Potholders: Pretty vs Functional in the Kitchen

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Visit the kitchen department of any store and you’ll be bombarded by the latest, greatest equipment and the most attractive kitchenware and gadgets. Most of these shops put the average kitchen to shame with their displays of perfectly coordinated equipment. It makes us wish that our kitchens were as lovely and beautifully outfitted.

I wonder what kind of spell kitchen shops cast upon us… We walk through an idyllic scene, more like a museum than a real, honest-to-goodness kitchen. Anyone who cooks knows that a kitchen is a workroom – the farthest thing from idyllic. There’s heat, spills, splatters, water and other liquids – all kinds of potential dangers and messes. Even if our equipment starts out pretty and color-coordinated, it doesn’t stay that way for long!

I recently had occasion (after receiving yet another nasty burn on my hand) to rethink my potholder situation. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be using the terms “potholder,” “hot pad” and “oven mitts” interchangeably, as equipment used to protect your hands from excess heat and burns in the kitchen. The ones I currently use were purchased, not because they would do the best job at protecting my hands, but because they matched my towels, which, of course, matched my kitchen decor.

The lesson to be learned from experience is that it’s more important to invest in the “right” equipment than the pretty stuff. Rule of thumb: Use what’s functional and save the pretty things for decoration. Not to say that functional kitchenware can’t be attractive – it just shouldn’t be the major criteria for choosing it.

So, as for hot pads, I’ve been conducting some research. This time around, I want to make absolutely certain that I’m choosing what will protect my hands and prevent me from dropping the dishes I’ve prepared. There doesn’t appear to be one all-purpose solution but I’ve narrowed the field to these two options:

1. The ‘Ove’ Glove is a heat-resistant glove that protects your hand from temperatures up to 540° F. It allows for natural hand movements because, unlike a mitt design, it has fingers so you can retain your grip. It’s outer layer, constructed of Nomex and Kevlar, make it possible to hold hot items in your hands for a longer period of time before the heat penetrates. They will not catch fire or melt, even when exposed to an open flame (which my pot holders are routinely at my gas stove top). Machine washing doesn’t lessen their effectiveness.

There are a couple caveats which prevent the “Ove” Glove from being the perfect solution: It’s a glove and as such, only covers your wrist. You could still receive burns on your forearms from hot oven racks. Also, it’s not waterproof so hot liquids can penetrate and cause a scald.

2. Orka Plus is a 100% silicone mitt which is heat-resistant to 480°F and is long enough to protect the forearm. They’re waterproof (even in boiling water) and feature a non-slip surface to aid with gripping hot dishes and handles. Because they’re silicone, they can be wiped clean and won’t stain.

As for the downside of this product: It will not stand up to open flame, so they’d serve me better when removing items from the oven than when working at my stove top.

I’m considering buying both to meet all of my potholder needs. They won’t necessarily match my kitchen decor but my hands will stay safe.

Leave pretty for other rooms in your house. Where safety is concerned, spend your money on functionality first.

What do you use to protect your hands in the kitchen?

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