/post :) Glad you are enjoying yours – I must say bear claws sound a lot more exciting though!

  • RichardM

    I know the inventor of these claws says use walnut oil, but doesn’t vegetable oil for seasoning wood go rancid? I would have used food-grade mineral oil. (I love the claws, by the way).

    • That’s a very good point, Richard, I’ll try to find out.

  • Frances

    I love my bear claws! They were a gift from my parents-in-law last Christmas and I use them all the time. Really good for mixing pasta into a sauce as well as salads etc.

  • This post had me giggling. I have had these claws for several years. Mine were purchased at Williams-Sonoma.

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