Recently a friend who knows I actually care about stuff like this asked me what's the deal with non-absorbent dish towels. And it's true: A lot of dish towels these days, especially the cute ones, silkscreened with all manner of farm animals and foods, just don't absorb well. But when you cook a lot, it's essential to have plenty of absorbent towels at hand...
I've got my own opinion, but for diplomacy's sake I asked around and came up with a few other options for unglamorous but highly functional kitchen towels. Here they are:
• 1 My husband, who used to cook professionally, swears by these Ritz bar towels, which can be found by the hundreds in restaurant kitchens. They're terrycloth workhorses. $9.95 for a set of 5 at Cooking.com.
• 2 My personal favorite: Williams-Sonoma's Striped Towels. The waffle weave makes these both absorbent and durable. Yes, they're a bit more expensive than some of these other options, but you won't need to buy new towels for years; they'll transition nicely into rags when they're too ratty for the kitchen. $18 for a set of four.
• 3 If you want a simple workhorse but don't care for the feel of terrycloth, Crate and Barrel stocks a decent floursack dishtowel. They're good-sized, too, at 32" by 38". $9.95 for a set of three.
• 4 Microfiber towels are crazy-absorbent; for an economical option, try Costco's 20-pack for $28.99. (I hear certain Costco stores also carry basic bar towels and floursack towels.)
• 5 A friend is a devotee of these striped towels from Chefs Catalog. Like the Williams-Sonoma towels, they're basket-weave, but they're a bit more affordable, and the solid colors are festive. $12.99 for a set of three.
In general, here are some rules to live (and shop) by if you're looking for dish towels that absorb water well:
• Go cotton instead of linen. Linen tea towels are pretty hanging on a kitchen hook, but they don't do the job nearly as well as cotton towels.
• Look for a waffle or basket weave. Personally, I don't care for terrycloth towels in the kitchen, and a woven towel is the next best thing for absorbency.
• Wash your dish towels a few times before using them. This may seem wasteful, but it will help.
Got a favorite super-absorbent dish towel? Feel free to weigh in below!