Pot Holder Alternative

By Dana Bowen

Published on December 21, 2007

In our test kitchen, many a pot lid's handle has a wine cork wedged underneath it. What gives? Because cork doesn't conduct heat, it serves as something safe with which to grip hot lids, eliminating the need to hunt for pot holders. Until recently, though, we wondered about the trick's origin. Italy was our best guess, since we knew that the venerable Italian cooking teacher and cookbook author Marcella Hazan (see her recipe for Bagna Cauda) was an advocate of it. But when we asked Marcella's husband, the wine writer Victor Hazan, he laid that theory to rest; he told us they'd picked up the technique from Loni Kuhn, the late, San Francisco-based cooking teacher. Kuhn's son, Stephen, said his mother invented it in the 1970s while using low-slung Calphalon lids,which fit a single cork (higher handles, we found out, require more corks). It's no surprise that Kuhn's friends, like Jim Dodge, the pastry teacher and cookbook author, still call her "the Queen of Corks".

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