© Denzil Green
A whisk is a kitchen tool using for blending, whipping, incorporating air and eliminating lumps in food.
Most whisks are hand-held and hand-powered, though some mechanical and electronic versions are available.
Once seen in North America as something just for people who also have embossed personal stationery, whisks are now dead cheap, and available even in discount stores. Many people have a collection of them in different shapes and sizes.
Whisks can be made of metal, nylon plastic, wood or bamboo. Wooden ones break easily. Nylon whisks are quite flimsy and don't have a lot of whisking power. Silicone-coated wire whisks are better. Better quality metal whisks have the handle sealed at both ends.
Not all types of whisks are dishwasher safe. Check before you buy if this is important to you.
It's best not to risk using metal ones in non-stick pots or pans, as you may damage the non-stick surface of your pot. This is when nylon whisks, despite not having a lot of oomph, are useful.
The nomenclature of whisks can be confusing, and often English will use the same term for different ones. French terminology has the same problem. Note that in English at least two very different whisks are referred to as a "French Whisk", whereas as in French, as you'd expect, there is no such thing as a whisk called a "French Whisk."
Sauce Whisks (aka French Whisks)
Classic French Whisk
- © Denzil Green
Sauce Whisks are the ones that everyone thinks of first when they think of whisks.
They have curved tines joined at the handle, and are teardrop shaped.
They look similar to Balloon Whisks, but are for heavier-duty beating.
You can use these for heavy sauces and medium-heavy batters, but not doughs. They are excellent at eliminating lumps and introducing some air.
Sometimes called in English a "French Whisk." The French call this whisk a "fouet à sauce."
Balloon Whisks (aka Piano Whisks)
These have many wires to form a balloon-shaped cage of tines.
The tines are further apart and thinner than for a Sauce Whisk.
They are good for whipping egg whites and anything light in which the emphasis is to introduce a great deal of air.
These whisks have straight tines that are joined at the handle, but not at the other end. Instead, at their ends, they have small metal balls.
They are good for whipping egg whites and cream.
Fans swear that they do the job faster and easier.
The French call this whisk a "fouet eclair avec billes."
Bedspring Coil Whisks (aka Churn Beaters, Twirl Whisk, Coil Whips)
Bedspring Coil Whisk
- © Denzil Green
Bedspring Coil Whisks are used in small bowls.
Rather than making the traditional whisking motions, you just press up and down on the whisk, or twirl the handle between the palms of your hands.
They are also fabulous for making gravy in roasting pans, as they can scrape the bottom of the pan well.
Very good for blending; not great at whipping.
Many people are suspicious of this whisk shape at first, but after they've tried it, swear that you will pry it only out of their cold, dead hands. They can save tired or sore arms or wrists a lot of pain if you just use the up and down motion on them.
Sometimes confusingly called in English a "French Whisk." The French call this whisk a "fouet à spirale."
These are made of fine, stiff birch twigs bundled together. Sometimes the wood may be a wood other than birch.
Very flexible and good for light sauces, such as Béchamel or gravy. Won't scratch non-stick pans.
Not good for heavier work.
Not dishwasher safe.
Coiled Whisks (aka Spiral Whisks)
- © Denzil Green
Coiled Whisks are shaped like a hollowed-out spoon.
They consist of a rounded bar, open in the middle, with a single spring coil around the bar.
They are good for small amounts of liquid in small vessels, in which a larger sauce whisk either wouldn't fit, or would be overkill for the amount of liquid being beaten.
The French call this whisk a "cuillère mini-fouet" (and sometimes, a "fouet à spirale.")
Flat Whisks (aka Roux Whisks, Pan Whisks)
Flat Whisks look somewhat like a flipper. The shape lets you get right into the sides and bottom of a pot.
Fans swear by them for any sauce being made in a low pot, including gravy.
You can also use them to lift poached eggs out of water.
Whisks only really became known in North America through Julia Child.
Literature & Lore
WhisksChasen; Danish Bread Whisk; Molinillo Chocolatero; Whisks
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