Aprons aren’t just for chefs. Even if you’re only cooking three meals (or less) per day, they protect your clothes from spills and splatters of hot oil, tomato sauce, and everything in between. Getting stains out of clothes can be annoying, and aprons are made for taking the brunt of the mess.
Aprons come in many different shapes and sizes, with common styles including bib, crossback, and half aprons. When buying an apron, take note of the type of material, dimensions, and any additional features like pockets.
The aprons highlighted below were chosen after consulting reviews and product information across a variety of retailers, then put to the test in my home kitchen while making dozens of dumplings. They were then reviewed and ranked according to criteria like design, performance, and how easy they were to clean.
If you’re in the market for an apron, here are some of the best ones out there to help you get started.
Five Two Ultimate Apron With Built-In Pot Holders
What We Love: Lovely color options, multiple pockets, lightweight and breathable feel
What We Don’t Love: Built-in pot holders could be a touch thicker
This thoughtfully designed apron has everything you could want and probably more. It comes in a variety of lovely colors, and the Rhubarb one I tested is a dusty pink dream, with a subtle stripe that adds just the right amount of flair. It provides full coverage while being lightweight in feel, with a breathable material that’s still thick enough to keep food off your clothes. This apron was comfortable to wear and fit my body well, with long straps that I tied around my front.
The large side pockets are conveniently placed at the hips, with a measurement conversion chart tucked into one of them; this was a happy discovery as I tucked a towel into one of the pockets—Food52 really did think of everything. There’s even a chest pocket that can hold pens, a thermometer, or reading glasses.
While I was excited about the built-in pot holders, I was disappointed to find that they’re only recommended for stovetop use. Sure, you can use it to pick up a hot cast iron pan in a pinch, but it’s awkward to maneuver around the bulk of the apron to use it. I’d feel more secure using an oven mitt for these instances.
Stylish, functional, and comfortable, this beautiful apron checks all the boxes. If you’re OK with splurging a little, this is the sturdy option I’d recommend.
"I wish the pot holders were a touch thicker so that they could also work for pulling pans out of the oven. Otherwise, it is perfect: a sturdy apron that will last through spills and multiple washes." — Abigail Abesamis Demarest, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $45
Type: Bib | Material: Cotton | Dimensions: 35 x 32 inches | Waist Strap Length: 49 inches on each side | Neck Strap Length: Adjustable, 7 to 12 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
Best with Pockets
Hedley & Bennet Denver Brown Essential Apron
What We Love: Eye-catching colorblock design, large pockets, good coverage
What We Don’t Love: Very expensive
Developed by and for professional chefs (and home cooks), I was excited to put this apron to the test, and it did not disappoint. This bestselling apron is a striking golden brown with navy blue straps—eye-catching, yet understated. When I put it on, I could immediately feel how sturdy the fabric was, as well as the high quality of the material. The length and width are such that they provide a lot of coverage without hindering my movement.
As far as design goes, the pockets were large enough for me to tuck a hand-drying towel into them without compromising the fit. It felt comfortable to wear as I moved around the kitchen, and though I only spent a few hours wearing it, I could imagine wearing it all day if I had to (like the pros do).
There’s no doubt that this apron is a winner, but it comes at a premium. It was the most expensive apron I tested by a long shot, but if you’re serious about cooking and don’t mind investing a little more in a high-quality apron, this is a solid option. It certainly made me feel like a chef.
"It’s clear why so many professional chefs like this brand. In addition to having a stylish look, it’s fairly lightweight, comfortable to wear, provides good coverage, and is made with a sturdy material that protects your clothing from splatters and spills." — Abigail Abesamis Demarest, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $85
Type: Bib | Material: Cotton canvas | Dimensions: 33.5 x 30 inches | Waist Strap Length: 43.5 inches on each side | Neck Strap Length: Adjustable, 8.5 to 14 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
World Market Washed Cotton Smock
What We Love: Super comfortable, simple design, easy to put on, relatively inexpensive
What We Don’t Love: Material is slightly thin, no pockets
Before this test, I’d only ever worn bib aprons, and I was impressed by how comfortable the crossback style is. It’s like throwing on a smock (you know, like the ones you wore for art class in kindergarten), and instead of paint, you’re playing with food. If you don’t love the feeling of a waist tie (which can feel tight on your back and come undone), I’d highly recommend trying this style.
Slipping this apron over my head was super simple, and I appreciated the straightforward design. I didn’t end up using the pockets at the front, but they’re large enough to hold a recipe card, a timer, and other small items. The material was on the thinner side, which made it more lightweight and comfortable—my only note is that I would prefer something a little thicker for deep frying and simmering tomato sauce.
