A great apron can be more than just a barrier between your clean clothes and the oily, sticky, and potentially staining ingredients kicking around your kitchen. It's your sous chef thanks to well-placed pockets that can hold everything from kitchen towels to grill tongs. It's your armor when it comes to taking the heat—the more flame-retardant, the better. It's a fashion statement, allowing you to express yourself with your kitchen fashion. The best apron we've tested is the Hedley & Bennett Crossback Apron(available at Hedley & Bennett) because it ticks all the boxes and more, while our Best Value pick is the Food52 Five Two Ultimate Apron (available at Food52) because its bonus features give you the most bang for your buck.
Whether you cook for a living or dabble in weeknight dinner prep, a comfortable, durable apron is essential to your kitchen arsenal. We tested nine of the top aprons on the market, from cross-back to neck-strap, to find the perfect pinafore.
Here are the best aprons we tested, ranked in order:
Hedley & Bennett Crossback Apron
Food52 Five Two Ultimate Apron
Tilit Contra Apron
Hedley & Bennett Essential Apron
Tilit Wrinkle Free Chef Apron
Larmliss Pinafore Apron Baking Cooking Cross Back Cotton/Linen Apron
In the great debate of cross-back aprons vs. neck strap aprons, this cross-back apron by Hedley & Bennett was the clear winner. This apron is incredibly comfortable to wear for extended periods of time and the adjustable straps make it easy to take on and off. It's 100% cotton, which means it's breathable and relatively lightweight at around 10 ounces.
During testing, it protected our clothes from water and holi powder almost completely—the exposed areas were concentrated to our armpits, which don't typically seeing too much splash action during regular use. The pockets are well-placed and appropriately sized for a variety of items, including kitchen towels and cooking utensils. Available in five colors, we love that you also have the option to add an embroidery of up to 10 letters and numbers.
After washing this apron according to the instructions on the tag, it looked as good as new. And while this apron isn't entirely flame-retardant, it was resistant to catching fire during testing to the point that we'd feel comfortable wearing it for all cooking tasks that take place near a controlled flame like a stove or grill.
The Five Two Ultimate Apron features a stylish design and is the only apron that has multiple bonus functions. It’s made of 100% cotton twill, a durable material that's ideal for aprons. The bottom-front corners are fitted with a cotton-terry lining intended as built-in potholders, but during testing we found these better used for transferring pans from stove to trivet rather than removing pans from the oven.
It has multiple pockets, one below the chest and two straight hip pockets—the right hip pocket even has a helpful measurement conversion chart printed inside. Its straps are the longest of all the aprons we've tested, which makes this the most size-inclusive apron on this list.
However, it isn’t without flaws. The cotton twill fabric is relatively thick, making this apron among the heaviest we tested. It also took longer to dry than other machine-washable aprons. Those extra-long straps, while helpful when wearing, mean that you'll need to make loops or tuck them in the pockets when storing to prevent tripping over them as they hang.
Multiple useful pockets
Built-in potholders and measurement conversion chart
Hi! I’m Madison, the Kitchen & Cooking editor. I like my aprons like I like my clothes: comfy and colorful. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen for work testing meal kits, wine subscriptions, and more, but I also enjoy cooking and baking for pleasure. I'm always on the hunt for new recipes to test, and up next on my list is this savory Dutch baby.
We're two very different heights and sizes, which we felt was crucial to provide the most comprehensive apron testing. Madison is 6'0" and wears a size XL or XXL depending on the brand. Valerie is 5'3" and wears a size XS or S depending on the brand.
First up in apron testing was to wear each apron while cooking a week's worth of meals. Often times, an apron will feel comfortable in the first few minutes of wearing, but it's the long-term repeated wear that we were interested in. In order to recreate common cooking scenarios in a controlled setting, we conducted a splash test using a lacrosse ball dropped from 6 inches above a 6-quart stock pot filled with water.
Next, it was time to get dirty. We applied the following substances to the bottom edge of each apron using a small paint brush: whisked egg, 1:1 flour/water mixture, and canola oil. Then we washed and dried each apron according to the directions on the tag, with the exception of the leather apron, which can't be washed.
In order to test how well each apron would cover our clothes, we wore white jumpsuits under the aprons and had a member of the lab team douse us in holi powder. We then removed each apron to observe how much of the holi powder was on our jumpsuits and where the exposed areas were.
For the final test, we cut a small swatch of each apron measuring approximately 3-by-3-inches. We used a blow torch to hold a flame to each fabric sample for two seconds in order to asses flammability.
What You Should Know About Buying Aprons
Cross-back vs. Neck Strap
The choice between cross-back and neck strap will ultimately depend on the wearer, but it's important to know your options. Cross-back aprons differ from the classic neck strap bib-style apron in that the straps are crossed over the back to more evenly distribute weight and alleviate any tension or discomfort on the wearers neck. Some cross-back aprons are adjustable, like our best overall pick, the Hedley & Bennett Crossback Apron, while others like the Larmliss Pinafore Apron are not adjustable.
Neck strap aprons come in all shapes and sizes, some more comfortable than others. Aprons like the Tilit Contra Apron have a relatively thin neck strap, which we weren't too bothered by during testing. Conversely, aprons like the Outset F240 Leather Grill Apron have thick, stiff straps, making them less comfortable for long-term wear.
For the purpose of this list, we omitted waist aprons (also known as half aprons) as they're a category all their own.
What is the Best Fabric for Aprons?
The truth is, there's no universally perfect fabric when it comes to aprons. So instead of striving for perfection, think about when you'll use this apron most. Will you wear it to grill outside during hot summer months? Is this going to be your weekly meal prep go-to? Or for the special barbecue competition you've thought about entering for years now? Here are a few basic guidelines for fabric types:
Cotton: The most all-purpose of the bunch, relatively lightweight, and easily washable.
