Ask the Test Cooks
The Best Aprons, According to Our (Very) Opinionated Test Cooks
We asked the pros which aprons they wear every day and why.
12-15-2020
Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

We test a lot of stuff here at America’s Test Kitchen: baking sheets, coolers, skillets, and knives, knives, and more knives—just to name a handful. But sometimes there’s a topic so broad and with opinions so diverse and divisive that it’s hard for us to test and name a single winner. One example? Aprons. Aprons are the kind of thing you either always use or never wear. But they can be a superuseful addition to your kitchen gear collection: no more floury pants or hunting around for an errant dish towel when you need to dry your hands. 

A lot of our test cooks are hard-core apron wearers, so we asked them which aprons they wear on a daily basis and why they like them. Not surprisingly, since there are so many great aprons out there in a variety of different styles, there were lots of opinions. Here’s what they had to say, organized by type of apron.

We talked with Ellen Bennett, founder of Hedley & Bennett, about aprons. You can read her favorite apron-related tips here.

Bib


Bib aprons are probably what comes to mind when you think about aprons. This style of apron has a neck loop and ties either behind your back or in front of you. We recommend this style for most folks—chefs and those new to aprons alike!—and think that a bib apron is an essential you’ll find yourself reaching for time and time again. 


Assistant Editor Chase Brightwell smiling and wearing a bib apron

Chase’s Favorite Apron: Hedley & Bennett

Chase Brightwell, assistant editor, ATK Reviews

“I use an old chambray version of The Essential from Hedley & Bennett. I don’t think they have that particular apron in stock anymore, but here’s a similar one. I like it because it’s both lightweight and durable. It’s also easy to clean. And obviously, I think it’s stylish and trendy, which sounds silly, but I think putting on an apron should make you excited to cook! So why not treat yourself to something you feel cute and fun in. I use a second Hedley & Bennett apron for heavier jobs. It’s made of waxed canvas. It’s hard to clean, but if I really feel like there’s potential for lots of gross stains (handling lots of raw meat, grilling, etc.), I break it out. You clean it with a cool, damp cloth. It’s not as versatile, but I like it a lot. 

Another reason I like Hedley & Bennett is that they make sizes for larger bodies, which is really great. Everyone should feel comfortable and excited to cook, no matter what size apron they need.”

 


 

Executive Editor Lisa McManus wearing a denim bib apron

Lisa McManus, executive editor, ATK Reviews

Lisa’s Favorite Apron: DII

“The apron shares the rare factor I liked best about my old favorite: tunnel-style ties, which means that anyone can put it on and make it fit instantly with no adjustment of buckles or fussing. 

The tie is one very, very long piece of fabric that starts where ties usually do, at the waist, but then goes up a tunnel on the side of the bib, around the neck, and back down a tunnel on the other side of the bib, back to the waist. It can be tied behind your back, but it's long enough to bring around and tie in front, which is how I like to wear aprons. You just slide the tie around in the tunnels so that the apron fits where and how you want. Nice and simple. No hardware.

Because I'm short, a lot of bib-style aprons don't fit; the neck loop is so long that the bib is too low and doesn't cover the front of my shirt, unless I have it tailored, put a knot in it on the back of my neck, or shorten it at the buckle, leaving a long piece hanging down, etc. This tunnel tie means that it is simple and smooth and fits just right on me or anyone else who's in my kitchen.

This one is denim, and it's incredibly soft and comfy. I think denim is one of those fabrics that looks better the more beat-up it gets, so I am not afraid to mess it up. That's always what I fear with really pretty aprons: Can I actually cook in it and get it grease and food splattered and not worry about it? The apron is supposed to protect my clothes; I'm not supposed to protect the apron. 

It feels great, soft, and comfy like old jeans—and it isn't too big, bulky, or skimpy. It reaches down below my knees, which I like, but it wouldn't be too short on a taller person. And it's only about $16, so I'm not going to be afraid to get messy in it!”


