The Best Gloves for Food Preparation
Commercial kitchens and other food preparation settings require special types of gloves for cooking, washing dishes, serving food and similar tasks. Gloves provide more comfort for the wearer and make the job easier, and they are essential for safety as they protect against contamination and bacteria.
Whether you work in a restaurant, deli, bakery or another establishment that serves food, you need to equip staff with the proper gloves for performing certain tasks. This article explores the best types of food-safe gloves for cleaning, dishwashing, cooking and serving food.
What Are Food Grade Gloves?
What sets food-grade gloves apart from regular ones is the particular materials they contain. They allow for safe food handling and heavy-duty cleaning. Some popular glove materials for food preparation are:
Each of these materials is uniquely suited for different tasks and applications. Learn more about these different types of food-grade gloves and their common uses.
Glove Types by Their Uses in Food Service
While certain types of food-grade gloves are ideal for cooking and cleaning, others are more suitable for serving plates of food to customers. Here are the most common types of gloves and their best uses in food settings:
Latex gloves are highly durable and strong because they’re made from sturdy biodegradable rubber. They are excellent for scrubbing dishes and can protect food and hands from cross-contamination.
There are two types of latex gloves — powdered and non-powdered. Non-powdered gloves tend to be more common in kitchen settings, as talcum and other powders found in powdered gloves are known to cause inflammation and irritate the skin.
Consider latex gloves if you need something snug and versatile for dishwashing, cleaning and cooking. However, ensure you don’t have a latex allergy before investing in a pair. Remember to discard your latex gloves and slip on new ones when switching to a new task.
Due to their heavy-duty, reusable nature, neoprene gloves are the best type for cleaning and dishwashing. They tend to offer a slightly bigger fit around the hands, so they aren’t typically used for cooking and handling food. However, this thick material allows them to be worn for extended periods, unlike disposable food preparation gloves that workers should change more frequently.
Neoprene is a flexible and heat-resistant material, suitable in a range of temperatures. These gloves also provide effective protection from chemicals, acids and other harmful substances. If you need something appropriate for higher risk applications, dishwashing and heavy-duty cleaning, these gloves are for you.
Highly sturdy and puncture-resistant, nitrile is one of the best materials for food-handling gloves. Their durable nature helps prevent direct food and employee contact, protecting them from animal fats, petroleum, oil-based solvents and other substances. They also don’t contaminate food with potentially harmful chemicals and allergens since nitrile is almost entirely allergy-safe.
Like latex gloves, nitrile molds closely to the hands for a tight, snug fit. They come in a range of thicknesses as well. If you need a glove material for serving and plating food, consider a pair of nitrile gloves. Replace these disposable gloves regularly between tasks.
Another great material for plating and food service gloves is polyethylene. Polyethylene gloves are designed for quick, light-duty tasks. While they aren’t the most durable, their thin, loose and disposable material makes it easy for back-of-house restaurant staff to change pairs consistently. Workers can easily check, adjust and plate food without coming in contact with it.
Available in various thicknesses, vinyl gloves are good for most kitchen applications — cooking, serving food, cleaning, dishwashing and other general tasks. However, they’re not suitable for handling hazardous materials. Though they don’t stretch and are typically less comfortable than latex, they still provide effective tactile sensitivity. As with other disposable gloves, you should discard and change pairs between tasks.
Choosing the Right Gloves for Your Business
Trying to determine which types of food-grade gloves are best for your business? Here are some different food service settings and the types of gloves you’ll likely find in each one:
Delis: Between making sandwiches and serving sides, working in a deli requires constant glove changing. This need makes polyethylene gloves particularly suitable for deli tasks, like handing food to customers and portioning cheeses and meats.
Bakeries: When taking hot baked goods in and out of ovens, latex or vinyl gloves can help protect the skin from burns. For tasks that involve regularly changing gloves, like baking and decorating cakes, polyethylene gloves are useful to have as well.
Industrial kitchens: Working in an industrial kitchen involves a range of high- and low-risk tasks, from chopping meat to preparing sauces. Nitrile gloves tend to be the safest option when using knives due to their puncture-resistant nature. Latex or vinyl gloves should suffice for food prep tasks that don’t involve complex knifework. However, workers who primarily clean and wash dishes might consider neoprene gloves.
Buffet lines: Buffet lines can easily spread germs and bacteria, making it vital for workers to wear the right gloves when preparing and serving food. Buffet staff members require gloves with optimal dexterity and touch sensitivity, making vinyl gloves an excellent choice. Single-use gloves that are easy to slip on and off are also necessary for serving ready-to-eat foods, so it’s helpful to have polyethylene gloves available.
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