Don't get burned by bad pot holders. We tested nine sets to find two models that are safe, comfortable, and easy to use.
Last Updated Dec. 8, 2022. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 20: Pork and Potatoes
We've all been there: A dozen cookies are baking in the oven, slowly turning a perfect golden brown. The sweet smell of sugar and chocolate fills the room. You reach for the baking sheet and with a quiet whomp, your oversize pot holder flops over and squishes a few of them. Or, worse, the heat from the sheet radiates through the fabric to your hand, so you break into a jog and practically throw the sheet onto the counter, ruining a few of the cookies in the process.
Unfortunately, bad pot holders are not hard to find. Our two favorite models were recently redesigned or discontinued, so we decided to retest. We purchased nine pot holders, priced from about $7 to just over $60 per pair, in a range of styles. Some had pockets or loops for our hands and fingertips while others were coated with silicone dots or panels for extra grip. Some models were simply no-frills squares. We also included a model made from neoprene (a synthetic rubber used to make wet suits and car tires) as well as a thick, pillowy pot holder marketed to professional cooks. To test them, we put them through a pot holder boot camp, noting how they measured up when used to maneuver cake pans and pie plates into, around, and out of hot ovens; transport Dutch ovens filled with 4 quarts of simmering water; and handle scorching-hot skillets holding 4-pound roast chickens. And that's not all. A team of testers also used them to bake cookies, rotating the hot sheets in the oven and transferring them to cooling racks. Finally, to gauge long-term durability, we deliberately stained the pot holders and washed them five times before checking their condition.
To our dismay, we found that many of the models weren't protective. Two became uncomfortably hot in every test. Others were fine if we were handling thin, lightweight bakeware but failed miserably when handling heavy Dutch ovens and skillets.
To better understand our testers' impressions, we performed a controlled test. After affixing lab-grade thermometer probes to the pot holders on the side where a user's hand would be, we set them on the counter and placed hot cast-iron skillets atop each pot holder. The performance differences among the nine pot holders were dramatic—and they mirrored our experiences in the kitchen. After 30 seconds, four of the probes' readings were impressively cool, between 85 and 95 degrees. The probe underneath the worst-performing model was registering nearly double that, 163 degrees. We weren't surprised—when we tried gripping the hot skillet handle with this same model, we had to let go of it 5 seconds later, not enough time to safely transfer a bl...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Kate is a deputy editor for ATK Reviews. She's a culinary school graduate and former line cook and cheesemonger.