Chain Mail Scrubbers

Published July 1, 2016. From Cook's Illustrated.
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Overview:

The Knapp Made Classic CM Scrubber, a 4 by 4-inch square of interlinked stainless-steel rings (the “CM” stands for “chain mail”) that sells for $14.99, makes easy work of cleaning stuck-on food out of cast-iron pans. Recently, Knapp Made released a new model, the Small Ring CM Scrubber ($19.98), that is larger overall (it’s about 5 by 5 inches) and has smaller, thinner rings. To see which scrubber was better, we put the two models to the test, cleaning up a range of messes not only on plain cast iron but also on dark enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and heat-resistant glass—all types of cookware that the manufacturer claims the scrubbers can handle.

The good news is that both scrubbers did a stellar job of removing gunk from all of the pans. The bad news is that they both scratched and damaged the enameled and stainless-steel pans—we don’t recommend that you use either scrubber on those types of pans. But if you stick with plain cast iron and Pyrex, these scrubbers work very well for big messes.

Which is better? We prefer… read more

The Knapp Made Classic CM Scrubber, a 4 by 4-inch square of interlinked stainless-steel rings (the “CM” stands for “chain mail”) that sells for $14.99, makes easy work of cleaning stuck-on food out of cast-iron pans. Recently, Knapp Made released a new model, the Small Ring CM Scrubber ($19.98), that is larger overall (it’s about 5 by 5 inches) and has smaller, thinner rings. To see which scrubber was better, we put the two models to the test, cleaning up a range of messes not only on plain cast iron but also on dark enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and heat-resistant glass—all types of cookware that the manufacturer claims the scrubbers can handle.

The good news is that both scrubbers did a stellar job of removing gunk from all of the pans. The bad news is that they both scratched and damaged the enameled and stainless-steel pans—we don’t recommend that you use either scrubber on those types of pans. But if you stick with plain cast iron and Pyrex, these scrubbers work very well for big messes.

Which is better? We prefer the newer scrubber to the original by a hair. Because of its larger size, the Small Ring CM Scrubber was easier to handle and covered more territory more quickly than the original, taking between 10 seconds and 2 minutes less to clean the same kinds of messes. And its smaller, narrower rings made it more agile and better at maneuvering around corners and detailing hard-to-access areas (like the grooves of our grill pan). These scrubbers are metal, so go easy—if you use excessive force, you can strip the seasoning from cast-iron pans and even scratch their surface.

Methodology:

We tested two chain mail scrubbers, priced at about $15 and about $20, evaluating their performance in cleaning dirty pans made of plain cast iron, enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and Pyrex. The scrubbers were purchased online and are listed in order of preference.

PERFORMANCE: We cooked a pound of bacon in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, scrambled eggs in an enameled cast-iron skillet, cooked hamburgers on an enameled cast-iron grill pan, burned teriyaki sauce in a stainless-steel skillet, and slow-cooked lasagna in a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish. Then we timed how long it took to clean each piece of cookware with each scrubber. We gave more points to the scrubber that took less time to clean up all the different messes.

MANEUVERABILITY: We evaluated how easily the scrubbers scoured the sides, corners, and grooves of the different pans in each of the cleaning tests. We awarded more points to the more agile scrubber.

CLEANUP: Between cleaning sessions, we cleaned the scrubbers themselves by hand, using 140-degree water and a teaspoon of our favorite dish soap, and timed how long it took to remove any trapped or melted food particles from the scrubbers. We gave more points to the scrubber that was easier to clean by hand.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Recommended - Winner

    Knapp Made Small Ring CM Scrubber

    The Small Ring Scrubber effortlessly removed cooked-on bacon and hamburger from cast iron and lasagna from our 13 by 9-inch baking dish. This scrubber’s larger size allowed it to cover more area efficiently, and we especially appreciated its fine rings, which scoured narrow grill pan grooves with ease. The smaller rings did, however, make this scrubber harder to clean. We don’t recommend using either scrubber on enamelware or stainless steel.

    • Cleanup ★★
    • Performance ★★★
    • Maneuverability ★★★

    $19.98

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • CM Scrubber

    Recommended

    Knapp Made Classic CM Scrubber

    While it may take you just a touch longer to use, our smaller old favorite still scours cast iron and glassware very well, easily lifting off rough patches of bacon, hamburger meat, or sticky sauce. Its larger rings had a harder time getting into tight corners and grill pan grooves but were slightly easier to clean when food got stuck on them.

    • Cleanup ★★½
    • Performance ★★
    • Maneuverability ★★½

    $14.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.
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