To most people, the whisk is simply a standard piece of kitchen equipment. For some, the whisk represents afternoons spent baking in Grandma’s kitchen or the joy of making a homemade birthday cake for a loved one.
Even if you are not an experienced baker or chef, you probably have a whisk in your kitchen–but you might have no idea what kind of whisk you own. If you are not a professional in the kitchen, you might find the number of whisks available overwhelming. Whisks come in all sorts of materials, shapes, and sizes. Each whisk serves a purpose. Not sure what kind of whisk you need? This guide will help you figure out which option is best for your next project.
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The balloon whisk, sometimes called a piano whisk, has very thin metal wires that culminate in a shape resembling a light bulb. Balloon whisks tend to be very wide on the bulb end, creating a lot of empty space in the middle of the wires. Flexible wires give you leeway to work with very thin liquids, and the springy nature of the wires help create movement as you mix ingredients. If you are not a professional chef or baker, the balloon whisk is likely the tool you have in your kitchen because its shape works with standard mixing bowls.
The main purpose of the balloon whisk is to introduce more air into the mixture as you beat it. You are not simply stirring your ingredients. Since balloon whisks are not equipped for every kind of task, so you might buy a thinner version, which is simply called a skinny balloon whisk.
If you are mixing egg whites or heavy whipping cream, you should use a balloon whisk. These whisks are also great for making meringue or mixing dry ingredients you would otherwise sift. You should not use a balloon whisk when you are stirring heavy liquids, like waffle batter or a creamy sauce. In many cases, balloon whisks are too large to get the job done.
The French whisk, sometimes simply called a “whip,” has metal wires that tend to be straighter than those on the balloon whisk. French whisks are less bulbous and stiffer in composition too. Sometimes, French whisks have fewer wires than the standard balloon whisk. You’ll find French whisks of varying lengths that help you create delicious dishes no matter the size of the bowl or cookware you are working with. The tapered bulb and thin profile mean it can also reach places a balloon whisk might not.
You would typically use a French whisk when you want to stir and smooth out sauces, especially if they are on the heavy side. Don’t try to use the French whisk for those dishes that require you to infuse air into them, like meringues. They do not act as quickly as the balloon whisk, so it’s simply not as effective for those purposes. Instead, use the French whisk for salad dressings, sauces, emulsions, custards, and batter. Their thick wires and thin frame make them the perfect tools for these dishes.
Flat whisks live up to their name. All the wires lie flat, sort of creating a spoon rather than a bulb. Of course, these whisks still use multiple wires that create a lateral curve. These whisks are perfectly shaped so that you can use them to scoop up larger food items, like poached eggs or fish.
You would use the flat whisk when you are making a roux or bechamel. When you add flour to your roux, you need to mix the ingredients thoroughly, creating a smooth sauce. With a rounded whisk, you will struggle to reach the edges and corners of the pan. You’ll be able to scrape flour out of every nook and cranny, preventing your roux from burning or becoming uneven. You can also use a flat whisk to deglaze your pan, as long as the wires are not too thin or flexible.
Ball whisks, also known as kettle whisks, have straight wires that never curve back to the handle. Each wire ends with a small ball that acts as an aerator. While ball whisks look much different from balloon whisks, they act in a very similar way by whipping air into mixtures. The handles are quite long, allowing for more freedom of motion as you mix your ingredients in a stockpot or kettle. Plus, they provide the benefit of keeping your hands away from heat sources, like stovetops. You will also notice that a ball whisk is easier to clean than a balloon whisk.
If you have a ball or kettle whisk, you should use it when you cook soups and certain sauces. The balls at the end are also great for mixing up eggs and even sifting dry ingredients together.
The coil whisk sometimes referred to as a spring whisk, is not very common. Regardless of its rare appearance in the kitchen, the coil whisk serves a unique purpose. While it is flat on the bottom, the wires coil up into a small bulb. The coil whisk is a great choice for breaking apart ingredients that tend to gain lumps, and it comes in different sizes to help you mix items in a cup or bowl of any shape.
