The Best Dish Towels Every Cook Should Own
Sure, dish towels can an overlooked part of the kitchen—they are made for drying and cleaning up messes after all—but they are a tool that is so present that it's easy to forget how hard they work. From drying dishes and polishing glassware to wiping up melted chocolate and covering a saucepan's hot handle, the right towel for the job can make the practice of cooking easier.
"I take my own towels everywhere I go to cook, and the people I cook with make fun of me because I have so many and I'm so into it," says Carrie Morey, cookbook author and founder of Callie's Hot Little Biscuit. "The right towel is so useful, and I always have a few on hand."
But not all towels are created equal. Through years of experience and expert consultation, we've learned that 100 percent cotton or linen is best for durability, design, and absorbance, and from there, it's all about weave, size, and plenty of hot water for laundering. Ahead are the best kitchen towels with which to outfit your cooking space, whether you're braising a leg of lamb or just washing up the wine glasses.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Coyuchi Organic Waffle Kitchen Towels
- Best for Big Messes: William-Sonoma Bar Mop Towels
- Best Value: Utopia Towels Cotton Dish Towels
- Best Flour Sack: Zeppoli Flour Sack Towels
- Best Two-Sided: All-Clad Textiles Kitchen Towel
- Best Linen: Laguna Linen Kitchen Towel
- Best Printed: Blue Q Printed Dish Towels
Best Overall: Coyuchi Organic Waffle Kitchen Towels
Best for Big Messes: William-Sonoma Bar Mop Towels
Best Value: Utopia Towels Cotton Dish Towels
Best Flour Sack: Zeppoli 12-Pack Flour Sack Towels
Best Two-Sided: All-Clad Textiles Kitchen Towel
Best Linen: Weston Table Laguna Linen Kitchen Towel
Best Mix of Fun and Function: Blue Q Printed Dish Towels
While kitchen towels might seem like a small detail in the kitchen, the right one can make an oversized contribution to a cooking experience. Experts agree that an absorbent towel that dries fast and is easily laundered is ideal, so the Coyuchi Organic Waffle Kitchen Towels are our overall pick. However, don't stop with just one towel. Having a few close at hand will keep mess to a minimum and can enhance the efficiency and skill of your kitchen work.
Factors to Consider
As a rule, slightly smaller towels are more functional in the kitchen, whereas those running 28 to 30 inches or more are for drying or display. Ideally, your kitchen will have a combination of both, with the bar towel the smallest but the most capable of tackling big messes.
This is the key factor in determining the usefulness of a towel. Terry cloth or waffle weave will be the most absorbent, followed by the traditional blue stripe towel with a soft, textured weave. Although some printed towels are on terry cloth, most are on flat cotton, as the print will last longer than on looped fibers. And finally, although some might like microfiber, Morey does not. It might be highly absorbent, but is made from synthetic materials and can require special laundering.
While color and print are definitely important, there are considerations beyond just the aesthetic. Some cooks prefer a loop on the corner for hanging on a hook, while others don't. No matter your preference, choose towels that are hemmed around the edges, as this will significantly increase its lifespan, especially with continued laundering.
Pro Panel Q+A
Q: What is the best way to launder a kitchen towel?
A: Frequently and with hot water, says Morey. "We go through five to ten a day, so at the end of the night, they all go into the laundry room. I throw them in with my regular laundry, and as long as I'm using hot water, they come out great."
Many cooks make the mistake of not washing a towel often enough—especially a display one hung over the oven door handle—so even after laundering, cooking smells can remain. Our recommendation is every time you cook, wash the towels in the kitchen, even if you've just used them to wipe wet hands.
Q: How many do you need?
A: This will depend on how often you cook and how big your kitchen is, but we recommend having at least two on hand each time you cook. Morey asserts that more is better. She keeps a towel at various stations in her kitchen: by the stove, next to the cutting board, and at the sink. That way, there's always one within reach.
Stephanie Burt is the host and producer of The Southern Fork podcast and a food and travel writer based in Charleston, SC. She is a frequent contributor for Saveur and her work has appeared in numerous other publications, including Washington Post, Southern Living, Conde Nast Traveler, and here at Food & Wine. She has experience in both professional kitchens and front of house and is an avid home cook who also likes to sew, so she knows a good bit about fabric and the messes you can make in a kitchen.
For this piece, our team consulted Carey Morey, founder of Callie's Hot Little Biscuit, an iconic Southern brand with national retail exposure, four grab-and-go eateries in Charleston, Atlanta, and Charlotte, and a food truck. She is also an accomplished cook and the author of Callie's Biscuits and Southern Traditions and Hot Little Suppers, and she stars in the PBS docu-series, How She Rolls. We tapped into their own experience before scouring the market and considering recommendations from competitor sites.