While it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the other aprons I tested, this option reigns supreme as being the most comfortable to wear.
"It felt like I didn’t even have an apron on (in a good way). I would like for the material to be a touch thicker; it’d make me feel better about how well it protects my clothing." — Abigail Abesamis Demarest, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $25
Type: Crossback | Material: Cotton | Dimensions: 42 x 37 inches | | Waist Strap Length: 4N/A | Neck Strap Length: N/A | Machine-Washable? Yes
What We Love: Cute design, easy to move in, adjustable
What We Don’t Love: Small pockets, thin material
Isn’t this apron just darling? The spring-themed print is even sweeter and more vibrant in person. While it doesn’t provide as much coverage as the other aprons I tested, I found the short length to be comfortable to move around in as I squatted down to dig out more baking sheets to place dumplings onto.
The neck tie, while cute, proved to be a little difficult to tie given the relatively short length and thick straps. Once tied, the knot against my neck was distracting at first. I got used to it eventually, but the adjustable neck strap style is definitely more comfortable for me.
More style than substance, this apron is on the thinner side. The aesthetic screams “host with the most,” and I’d imagine throwing this on after getting changed for any last-minute kitchen tasks before my guests arrive. Additionally, while I appreciated the inclusion of pockets, they are fairly small and I didn’t end up using them.
"If you want a cute apron but are not as concerned about actually protecting your clothing, this is a solid option. The tie at the neck bothered me a little when first putting it on, but I was able to ignore it after a while." — Abigail Abesamis Demarest, Product Tester
Type: Bib | Material: Cotton | Dimensions: 26 x 29.5 inches | Waist Strap Length: 32 inches on each side | Neck Strap Length: 21.5 inches on each side | Machine-Washable? Yes
Sur La Table The Chef Signature Apron
What We Love: Full coverage, big pockets, thick material
What We Don’t Love: Slightly long, a little difficult to move in
This heavy-duty apron isn’t messing around. Made with heavyweight unwashed raw black denim, I could feel how sturdy this apron was as soon as I put it on. The brass hardware is a subtle touch that gives the apron some style. The Chef Signature Apron is quite long and wide, offering ample coverage to protect your clothes from food splatters and stains. Coupled with the thick material, however, I found that the length made it a little awkward to move around the kitchen.
The pockets were generously sized, and I could comfortably tuck a towel into one for drying my hands. The textured straps stayed in place as I prepped, cooked, and cleaned, and I didn’t need to readjust it. If you’re looking for something durable that’s going to protect you and keep your clothes clean, this is a great choice. It’s another apron that’s designed by cooks, for cooks, and it shows.
"If protecting your clothes is a top concern, this apron offers excellent protection. Textured straps keep the apron tie in place so you won’t have to worry about it coming loose when moving around the kitchen." — Abigail Abesamis Demarest, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $60
Type: Bib | Material: Cotton | Dimensions: 34 x 31 inches | Waist Strap Length: 40 inches on each side | Neck Strap Length: Adjustable, 8.5 to 13.5 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
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Syntus 2-Pack Adjustable Bib Apron
What We Love: Budget-friendly, simple, fits well
What We Don’t Love: Super-thin material, small pockets
This budget-friendly pick is an apron in its simplest, most basic form: black with an adjustable neck strap and waist tie. The material is so thin that it’s almost see-through, and it had a few loose threads out of the box. But for less than $5 a piece, I can’t complain much. It’s sold in a two-pack, so if one gets too dirty you have a backup at the ready without having to do laundry.
It has pockets, but they’re small, and while the material is light, it is slippery and I found myself retying the waist strap a few times while cooking. Surprisingly, this apron fit better and was more snug to my body than some of the more expensive options. This apron is as basic as it gets, and while I wouldn’t recommend it for any heavy-duty kitchen tasks, if you’re looking for something basic and inexpensive to keep flour off your shirt, this one will do the job.
"It is very thin and had some loose threads out of the box, but for a basic option, it fits surprisingly well (better than some of the more expensive options I tested). However, the pockets are too small to tuck a towel into." — Abigail Abesamis Demarest, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $15
Type: Bib | Material: Polyester | Dimensions: 33 x 26.5 inches | Waist Strap Length: 35.5 inches on each side | Neck Strap Length: Adjustable, 7 to 12 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
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With its subtle, yet stylish look and thoughtful design, the Five Two Ultimate Apron with Built-In Pot Holders can’t be beat. If you need something super sturdy that offers maximum protection, go for the Sur La Table The Chef Signature Apron.