Cotton/Poly blend: Wrinkle-free, somewhat lightweight, yet also sturdy enough for long-term use.
Linen: Easy, breezy, and beautiful, this ultra-light fabric is ideal for hot days, but it does wrinkle easily.
Leather: Heavy-duty in every sense, but not the most comfortable. Ideal for cooking near an open flame.
Finding the Right Fit for Your Body
The world of size-inclusive aprons is quickly expanding, and for good reason; many popular aprons on the market today are only available in a single size that does not, in fact, fit all. Our testers has drastically different experiences when it came to testing two such aprons on this list, the Larmliss Pinafore Apron and the Aobbybbs Crossback Apron. Madison found them to be tight across her chest and relatively short overall, while Valerie had no issues with either apron.
Long straps are key when it comes to size inclusivity, particularly for anyone who identifies as plus sized. If this sounds like you, look for aprons like the Food52 Five Two Ultimate Apron with extra long straps to ensure you'll be able to wrap them comfortably around your mid section.
The Importance of Pockets
Useful pockets are everything when it comes to an apron. If anything about the size, placement, or quantity is off, you'll be reminded of it every time you wear your apron. Every apron should have at least one pocket, and a perfect apron will have one chest pocket and one or two hip pockets. This allows the apron wearers to have convenient places to stash utensils, recipe cards, or cell phones during use.
Other Aprons We Tested
Tilit Contra Chef Apron
The Tilit Contra Apron is a lightweight and comfortable apron that you can wear all day, despite the fact that the neck strap is a bit difficult to adjust. It’s made of waxed cotton, which makes the apron more water-resistant than others aprons we tested. This apron provided decent coverage during the splash and holi powder tests and we like that it comes in many colors.
There's a cute leather clasp that connects the neck strap and the apron. However, the clasp isn't machine-washable and therefore must be removed before washing, so we took some points off as we found removing the leather part every time when washing was inconvenient. It has two spacious hip pockets, but we wish it had a chest pocket, too.
The Hedley & Bennett Essential Apron has a very attractive design and is made from 100% cotton twill, a durable yet comfy fabric. The neck strap works fine and is easily adjustable, but we felt a little bit of neck pain after a full day of having this apron on. It gave decent coverage but the armpit area is less protected from splash.
A minor downside is that this apron wrinkled slightly after tumble drying—which shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. Additionally, as the Essential is offered in various colors and fabrics, we recommend staying away from the thicker denim option if you often cook in a hot environment.
The Tilit Wrinkle-free Chef Apron is a stylish choice made of a cotton and polyester blend. It’s soft to the touch and lightweight enough to be worn all day, even in the summer. The fabric is breathable and didn’t wrinkle in the wash test. Our testers liked the soft neck strap that didn’t create too much neck tension during testing.
Though the neck strap is adjustable, adjusting its length is not particularly convenient. Another flaw is its pocket design. While it does have two pockets—one chest pocket for pens and one hip pocket—the latter is located on the right-hand side, which may be less than ideal for people who are left-handed.
This cross-back apron is comfortable to wear, thanks to the lightweight and breathable cotton and linen blend from which it’s made. We like that it gives ample coverage that can protect your clothes from splash.
However, one of our testers constantly struggled with putting on and taking off this apron, as the top part is relatively tight for people with broader chests. This flaw docked a few points in our testing as it’s not size-inclusive. It’s also worth noting that some threads came loose after the first wash.
The Williams Sonoma Classic Adult Apron is an attractive bib-style choice with an easily adjustable neck strap. It’s one of the most flame-resistant aprons we’ve tested, suffering minimum damage when we lit it on fire. You can personalize this apron with an embroidered name or leave it as is.
It wrinkled a little bit after washing, but not so much as to be unusable. We like the overall fit, but one of our testers noticed significant gaping near hear neck as the apron failed to lay flat against her chest. The 100% cotton fabric is relatively thick, which both makes this apron feel high quality and also means it's not well suited for hot environments.
The Aobbybbs Japanese-style Apron is highly rated by online shoppers. Design-wise, the apron is a crossover between cross-back and a sleepless pinafore, and there’s no strap to tie around the waist. It fits similarly to a dress by loosely hugging your body without needing the strap to tie everything together.
It's only available in one size, which may not fit people of various body types and some may find it difficult to put on and take off. Additionally, it shrank after the first wash, an indication that it may need to be replaced regularly.
This sturdy apron is the most flame-resistant apron we tested—the double-layered leather material didn’t catch fire for five seconds as we held a blow torch to it. The material hugs the body nicely when the strap is tied, with the exception of the chest area—even after adjusting the neck strap. You can tell the apron is made from high-quality, durable leather right away as it feels thick and heavy.
As we tested aprons during the summer months, we didn’t enjoy wearing this one while cooking. This apron is good for outdoor cooking, preferably in cool weather because of the heavy leather. It’s not machine-washable, but we don’t anticipate you’ll need to wash it often.
Valerie Li Stack is a senior staff writer for Kitchen & Cooking. She is an experienced home cook with a passion for experimenting with the cuisines of countries she's visited. Driven by an interest in food science, Valerie approaches the culinary scene with a firm grasp of cooking processes and extensive knowledge of ingredients. She believes food speaks to all people regardless of language and cultural background.
Madison Trapkin is the kitchen & cooking editor at Reviewed. Formerly the editor-in-chief of Culture Magazine, Madison is the founder of GRLSQUASH, a women's food, art, and culture journal. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, Cherrybombe, Gather Journal, and more. She is passionate about pizza, aesthetic countertop appliances, and regularly watering her houseplants.
She holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia and a Master's of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy from Boston University.
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