From Season 6: Fish Steaks 101
Lately, oven mitts have turned decidedly more ambitious than the $5 model found at any store. Competing with basic terry and cotton are mitts sporting fancy materials and features: leather, "treated" cotton, rubber, silicone, Nomex (a fireproof material used to make race-car-driver gear), and Kevlar (an even stronger synthetic, found in body armor and military helmets). There are flameproof suede gloves meant for welders, and the "melt"-resistant "Ove" Glove (as seen on TV!). These space-age products don't come cheap: The priciest sells for $30-and that's per mitt.
Bells and whistles aside, an oven mitt has two core requirements: enough heat resistance to keep hands from burning and enough pliability to keep cooks from inadvertently smashing food (or dropping pans). Because impressive dexterity is of zero importance if you can't pick up the hot pan in the first place, initial testing focused on heat protection. First, we had quantified the "ouch" factor: Like clockwork, testers faltered at 110 degrees. What's more, we had established a pecking order based on the number of seconds the mitts kept our hands below that threshold of pain: heavy silicone (90 seconds); heavy quilted cotton (65); padded Nomex/Kevlar and thin quilted cotton (40); rubber, treated cotton, and quilted terry (30); nonpadded Nomex/Kevlar (the "Ove" Glove) (20); suede (15); and leather (4).
Until now, we had been careful to keep the mitts dry, as per manufacturer warnings. But such a caveat seemed a cop-out for a product meant for settings in which insidious liquids lurk at every turn. So we soaked each mitt for five seconds in room-temperature water, then repeated the Dutch Oven Lift Test. The waterproof silicones and rubbers again kept their cool beyond a minute, but the rest faltered much sooner.
We then tackled the dexterity issue, and the results of both these tests taught us several lessons. First, there's an inverse relationship between heat protection and dexterity. The very attributes that gave some of our mitts such impressive heat resistance (bulky padding, stiff synthetic material) had us chasing eggplant rounds around the grill grate-and smashing cookies. By contrast, the highest marks for dexterity went to three of the worst mitts in terms of heat protection. For a satisfactory mitt overall, then, we'd have to choose from above-average but not top-rated performers in both arenas.
We also noted length preferences, finding that 15 inches (12 inches, for smaller testers) to be the ideal length.
We still had two more tests: washability and resistance to burning. In our laundry tests, while most cleaned up beautifully, the leather glove bled dye everywhere and the suedes and the terry were sullied beyond repair. To test flame resistance, we subjected each mitt to a five-second flame test over a gas burner turned to high. The terry, cotton, and treated cotton models suffered gaping holes. The rubber glove burned at the seam. The suedes and the leather gave off smelly fumes but remained unharmed. The silicone and Nomex/Kevlar models survived without a blemish.
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.