Some whisk-y business
I am a recent convert to whisks. Until my mid-20s, I pretty much didn't believe that you needed a whisk. Anything that needed combining you could pretty much do with a fork, right? It turns out that I'm not the only one to think so. For much of the last century, whisks weren't particularly popular in American kitchens—we preferred an eggbeater that you can turn with a crank or a fork—until Julia Child reintroduced the implement in the 1960s. Over the years, I've grudgingly accepted that whisks are convenient, and even necessary for lots of recipes.
But I had whisk envy. I had a standard model French whisk, but the world of whisks is vast. There are double balloon whisks, egg whisks, coil whisks, ball whisks, and cage whisks. There are flat whisks and dough whisks! Was I missing out? Are these innovations in whisk shape and technology really worth shelling out a few extra bucks for? I had to find out.
The good folks at Kuhn-Rikon sent over a box full of their whisks, including a silicone whisk, a French whisk, a balloon whisk, a flat whisk, and a double balloon whisk (ooOOoooo). We also picked up a few other novelty models off the internet. I employed the whisking techniques of our culinary editor Rebecca Firsker and measured them against each other. We used each whisk to whip half a cup of cream and timed how long it took to get stiff peaks. We also measured how long it took to whisk together a raw egg so that it was fully combined, as you would make scrambled eggs.
The good news is no matter what whisk you use, or even just a plan fork (yes, Rebecca made whipped cream with a fork, she has biceps for days), the ingredients will come together. But to save some time you might want to invest in a new model.
The Best Novelty Whisk
Of all the unusually shaped whisks we tried—the coil whisk, the egg whisk, the double balloon whisk, and the cage whisk—the one that consistently handled the best was the ball whisk, a whisk that looks a little bit like a head massager. Rather than having loops of wire, all the ends of the wires are tipped with weighted metal balls, which makes it easier to clean than the standard whisk. We also found that it whipped cream the second fastest of all the whisk designs, and that it handled pretty well. It made quick work of the eggs, too—the egg yolk and white were combined in 12 seconds.
The Best Overall Whisk
The whisk to beat wasn't one of the new-fangled designs. A regular old balloon whisk performed the best in both of our tests. Using the balloon whisk, Rebecca turned cream into whipped cream in a minute and twenty-seven seconds, fully ten seconds faster than any other model. The egg was fully incoproated in 10 seconds. That's good news because finding a quality balloon whisk isn't hard at all—you can pick one up for well under ten dollars, and it will serve most of your whisking needs.
The Worst Whisks
This, for me, was a tie between the non-stick whisk and the egg whisk. You see, I will let you in on a secret: Non-stick whisks are garbage. They are a lie. You don't need one and if you own one it will only make you sad and deprive you of the satisfying whisking sounds that you make when you whip cream in a bowl. Plus it takes twice as long for some reason. It was a bad whisk.
But the worst whisk of all is an egg whisk we purchased off Amazon that looks like a collection of safety pins conspired to make a culinary implement. I have seen similar models called a butterfly whisk, but no matter: Avoid this whisk and all whisks that look like it. Technically it worked, but it was awful to use and took a full minute longer to whip cream than the fastest whisk, and even took about 45 seconds to fully combine an egg. No good, this whisk. Whisk it away.
A caveat to this list: There are whisks we tried to whip cream with that were clearly meant for different purposes. The flat whisk, for example, was only OK at whipping cream, but would probably be awesome when you're making a roux. Does that mean you need to go buy one? Probably not, unless you're making a whole lot of gravy. Otherwise, a balloon whisk is probably still your best bet. And yes, it's better than a fork.