Alan Stanwyck: You'll be wearing rubber gloves. Do you own rubber gloves?
Fletch: I rent 'em. I have a lease with an option to buy.
I can’t be alone in this.
The first time you handled a chilli (in my case it was when I still spelled it chile, and the only choice was a jalapeño) you ignored the advice of every expert and did it bare-handed. Then you touched a sensitive extremity – I was lucky that it was my nose – and you swear to use gloves the next time. For a starting cook, without much guidance in those days, rubber gloves meant Playtex yellow gloves. Great for washing up, but not very precise when it comes to close-in knife work.
What the cookbooks were talking about, obvious in hindsight, were latex exam/surgical gloves. Gloves in my limited, mid-70’s restaurant experience were those plastic sandwich gloves which are truly serve no purpose (see, dunsel*). Back in the dark days of the 70’s and 80’s, surgical gloves were not easy to come by. You could find 20 or so in a plastic bag in a drug store, but they were horribly expensive.
They were much cheaper in boxes at surgical or restaurant supply stores, but until very recently that type of place was geared to purchases by businesses rather than by an individual consumer. I can personally attest to different treatment buying first aid supplies at the same establishment based on whether I was wearing an ambulance uniform or not. It wasn’t long ago, after all, that wholesale clubs were via business membership only.
Things have changed, and all except Restaurant Depot (for tax reasons?) are public friendly. Just in time for the next crisis: latex = bad. Because of people with latex allergies, latex gloves are on the outs. The usual substitute, nylon, just doesn’t cut it with me. That “second skin” tactile sensation is just lacking. The better choice, becoming more widely available, is nitrile gloves. While not quite the perfect fit of latex, it will do.
Speaking of fit, size matters – but according to your preference. My first Chef, Dan, had large hands but preferred medium gloves. With my smaller hands I choose large. Whatever your inclination, stick with it. You will soon find that other sizes just feel wrong.
Obviously all of this discussion wouldn’t be necessary if the use of these gloves were limited to working with chillies. Their kitchen (and other household) uses are myriad. Forcemeats like sausage or meat loaf, sticky doughs with gloves floured of moistened, a handful of charcoal on the fire, anything that would benefit from clean hands in a hurry are a job for gloves. Not only can you tear them off in a hurry, but they wash up quicker bare hands.
Let us not forget double-gloving. I learned many lessons about gloves from my time as a professional cook (including the fact that latex and live fire don’t mix). There use – or non-use – in a restaurant kitchen are the topic for another time, but multiple gloves for handling hot food often comes in handy around the house. A double or triple layer of glove is not a substitute for a potholder or side towel, but gloved hands are a better turkey lifter than any kitchen gadget or gizmo.
There is the trick(s), and here is a tip: the best buy for a box of 100 gloves is neither a restaurant or surgical supply store nor a wholesale club, but Harbor Freight Tools. They are on sale there often.
*Dunsel is a term used by midshipmen in the 23rd century to describe a part which serves no useful purpose.