How We Tested
When I first received the aprons, I did a visual inspection to take a close look at the material and any imperfections. Next, I made dozens and dozens of dumplings, repeating the process of making the dough and the filling, shaping the dumplings, cooking them, and cleaning up six times. I used a different apron for each test and noted my findings. Lastly, I washed all the aprons according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I rated each apron on the following attributes: Material, Design, Performance, Ease of Cleaning, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look for When Buying an Apron
In a home kitchen setting, a loop-neck bib apron is most common. It provides good coverage and is adjustable to fit a range of body types and sizes. Crossback aprons are becoming increasingly popular, as they are easy to throw on and don’t have a tie to restrict movement or loosen and become untied while moving around. Half aprons cover the lower half of your body.
“I find an apron that has a bib much more useful than one without, since I am most likely to get myself dirty from the waist up,” Kierin Baldwin, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, says. “In the professional kitchen, I prefer tie-waist aprons that fit fairly close to the body. At home, I have a loose crossback apron that is very comfortable and relaxed.”
Additional features like pockets can be useful depending on your cooking style. Personally, I like to keep a towel in a side pocket for drying my hands. But if you have a small kitchen where everything is within reach, pockets might not be necessary. Same goes for built-in pot holders; if you don’t need it, skip it.
Design and Fit
An adjustable neck loop and long waist tie are key features that help ensure a good fit. “Aprons are typically one-size-fits-all, so they need to be adjustable,” Lidey Heuck, recipe developer in New York City, says.
Length is another key consideration, as an apron that’s too long can make moving awkward and cumbersome. Knee-length is often ideal to maintain an optimal range of movement.
Thicker, heavyweight materials are your best bet as far as protecting your clothes from hot oil and sauce splatters. Some aprons will cover more of your body than others, so check out the length and width measurements when shopping online.
All of the aprons reviewed for this story can be thrown in the washer and dryer, which is super convenient. If you’re not the type of person that has the setup or patience to hang dry clothes, be sure to pick up an apron that can go in the dryer.
What is an apron good for?
At its core, an apron is made to keep you clean and safe while cooking. “It’s a lot easier to change your apron than it is to change your clothes,” Baldwin says. “Also, if you get splashed with something very hot, an apron will protect you more than your clothes will.” If there’s a risk of oil splashing or flour getting everywhere, it’s a good time to whip out that apron.
“If it splatters on the stovetop, chances are it’s going to splatter on me,” Heuck says. “If I’m having friends over for dinner, I’ll put an apron on after I get dressed for any last-minute cooking.”
What can I use instead of an apron?
If you don’t have an apron (or can’t find yours), Baldwin notes that an old button-down shirt or an oversized t-shirt can also work.
“When I’m cooking all day, I will often wear an old t-shirt or sweatshirt—something I’m not worried about getting messy,” Heuck says. “It’s almost as good as an apron—and very comfortable!”
What is the best apron material?
When shopping for an apron, it’s helpful to choose something that's easy to wash and one that’s made of a tightly woven and fairly thick material, so that any liquids won’t soak through. “I like cotton aprons, since cotton is easy to wash, more resistant to fire than other fabrics, and won’t melt like some synthetics,” says Baldwin.
Heuck prefers dark-colored aprons as they’re better at hiding stains. “If I’m being honest, even though an apron is meant to be a utilitarian kitchen item, I typically avoid my lighter-colored aprons when I’m doing something messy, so they end up getting less use,” she says.
How often should I wash or clean aprons?
Just like any other piece of clothing, taking a look at your apron after you’re done using it will give you a pretty good sense of whether or not it’s time to wash it. “I don’t have a hard and fast rule in terms of how often I wash my aprons,” says Heuck. “After light use, I’ll go a few weeks between washing, but I tend to wash aprons right after working with raw meat or fish, or if I find myself covered with flour.”
Baldwin adds that in a professional kitchen, she’ll wash her aprons once a day, and even change into a clean apron on the same day if the one she’s wearing gets especially dirty. “At home where they get less intense use, I just wash them when they’re dirty,” she says. “This means I usually do it once a week unless it’s gotten particularly badly soiled.”
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Abigail Abesamis Demarest is a freelance journalist who specializes in food and drink content. She interviewed chefs to learn about what the pros look for in an apron, and she’s always keen to share this knowledge with readers. In her home kitchen, she dons a cute, yet functional, apron while cooking weekend breakfasts and baking up a storm.
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