Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Best Aprons According to the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

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Cooking is messy. Sauces splash, soups simmer, and without a little protection, stains set in. That’s why a good apron is nonnegotiable. But choosing the best apron for your needs can be tricky. That flowy linen smock might be light and airy, but is it tough enough to protect you from a ragù splatter? Maybe that leather butcher’s apron makes you feel like a kitchen blacksmith, but do you really need all that weight? And most importantly, do any of these options even look cute?

The best aprons

Crossback Utility Apron from Minna

The good news is that there are kitchen aprons for every kind of home cook, body type, and culinary activity. Below you’ll find the aprons our food editors use when they’re developing recipes in the test kitchen and cooking at home—all of them high-quality, machine-washable, built to last, and comfortable enough to wear all day long.

Fair warning: some of these are on the pricier side, but consider this before balking at the price tag: “You’re putting [your apron] through quite a bit of wear and tear,” says associate food editor Kendra Vaculin. “You want to be able to completely drop a pot of marinara on yourself, put it in the washing machine, and have it be no worse after.”

That durability and capacity to bounce back for more marinara attacks are what you’re investing in. You’ll notice that the test kitchen crew isn’t recommending any waist aprons or half aprons here. If you’re facing oil splatters and sauce stains, those styles just won’t protect you enough.

This is Kendra’s favorite cooking apron, in part because it has a loop that she can tuck a kitchen towel into. “If I don’t [have] that, I reach for [my towel] and I smear my shirt,” Kendra says. She also prefers something with deep pockets where she can put her phone, crossback straps that are easily adjustable (though she will settle for something with a neck loop in a pinch), and a high-quality, hardy material, like denim. All those musts led Kendra to her Hedley & Bennett crossback denim apron.

Hedley & Bennett has staked out a reputation as a top choice for professional chefs, but Kendra found hers digging through the test kitchen’s apron bin. And she’s glad she did. “It’s as thick as a pair of jeans,” Kendra says of the apron’s sturdiness, and it can protect her clothes from messes and heat alike.

This crossback is the choice of food director Chris Morocco. Like Kendra, he thinks a crossback style provides maximum functionality and comfort. Chris isn’t a huge fan of aprons with adjustable neck straps—he doesn’t like anything hanging off his neck because, he says, it leaves him feeling like Quasimodo by the end of the day. This hemp and canvas apron from White Bark comfortably molds to your body. “You get into that thing and it sits really comfortably on your shoulders,” Chris says. The cross-back straps, paired with wraparound waist ties, help distribute weight evenly across your body rather than putting all the pressure on your neck.

While some aprons have straps made of lighter material that doesn’t hold up as well, White Bark uses the same material on all parts of the apron—both the body and the waist straps—which makes for a piece that won’t easily wear out or tear over time. These hemp aprons also come in 14 different colors so you can be sure to get something that fits your vibe.

Spot Kendra, Chris, DeVonn, and Jessie all repping White Bark (and Tiana in Hedley & Bennett).

If you want a heavy duty work apron, consider this made-in-the-USA, cotton-canvas option from Carhartt, which would be equally at home in an auto shop or your kitchen. The brand is known for its tough workwear—it made uniforms for the military during World War II after all—and this bib apron can stand up to heavy use. Bon Appétit’s test kitchen coordinator Inés Anguiano has been using hers so long, she’s started calling it Ole Reliable. “It’s durable and meant to withstand years of wear,” Inés explains, “all while maintaining the same great quality.” Its layered pockets also provide tons of storage for your phone and your cooking tools. You could even keep a snack in there if you’re spending the day outside grilling.

An easy, breezy apron: Washed Cotton Smock

Deputy food editor Hana Asbrink prefers a smock-style apron that’s easy to put on. Otherwise known as Japanese-style aprons, these slide onto your body like a smock dress. She likes this inexpensive cotton number from World Market, which we’d recommend for anyone looking for an apron on a budget.

Washed Cotton Smock Apron

If you want to upgrade your smock to a slightly heavier cotton apron that will brook no messes, take the advice of digital operations associate Alma Avalle, who tested out half a dozen different aprons. She loves this striped beauty from Minna. Despite its weightier material, it allows plenty of air to circulate as you move about your home kitchen, leaving you cool while keeping you clean.

Crossback Utility Apron from Minna

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