Cooking is all fun and games—until someone gets burnt.
Published Sept. 1, 2018. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 19: Pork Chops and Oven Fries
Heat is an essential part of cooking and one of the biggest safety considerations when kids are in the kitchen. Standard oven mitts are too big for most children, and an ill-fitting mitt can make many kitchen tasks dangerous. While we prefer to leave really hot jobs—such as pulling pans from a blazing oven—to the adults, kids still require protection for moderate-heat tasks such as removing a lid to stir a pot of food, putting baking sheets in the oven, and holding on to a warm pan while transferring food onto a platter or cooling rack.
We wanted a pair of mitts that would be comfortable, durable, and above all, safe, so we surveyed the options and found four products specifically designed for children. (We also considered adult gloves that come in an extra-small size, but even those were far too large for kids.) The products in our lineup were made of cotton or neoprene and priced from about $8.00 to about $40.00 per pair (some are sold individually).
Before we let the kids into the kitchen, we performed a variety of tests to make sure the mitts were indeed safe for children. We rigged wire thermometers to the inside of each mitt, at the thumb and middle finger, and squeezed our hands inside. We then used the mitts to carry metal baking sheets and glass baking dishes that we heated to a surface temperature of 350 degrees. We timed how long it took for our hands to get unbearably hot, which we've found in previous tests to be when the interior of the mitt reaches about 190 degrees (this may differ for children; see “A Note About Safety” below). Then we repeated the test with sheets at 400 degrees. We also used each set of mitts to grip a hot saucepan while draining boiled pasta, again timing how long our hands stayed comfortably cool. Finally, we stained the mitts with 2 tablespoons of tomato soup, washed and dried each mitt five times according to manufacturer instructions, and repeated the heating tests to make sure washing didn't affect fit or performance.
With the exception of one cotton mitt, which failed to keep our hands cool for more than 14 seconds, all the products were comfortable for at least 30 seconds when we held a 350-degree baking sheet—long enough to move the sheet from the oven to a cooling rack or to drain pasta from a pot into a colander. The mitts didn't perform as well when we repeated the test with 400-degree sheets—most averaged only about 12 seconds until they were too hot—but since we'd never ask a child to handle anything that hot alone, we gave much less weight to that test.
The neoprene mitts provided a bit more protection when we held the 400-degree sheet, bu...
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