Coil whisks are great options for cooking gravy, but the most useful time to use this whisk is when you are making something in a small cup. For example, you might have a powder hot chocolate mix in a mug with milk. To prevent the powder from clumping up, you would use a coil whisk. You can also use the coil in a Mason jar.
The mini bar whisk does not have many uses, but it can make a significant difference when you do use it. This whisk is small enough to fit into most cocktail drink cups, and it is also easily stored behind the bar. The whisks are thin, and the end is bulbous like a balloon whisk. The size and shape of the whisk help create a frothy texture.
This whisk is typically designated for whipping egg whites at a bar. Egg whites are typically used in cocktails to create a small lift in the drink. Champagne flips and gin fizzes are just to examples of the drinks that commonly use whisked egg whites.
One of the most specialized whisks is the dough whisk, which is made out of one thick wire that loops around itself. The profile of the whisk is flat, and the wires make up two loops, one larger than the other. The design may appear strange on the surface, but it serves the purpose of ensuring the baker does not overwork the ingredients. Additionally, the wires are tough enough to scrape out lingering flour pockets and integrate the material with the rest of the mixture.
The dough whisk has one purpose: to blend doughs used to make bread and pastries. Bread dough can be difficult enough to knead and mix, but a dough whisk makes the process simpler. This is the perfect whisk to use with pancakes, waffles, muffins, brownies, and other bread.
The conical whisk is not very common, but you may come across a whip in this distinct shape on occasion. The long wires of this whisk create a wide middle and narrow tip, similar to a diamond shape. This whisk can reach the corner of any pot, bowl, or pan, and the stiff wires work like a spatula or scraper. This whisk is effective at mixing ingredients thoroughly.
You will find twirl whisks at cars and coffee shops. These whisks add a frothy texture to a drink, but they are most commonly used to froth milk for use in a latte. This whisk is not typically used in any other circumstance, so you likely only need this kind of whisk if you intend to create frothy and creamy coffee drinks at home.
The tornado whisk looks like an art piece with its jagged, angular wires. The bottom of the wires creates a flat surface you can use in a sauce or sauté pan. The tornado whisk is also often non-stick and silicone, so you may want to use it if you have cookware you do not want to damage with metal.
You will use the tornado whisk for many of the same reasons you would use a flat whisk. For example, this is a great option to create a roux or another sauce.
A spiral whisk has one loop, a singular wire that is looped by a series of coils. The whisk sits at an angle, so you will feel it resting on the bottom of your pan as you mix ingredients. This whisk serves the purpose of preventing your ingredients from burning because they have been sitting at the bottom of the pan for too long. The series of coils help break up dry ingredients to create a smooth dish. The small, flat size is also a great option for those times when a balloon whisk is too big for the job.
The spiral whisk is perfect for making a roux, salad dressings, sauces, vinaigrettes, and gravies. Some people prefer this whisk to mix drinks in long cups because of the flat edges as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Even after this, you may have some questions about whisks. These are some other things you need to know.
What Kind of Whisk Should the Average Cook Have?
If you only cook for your family at home, you may not know what kind of whisk you really need. Essentially, you really need only two basic whisks: a balloon whisk and a flat whisk. With these whisks, you will be able to cook baked goods, sauces, roux, and gravies. You will also be able to cook thin liquids and mix dry ingredients.
What Kind of Handle Should Your Whisks Have?
The handle of the whisk can come in metal, wood, and other materials. Metal handles can feel uncomfortable if you have to hold them for long periods of time, so you may prefer a handle with silicone or wood. The handle should also be long enough so that you will not burn your hands while you are whisking materials like roux over a hot pan.
Why Is a Whisk Better Than a Spoon?
Whisks do more than a spoon can. They do more than mix ingredients. Whisks also add air to the ingredients using the different wires and quick hands.
Can Metal Whisks Damage Your Cookware?
Metal whisks can damage non-stick cookware. For this reason, you may prefer whisks with silicone, rubber, plastic, or wood components. If you do most of your mixing in bowls, a metal whisk will do just fine. Wire whisks are more flexible and more study than other materials, but this does not mean that you will not find other good qualities in whisks of different materials. For example, non-stick whisks are easier to clean than metal whisks.