On Instagram, black-gloved hands pull apart a stuffed chocolate cookie until it’s held together by only sticky tendrils of marshmallow. On TikTok, they heap cheese, meat, and eggs into a loaf of bread as the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” plays in the background, resulting in a video that’s been watched nearly 9 million times.
Although he hit viral status bare-handed, Nusret Gökçe of “Salt Bae” fame is now often seen in a pair of black gloves as he massages meat and dangles sabers of steak into women’s waiting mouths. To that end, many black-glove cooking videos have oddly seductive overtones: At its most ridiculous extreme, a creator glazes lemon pepper wings with a honey pack in a video set to Usher’s “Nice & Slow”; these honey packs have earned an FDA warning because they contain tadalafil, an active ingredient in medication used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Love them or hate them, it is now impossible to scroll through food videos online without seeing a pair of black gloves — like an evolution of the “hands and pans” filming style popularized by BuzzFeed Tasty, which became highly imitated and, for some, annoyingly unavoidable.
For some people, the appearance of black gloves in a cooking video signifies that the food will be good; they’re often paired with the kind of indulgent dishes that succeed on social media, featuring big cheese pulls, overflowing cream sauces, or hunks of meat dripping with juice. For others then, black gloves complete the package of the showy social media cook who traffics in engagement bait but not necessarily good food.
There are practical reasons why a cook might want to wear gloves, even at home. Gloves can simplify cleanup while making messy meals, prevent skin problems from cutting hot peppers or squash, or offer a buffer between one’s hands and an off-putting texture. They can help a baker avoid leaving fingerprints on shiny chocolate and create a helpful barrier between warm hands and cold butter.
There are also the content considerations. Meat-centric cooks seem especially drawn to black gloves, and in a video explaining this trend, YouTuber Internet Shaquille explains that gloves make it easier to avoid cross-contaminating camera gear without constant handwashing. Likely for this reason, some cooking stars seem to use gloves only while working with meat. This can be idiosyncratic: Nick DiGiovanni, a chef with 9.4 million TikTok followers, uses black gloves while breaking down a black cod, manhandling a hunk of brisket, and even while squeezing a fried mozzarella ball, but not while cooking a wagyu filet mignon.
Why black? “People just like the vibe — it makes you kind of mysterious,” says Moyin Odeniran, a cake baker who posts on TikTok as @mrdesserts. He doesn’t often wear gloves in videos, but when he does (to prevent fingerprints on chocolate, for example), black is the only option. Black gloves are largely an aesthetic choice, more evocative of, say, a tattoo studio than a blue or white glove. “You don’t want to give off [an] ‘open heart surgery’ vibe while slicing a brisket,” one person commented on r/BBQ. “Black just looks more badass.”
In this way, the black glove, especially with its macho meat associations, can take on a chef bro vibe, akin to the archetypal forearm knife tattoo. It’s not only men opting into the trend though; Alina Prokuda, with 2.4 million followers on TikTok, wears a pair in all of her cooking videos.
Black gloves offer another filming-specific benefit. “A lot of foods are orange, brown, pink if you’re doing salmon, so those contrast better against black,” says Cory Wilkins, who posts videos as @blackguyscook. “The attention of the viewer stays on the food.” This may have to do with why DiGiovanni, for example, opts for white gloves while filming with black uni. And indeed, in that clip of the marshmallow-stuffed cookie being torn apart, the black gloves — though jarring at first — soon sink into the background.
Viewers have mixed feelings on whether or not gloves of any color should appear in cooking videos in the first place. On one side is the pro-glove contingent. If the “recipe!?” reply guy is the scourge of recipe developers and other people who post food photos, the “gloves” commenter is his similarly annoying friend, bothering people who cook or bake in videos bare-handed. These kinds of comments appear in a video in which a chef assembles a soft serve dessert. “Am I the only one kinda grossed out that they’re using their bare hands not gloves to put the toppings on?” one person wrote. “GLOVES,” wrote another.
The uncanny thing here is that the food in these videos exists primarily for being seen in the video; it’s not being eaten, touched, or tasted by the viewer, who probably prepares their own food without gloves at home. Some creators might just wear gloves to avoid these comments entirely.
Odeniran, who also sells his cakes in London, says he generally gets comments about gloves only when a video of his goes viral. His guess is that this trajectory brings those videos to the feeds of people who might not know as much about food preparation. That glove-wearing indicates better hygiene than bare hands is a popular myth. Glove use can, instead, “create a false sense of security,” a 2010 study in the Journal of Food Protection concluded. Used to wearing gloves, people might forget to change them between tasks, or they might wash their hands less frequently. “I don’t know why someone who’s not ordering a cake will take an issue, because the customers are completely fine with it,” Odeniran says.
That sense of incongruousness seems to be part of why an equally vocal contingent either hates seeing this phenomenon, or is, at the very least, mystified by the logic: If you’re making food that no one but you will eat, what is the point of wearing gloves in a video? Why bother with the theatrics — other than to establish a particular, of-the-moment image? For some viewers, the addition of gloves adds an off-putting barrier between them and something they’d otherwise desire. “I don’t know why, but it makes the food and the process so much less appetizing to me,” wrote one Redditor.
Ultimately, gloves, or a lack thereof, become something for viewers to notice and then comment on. They’re like the TikTok art teacher who intentionally misidentifies pop culture characters in his videos, spurring people to leave comments correcting him. Complaints and squabbles feed into a social media cycle that, however cynically, brings attention and views to creators.
“It shouldn’t really matter if the person’s wearing gloves or not since they’re not serving that food to [viewers], but people like to comment,” says Wilkins. “I mean, sometimes it is good for engagement.”