 

Executive Food Editor Bryan Roof wearing a bib apron

Bryan Roof, executive food editor, Cook’s Country

Bryan’s Favorite Apron: Chef Works 

“I currently use a Chef Works Urban denim apron. Good fit. Could be better in some ways. But it's light, and the straps are long enough (big problem with some aprons). One-third of my waking time is spent in an apron—I'm wearing one right now, as a matter of fact.”


 

Senior Editor Lawman Johnson holding a chef knife and wearing a Hedley and Bennett bib apron
selfie of Lawman Johnson wearing a grey camo bib apron

Lawman Johnson, senior editor, Cook’s Country

Lawman’s Favorite Apron: Hedley & Bennett 

“My favorite aprons are from Hedley & Bennett; I own a couple of them. Just like high-end knives or cookware, they are a great example of getting what you pay for. These aprons are well-made with high-quality material, in a variety of colors, sizes, and fits. For practical purposes, they are easy to wash; I've yet to encounter a food-related stain I couldn't get out.”


 

Assistant Test Cook Christa West wearing a Caldo bib apron

Christa West, assistant test cook, Photo Team

Christa’s Favorite Apron: Caldo 

“I use the Caldo linen apron and have it in three colors. I like it because it is lightweight and comfortable and breathable. It has a bunch of pockets, including a breast pocket for my Sharpies. I also really love that it has long straps since I prefer to wrap them around my waist to tie in the front and tuck my dishcloth into.”


 

Test Cook Mark Huxsoll chopping in the kitchen and wearing a blue bib apron

Mark Huxsoll, test cook, Cook’s Country

Mark’s Favorite Aprons: Bragard & Butcher and Baker

“I currently switch between a dark gray Bragard apron and a dark gray denim Butcher and Baker apron, and I love both. I love the thickness and durability of the materials as well as the style (gotta look good to cook good). Also the length. If the length is too short it feels odd and fits wrong, and if it’s too long it’s a tripping hazard. Also adjustable neck straps are great and pretty important to me.”

Smock


A smock has a looser fit and no ties. It goes over your head and crosses in the back and often has pockets at the sides. We recommend this style for someone looking for a stylish apron that almost feels like an extension of your outfit, who wants something supercomfortable, and who would rather not bother with having to tie an apron.


 

Associate Editor Carolyn Grillo smiling and wearing a smock apron

Carolyn Grillo, associate editor, ATK Reviews

Carolyn’s Favorite Apron: Alder + Co. 

This is my go-to apron when I'm cooking at home. The cross-back style is supercomfortable when I'm moving around the kitchen. It's made from lightweight linen, so I don't get overheated by the stove or oven. And the best part is I can throw it in the washing machine when it inevitably gets splattered with food.”


 

Food Stylist Ashley Moore smiling and wearing a smock apron

Ashley Moore, food stylist

Ashley’s Favorite Apron: KKTech

"I wear an apron similar to this. I like that it isn't rigid, it is loose fitting, it is 'cute', and it has pockets!"

Crossback


Crossback aprons are like bib aprons, but they take the pressure off your neck. Instead of the neck loop resting on your neck, a crossback apron goes over your head and rests on your shoulders, with straps that cross behind your back. We recommend this style for those who are cooking for long periods of time or even all day.


 

Test Kitchen Director Erin McMurrer showing the back of her crossback apron
Erin McMurrer showing the front of her crossback apron

Erin McMurrer, test kitchen director

Erin’s Favorite Apron: Chez Pascal 

“My friends own Chez Pascal, a restaurant in Providence, and have designed this apron that they have been selling for years. I have one, and what's truly special about this apron is that it is designed to take the pressure off your neck, which can be a problem with most standard aprons. For people who spend a lot of time on their feet and in a kitchen or restaurant, this can take its toll on your neck after a while; with this apron, your problem is gone.”

What's your favorite type of apron? Tell us in the comments below!

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