Are You Using the Right Whisk for the Job?

Whisks have come a long way since the 1700s, when bundles of twigs from fruit trees were used to mix ingredients and to help blend a hint of apple or peach into food. The modern-day wire whisk was invented in the 19th century and reached its height in popularity when Julia Child dazzled home cooks everywhere with her whisking techniques to make billowy egg whites, creamy garlic aioli and mile-high fresh whipped cream. As she showed millions of TV viewers, whisking requires just a little muscle power and no electricity.

In addition to wire, whisks may be made of bamboo, wood, plastic or silicone. Different shapes and sizes also are available, depending on the foods being prepared.

Whisking 101

In almost all cases, a metal wire whisk is the most durable and provides the most power. One exception: Use a nylon or silicone whisk on nonstick cookware to prevent damage to the coating. For recipes that require whisking a large amount of air into liquids, such as whipped cream, use a large mixing bowl to allow ingredients to expand.

When whisking liquids, start slowly, moving from side to side to avoid splatter. Beat more vigorously as the mixture thickens. Although whisks typically are used with liquid ingredients, they also are effective in mixing dry ingredients. Unless the resulting batter is supposed to have a thin consistency, combining wet and dry ingredients with a whisk may be tricky; for thicker batters and dough, opt for a mixing spoon or electric mixer. An exception is a dough whisk, which is flat with a semi-heart-shaped appearance, suitable for mixing stiff doughs.

Which Whisk?

Choose a whisk depending on a recipe’s needs. A French wire whisk, the most common and versatile type, works well for incorporating lots of air into egg whites and whipping cream, as does a “balloon” or “piano” whisk, which is shaped like a hot air balloon cage. Muscle power is required with these whisks; to avoid fatigue or soreness, switch hands periodically.

For sauces, mayonnaise and gravies, use either a French whisk or a “sauce” whisk, which is particularly useful for deglazing a pan. Flat with three to four wires bent into a “U” shape, it also may be called as a roux, flat or gravy whisk.

Other types include vinaigrette whisks, which have a coil-wrapped “U” shape at one end and are good for emulsifying ingredients; ball whisks, which have multiple straight wires with tiny metal balls attached at the ends for getting around the edges of a pan; twirl whisks, which are shaped like the coils in a bedspring and are ideal for foaming hot beverages or making pan gravies; and spiral or coiled whisks, which are shaped like a teardrop with a telephone cord-type coil for whisking small amounts of liquid in a little container.

Think of “whisking time” as a way to flex some muscles and to slow down, enjoy being in the kitchen and have fun — just like Julia would.

EA Stewart, MBA, RDN, is the owner of Spicy RD Nutrition, a nutrition coaching and communications business in San Diego. She is a Stone Soup blogger and author of eastewart.com.
 

Whisks have come a long way since the 1700s, when bundles of twigs from fruit trees were used to mix ingredients and to help blend a hint of apple or peach into food. The modern-day wire whisk was invented in the 19th century and reached its height in popularity when Julia Child dazzled home cooks everywhere with her whisking techniques to make billowy egg whites, creamy garlic aioli and mile-high fresh whipped cream. As she showed millions of TV viewers, whisking requires just a little muscle power and no electricity.

In addition to wire, whisks may be made of bamboo, wood, plastic or silicone. Different shapes and sizes also are available, depending on the foods being prepared.

Whisking 101

In almost all cases, a metal wire whisk is the most durable and provides the most power. One exception: Use a nylon or silicone whisk on nonstick cookware to prevent damage to the coating. For recipes that require whisking a large amount of air into liquids, such as whipped cream, use a large mixing bowl to allow ingredients to expand.

When whisking liquids, start slowly, moving from side to side to avoid splatter. Beat more vigorously as the mixture thickens. Although whisks typically are used with liquid ingredients, they also are effective in mixing dry ingredients. Unless the resulting batter is supposed to have a thin consistency, combining wet and dry ingredients with a whisk may be tricky; for thicker batters and dough, opt for a mixing spoon or electric mixer. An exception is a dough whisk, which is flat with a semi-heart-shaped appearance, suitable for mixing stiff doughs.

Which Whisk?

Choose a whisk depending on a recipe’s needs. A French wire whisk, the most common and versatile type, works well for incorporating lots of air into egg whites and whipping cream, as does a “balloon” or “piano” whisk, which is shaped like a hot air balloon cage. Muscle power is required with these whisks; to avoid fatigue or soreness, switch hands periodically.

For sauces, mayonnaise and gravies, use either a French whisk or a “sauce” whisk, which is particularly useful for deglazing a pan. Flat with three to four wires bent into a “U” shape, it also may be called as a roux, flat or gravy whisk.

Other types include vinaigrette whisks, which have a coil-wrapped “U” shape at one end and are good for emulsifying ingredients; ball whisks, which have multiple straight wires with tiny metal balls attached at the ends for getting around the edges of a pan; twirl whisks, which are shaped like the coils in a bedspring and are ideal for foaming hot beverages or making pan gravies; and spiral or coiled whisks, which are shaped like a teardrop with a telephone cord-type coil for whisking small amounts of liquid in a little container.

Think of “whisking time” as a way to flex some muscles and to slow down, enjoy being in the kitchen and have fun — just like Julia would.

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EA Stewart
EA Stewart, MBA, RD, is a registered dietitian and nutritionist specializing in wellness nutrition, weight management, celiac disease and gluten-free, FODMAPs diet therapy, and LEAP food sensitivity testing. Read her blog, The Spicy RD, and follow her on Twitter.