Oven Mitts for Kids
How we tested
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 $7.74 to $39.90 per pair (some are sold individually).
Adults Do a Preliminary Safety Check
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, but they performed on par with cotton mitts when used with the 350-degree sheet. Neoprene was also a bit easier to clean, since the gloves can be washed in the dishwasher as well as the laundry machine, but ultimately we were able to get tomato stains out of all the mitts.
The Kids Make the Final Call
We eliminated the pair that lasted only 14 seconds and gave the remaining three models to a panel of six boys and girls, ages 8 to 11. After a quick lesson about oven safety, we had the kids try on the gloves to assess fit, pick up eight room-temperature pots and pans to evaluate grip and dexterity, and load, rotate, and remove baking sheets from a 350-degree oven to get a read on how safe they felt using the mitts. (Don't worry—adults were standing by, ready to grab any wayward sheets.)
While all the kids liked the extra grippiness that the neoprene mitts provided, this pair was far too small for all but the youngest tester. Instead, the kids preferred the two remaining cotton models: a shorter multicolored pair that stopped at the wrist and a longer black pair that covered part of the forearm. All the kids thought the shape and fit of these gloves provided better dexterity (or in their words, “felt better”). Their top pick, the Williams Sonoma Junior Chef Oven Mitt ($7.95 per mitt), was our adult testers' favorite, too. It was roomy and thick, with a soft lined interior (“Ooh, it's so fuzzy,” said one kid tester). The shape was great for smaller hands, and the longer length helped keep forearms safe, too.
A Note About Safety
It's worth noting that among our kid testers, there were different tolerances for heat. All were fine loading cool cookie sheets into an oven and using the mitts to keep a steady grip when transferring cookies to a cooling rack, as they might do for extra protection with a warm pan. But reaching into an oven and grabbing a hot cookie sheet was daunting for younger children, and a few felt that their hands got too hot during the quick trip from the oven to the cooling rack. We think it's always a good idea to have an adult perform these tasks.
We evaluated four mitts, priced from $7.74 to $39.90 for a pair, all marketed for kids. Adults used the gloves to time how long we could hold pots of boiling water and 350- and 400-degree baking sheets before our hands were unbearably hot. In every case we used thermometer probes attached to the insides of the gloves to confirm when the gloves reached 190 degrees (the temperature we deemed “unbearable”). We also stained the mitts with 2 tablespoons of tomato soup, washed and dried each mitt five times according to manufacturer instructions, and repeated the heat tests to see if performance was affected. One mitt was eliminated for poor performance. A group of six kids, ages 8 to 11, tried the remaining products, assessing each for fit and comfort as they picked up a variety of cooking vessels. They also used the mitts to load baking sheets into an oven, rotate them during baking, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Heat-safe temperatures and care instructions were provided by manufacturers or taken from product packaging.
Heat Protection: We gave full stars to products that kept our hands below 190 degrees for at least 30 seconds when holding a 350-degree baking sheet and that were long enough to protect a child's forearms.
Fit: Products lost points if they were too small or too large for a majority of our kid testers. Our favorite mitts felt comfortable and safe to all.
Cleanup: We docked points from products that stained or shrank when we washed them. Top marks went to products that cleaned up easily without compromising quality or fit.