From Season 4: Cookie Jar Favorites
In professional kitchens, a trusty, albeit flimsy, side towel folded over a few times offers protection from things hot. Home cooks, however, whose hands are not as hardened as the vocational cook's, prefer to protect their paws with potholders. And, lucky for them, there is a panoply of potholders from which to choose, from simple terry-cloth swatches to high-tech silicone to plush leather squares. We selected five different potholders and used them when handling the handles on a tea kettle, stockpot, and heavy skillet (which had been in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes), when removing a soufflé from the oven, and when manipulating hot pie plates and cake pans in the oven.
All potholders were adequately heat-resistant. The attributes of a winning potholder were softness, thinness, and suppleness, all of which allow a potholder to conform to the shape of the hand, making it comfortable to use and easy to grasp a hot object, whatever its shape.
The two best were a very basic potholder, and a pocket mitt. Both potholders were made of terry cloth and had a comfortable, broken-in feel from the get-go, but we slightly preferred the plain potholder over the Pocket Mitt because of its compact size (about 8 1/2 inches square before washing, about 8 inches square after three washes) and its thinner, more svelte feel. But the pocket mitt was good as well, just a bit bulkier.
We were skeptical of the potholders that can’t be machine washed (the label says to wipe clean with a damp sponge or cloth). Knowing how grungy potholders can become with use, we wondered about the life expectancy of these potholders.
Two potholders fell into the "not recommended" category. The first was far too rigid, even after three washes. A potholder has to conform easily to the movements and shape of the hand to make grasping the small rims on pie plates and cake pans or securing a good grasp on the narrow girth of a skillet handle easy. The look of our silicone potholders elicited wows, but they failed to impress when pressed into service. Though bendable, these potholders possessed a springy nature that made them awkward to use. On most surfaces, silicone potholders afford the user a firm, no-slip grip. But even a small drop of fat on the potholders or the item being grasped can render them slick and slippery, as one test cook discovered when using one to grasp a skillet whose handle had been lightly splattered with grease.
Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
|★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||$19.95|
Wüsthof Classic Boning Knife
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasnt sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|★ ★||★ ★ ★||$99.95|
|Recommended with Reservations|
Mundial Boning Knife: Flexible
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
|★ ★||★ ★||$19.95|
Shun Gokujo Filet Knife
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
MAC Boning KnifeChef Series
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite Flexible Boning Knife
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.