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Why Hot Pads are a Cook’s Best Friend

Hot pads are the silent but necessary kitchen helpers that we all rely on. Learn how they protect different surfaces and keep your kitchen looking brand new.

Hot pads are never the star of the show… but they should be.

Hot pads are your best friend because they’re always there when you need them, ready to provide support and help out in any way they can. From protecting countertops to adding a splash of style, hot pads help cooks in so many little ways that add up to make a big impact.

What Are Hot Pads?

A hot pad is a pad of cloth or similar material for use underneath hot dishes to protect surfaces from potentially damaging heat. You probably could have figured that out yourself, but there’s the fancy extended version, anyway, just for fun.

Hot pads are often square or circular and made from cotton, silicone, cork, or woven rattan. All of these materials are excellent heat resistors - duh - and work hard at protecting your surfaces while you focus on completing your task or recipe at hand. How helpful!

Are They the Same Thing as Pot Holders?

Many people will use the two terms interchangeably, but technically, the answer is no. Pot holders and hot pads are not the same item.

Hot pads are a piece of material to be used under hot dishes to protect surfaces. Pot Holders are pieces of textile used to cover hands when holding and moving hot kitchenware around, usually from stovetop to stovetop or to the dining area. The most significant difference is that Pot Holders will usually have some sort of slit for your hands to go in. Hot pads are simply a slab of material meant to be left in one place and act as a ~hot pad~.

We’ll just keep painting the whole picture — who started wondering about trivets?

A trivet is very similarly an object placed between a serving dish and a dining table. Trivets can serve the same function as hot pads, but their intended use is more general, not specific to being a heat protector. Trivets protect from scratches from stainless steel appliances and other cookware and often come in more varied designs since they work more as a barrier than a vital heat protecting layer.

Why Hot Pads Are Your Best Friend in the Kitchen

Hot Pads

Don’t let hot pads slip your mind when you’re walking down the kitchen aisle. They may not be as exciting as the other kitchen gadgets, and specialty gizmos are, but they’re just as essential. From protecting surfaces to complementing Sauté Pans, hot pads have plenty of indispensable kitchen uses that cannot be replicated by other common kitchen tools.

If you didn’t understand the importance and value of hot pads already - which we bet you don’t - you’re about to. Here are three reasons hot pads are your best friend in the kitchen.

1. They Protect Countertops and Dinner Tables

Now, this is where hot pads get to be the star of the show.

The primary use and intended purpose of hot pads are to protect your household surfaces from potentially damaging heat. And they do so marvelously.

Unless you’ve just moved into a new house or recently finished a kitchen renovation, you’re probably no longer in the phase of “my kitchen is too nice to cook in!” This is the phase where we’re still very much tiptoeing around - oh so gently placing things down on surfaces, very carefully putting cookware back where it came from, you know, treating everything like brand new.

The best way to keep surfaces looking brand new, forever, is using hot pads whenever hot dishes are moving around. Your next thought might be something along the lines of “I don’t have to worry about this problem because my countertops are ____.”

Yes, different countertop materials handle heat differently, some better than others. But no matter what they’re made of, countertops are expensive, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, we’d love to help by going over some of the common materials and giving you the rundown on their dos and don’ts and heat-withstanding capabilities. Shall we?

Granite

Granite is a very strong natural stone, posing a seven or eight ranking on the measurement of the Mohs scale of hardness (scale of one to ten). In other words, it’s solid and durable, so much so that it is unlikely even to be scratched by a sharp knife blade. Granite is the most durable stone or mineral countertop available, but it still isn’t fully protected from heat.

Even if your granite countertops are sealed (pretty much a necessity), they are still susceptible to high temperatures. Heat won’t have a massive impact in damaging a granite countertop. However, extreme heat for a long time may still have some effects: weakening of sealants, staining and discoloration, slight softening, and in severe cases, cracking. Would we recommend using hot pads for granite countertops? Yes.

Quartz and Quartzite

Quartz and quartzite score seven and eight respectively on the Mohs hardness scale, but they’re still not perfect when it comes to withstanding high heat. Like granite, long periods of exposure to high temperatures will start to affect these surfaces and cause them to worsen over time. Don’t let these materials’ big strong reputations make them seem indestructible. They’re still susceptible to heat, scratches, and cracking. So hot pads are a definite must.

Marble

Marble comes in with a score of three or four on the Mohs hardness scale and is much softer and more porous, meaning it’s a little more delicate in all regards. Placing hot pots, pans, or other dishes directly on marble is risky; heat can too easily soften, weaken, or chip the countertop. Always use a hot pad between any sources of heat and your marble countertop.

