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Right material, 1-size-fits-all design fails...
on November 3, 2011
EDIT: Now that I have about a month using these holders under my belt, I've learned more how to use them better. Still, my original review below pretty much stands. So, I found that trying to firmly grasp the silicone handles the way you would using a cloth isn't the best way to go about using these handles. Using a looser grip allowing the front bottom of the holder to sit on your index finger and the rear top of the holder to press up against your palm provides a much better grip and control of the pan. It's a looser bottom-front and top-rear balance that works best. This method even mostly negates the lubrication effect from modestly oily pan handles. You still don't want oily handles or you're asking for it. So try that looser balancing grip instead of the firm clench grip. :)
Also, a note on the cloth Hot Handles that are supposedly-silicone lined. Um, they're not silicone-lined. At least not with any kind of silicone I've ever seen. And don't ask me why, but the multi-colored hot pepper design holder is a bit bigger and its interior just looks like the metalized cloth we've been using on the contact surface of cloth oven mitts for decades. The red hot pepper design has a cream colored teri cloth inside and is just a bit smaller than the multi-colored pepper holders. I like the multi-colored pepper holders the best both for the interior, feel and pattern.
If I'm cooking on low heat I leave the silicone handles on. If I'm sauteeing, and therefore flipping, or if I'm using higher heat I use the cloth handles and put 'em on as needed and remove 'em when done.
Okay, I will take for granted that if you're reading this you already have a Lodge cast iron pan(s). They are fantastic pans that have reignited my love of cooking. My Analon Pro pans sit in the cupboard doing nothing now other than loan their great glass lids to the Lodge pans.
But this isn't about the pans. Despite their very humble price, all of us who own Lodge know that they are superior pans already. This is about this handle holder. If you've used silicone in the past as a pot holder or oven mitt, you know that it is an excellent heat barrier and very very easy to clean and dries almost instantly. This holder is no different. It can be left on the pans even when they are on medium high heat and though they get hot, not hot enough so the pan can't be lifted.
The problem with this holder is that it only comes in one size and is internally deeply ribbed (presumably to create an air channel and less contact for cooling efficiency). I have 6.5" through 15" Lodge pans. Each handle is a different size and shape. The 6.5" is so small that this holder allows the handle to just slosh around inside. The only way to get a confident grip on the pan with the holder on is to really squeeze down on the holder. As the holder is quite thick, it won't fold over and the internal ribs prevent real compression of the holder. Sort of a spring action. In short, the little handle is so short and narrow that this holder just swallows it up and confident grasp is really not possible. Factor this in with the fact that oil/grease finds its way up cast iron handles and you have a real issue because of the internal ribs. There is very little actual contact between the holder and the handle because of these ribs. Good for low heat transfer. REALLY bad for grabbing the handle.
But who uses such tiny pans other than myself? Let's talk about the 10" that everybody uses. The fit here is much much better. Still, not snug enough. Unlike with the 6.5" pan, heft and weight of the pan is an issue. Though the fit is more snug, the greater effort maneuvering the 10" gives a less-than-confident feeling. I like to sautee so I flip my pans a lot. Yes, even heavy cast iron pans. Not with this holder on the handle. The ribs simply limit contact with the pan far too much. It's back to the trusty old cloth for sauteeing... ANY grease on the handle and the holder becomes a lubricated sleeve that can actually spin around the handle.
The 15" pan's handle fits about the same in the holder as the 10" though it reaches closer to the holder's tip.
In summary, this holder is fine for simply grabbing the pan and rotating it on the burner or for holding the pan as you stir its contents or for two-handed lifts using the helper handle (and hey, where's the helper handle holders???). For sauteeing or one-handed lifts (or even two-handed lifts by the main handle only), the poor grip (even lubricated SLIDING) of this holder really limits its usefulness as a handle holder.
I've ordered the Lodge cloth-exteriored (but still internally silicone-lined) holders hoping for better grip. I understand that those handles can't be left on the pans. I'll use them as a replacement for a cloth. Hopefully there aren't any internal ribs on those holders or they'll get sent back prior to use.
Lodge really dropped the ball here, only offering one size. Frankly, I think they should include custom-fitted handles with every pan. They are cheap to make and wouldn't increase the cost of the pans much. They should also be made of much thicker silicone without ribs. This way, they can just stay on the pans and will fit and grip MUCH MUCH better and restrict heat at least as well.
I hope you're listening, Lodge... Send me a free set for review. ;)