Laminate

This one’s easy - definitely, always, absolutely use hot pads for your laminate countertops. Remember that laminate countertops are essentially plastic, and plastic has a very low heat tolerance before it will begin to melt. Without the structural capabilities of mineral and stone material, laminate counters can become deformed and discolored from even low heat. Hot pads should always be used on laminate surfaces, unless you feel like replacing your laminate countertops.

Wood

Wood naturally contracts and expands when exposed to heat, so it’s advisable to always protect your wooden surfaces using hot pads. Direct exposure to even moderate heat can cause the wooden surface to split, warp, and break apart. Damage like this will be permanent and likely unfixable without replacing the entire surface. If you like your wooden kitchen table (and don’t want to go through the pain of finding a perfect replacement), make sure to use a hot pad under any heated cookware.

Ceramic

Ceramic countertops are made from ceramic tiles. Ceramic tiles are produced using a variation of a pottery method, forming the tiles with extreme heat. So, ceramic is made into a countertop with high heat, meaning it can also be deformed by high heat. Although ceramic is highly durable and strong, any significant temperature shocks still create the possibility of your countertop cracking. Would we recommend using hot pads for ceramic countertops? Yep.

Well, there you have it. The takeaway? Always use hot pads on all surface materials for countertops, dinner tables, and coffee tables alike. Hot pads are your best friend because they help keep the rest of your home safe, sound, and spotless.

2. Makeshift Pot Holders and Oven Mitts

In a perfect world, all of the exact tools we need will be right where we need them to be when we need them to be there. But it’s not a perfect world, and sometimes your hot pads are just a little too far out of reach when you need them.

When we’re really in a pinch, hot pads can sometimes function as makeshift Pot Holders or Oven Mitts. We hope it goes without saying that you should always use the correct coverage when possible, especially when dealing with high heat. Taking the extra second or two to reach for your Pot Holders or Oven Mitts would always be ideal, but we know it isn’t always possible. When you find yourself in this ‘not ideal situation,’ hot pads may suffice.

Depending on the material and thickness of your hot pads, you may want to fold or wrap them over a few times to put a couple of extra layers between you and the heat. A little extra support never hurt anyone, right? Be aware of the slip factor, too. Hot pads aren’t designed to lift pots and pans and often don’t have a gripping material like silicone to help them stay in place, like Oven Mits and Pot Holders are.

Hot pads are your best friend because, sometimes, they’re there for you when others can’t be, but don’t try to use them as a long-term substitute for Oven Mits and Pot Holders. There are times your hot pads will suffice, and there are times you just need that little extra support. The difference between naively getting burned, dropping something, or ruining your counters can come down to knowing when you need that extra support from Oven Mits and Pot Holders and reaching for it. Still, a hot pad will work when your Oven Mits and Pot Holders simply aren’t an option.

3. Add Color to Any Setting

Hot pads aren’t a conventional way of adding color, but it’s 2021, and we’re rewriting the rules.

Hots pads aren’t all ugly with weird stitching and grandma vibes. There are so many on the market, and it’s easy to find different sizes, shapes, colors, and designs that will add a splash personality to any space. Hot pads - and all kitchen linens, really - pose an excellent opportunity to get creative with decor and really make your kitchen space yours.

Pot Holder

Linens that add a pop of color also give the option of changing your accent color whenever you feel like it. Summer right around the corner? Great, pull out the Perracotta Tea Towels and put the Navy ones away. Labor Day weekend up next? Reach for the Cream Set. Hot pads, Pot Holders, Oven Mitts, and Tea Towels are all great tools to add subtle yet exciting colors and personality to your space, making entertaining a dream and your everyday meals an adventure.

You can also match your linens to ceramic cookware like a stylish Sauté Pan. Whether you’re using this versatile pan to entertain guests or whip up a single-pan dinner on a busy weeknight, a color-coordinated kitchen will make you feel like the most organized cook in the world as you reduce a sauce, sear meat, or serve a frittata straight from the pan. Once you’ve fallen in love with your matching Sauté Pan, kitchen linens, and hot pads, you can match your entire Cookware Set including Sauce Pans, Fry Pans, and Dutch Ovens for the aesthetic kitchenware collection of your dreams.

Hot Pads, Your New Best Friend

Hot pads are never the star of the show, and that’s ok, but they’re the supporting cast you can’t go without. Hot pads are here to help your favorite Sauté Pans stand out from the crowd; they keep your countertops looking spotless; and they can act like a Pot Holder or an Over Mit when these kitchen MVPs are inconveniently out of reach. As long as you know what hot pads for, how to use them, and all the ways they can serve you, you can get the most out of this underrated kitchen helper.

Happy cooking!

Sources:

Mohs Hardness Scale: Testing the Resistance to Being Scratched | Geology.com
How to Seal a Granite Countertop | Bob Vila
Learn the Dos and Don'ts of Kitchen Color Schemes | The Spruce

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