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How to Use a Wire Whisk
If you are a relatively new baker then you may not know how to use a wire whisk or even that more than one type exist.
Wire whisks are utensils made up of a looped wires attached to a handle. The wires allow you to mix ingredients together quickly as well as incorporating a large volume of air into them. The whisk looks a lot like the beaters on a hand mixer but the results will be much lighter and fluffier.
The way a whisk works is by creating a vacuum. When the whisk is moved through the liquid it creates a vacuum behind each wire. Air fills the vacuum and is then incorporated into the liquid. The more wires a whisk has the more vacuums are created and therefore the better the whisk is for creating foam and volume.
Slideshow of Popular Whisk TypesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Types of Whisks
There are many types of whisks. Each has a slightly different use. Some of these include:
Ball whisk – has small balls on the end of wires that are not looped. This design helps you whisk small amounts quickly and efficiently.
Balloon whisk – helps to get large amounts of air into a substance like egg whites.
Beverage whisk – is a tiny whisk that enables you to mix beverages in the cup.
Coil whisk – also called a churn whisk, this allows you to beat small amounts in cups with an up and down motion.
Dough whisk – allows you to whisk heavy doughs prior to kneading.
Flat whisk – is used for making roux and other sauces made in a shallow pan.
French whisk – a long oval whisk with a variety of uses.
Thermometer whisk – has a thermometer built in to allow you to monitor the temperature of the food you are working with. This type is very helpful when working with custards and sauces.
Whisk with Ball – has a ball on the inside which helps when whipping cream.
History of the Whisk
Food historians believe that the whisk developed in medieval times in the kitchens of the wealthy. Cooks found that using bundled twigs helped them to stir mixtures quickly and allowed them to get better results from egg whites and cream than a spoon.
While the whisk was popular in European kitchens it was a tool largely unknown to Americans until Julia Child introduced it in her cooking show in the 1960s. Since that time they have been a staple in the American kitchen.
SInce the mid 1960s the whisk has become an increasingly popular item in the modern kitchen. Cooks chose from several sizes, shapes, and even materials. Be careful of the silicon coated whisks as when they get old they can shed silicon pieces into your mixture.
A whisk that is over 6 inches is usually called a whip but many people will use that term interchangeably. Whether you are using a whisk or a whip the technique is the same. The whip would be used for a larger amount of liquid in a bigger bowl but would be held and moved in the same way as a whisk.
How to Use a Whisk
The whisk is used by holding it comfortably in the hand and using a small, smooth stroke which originates at the elbow. The whisk should barely be lifted from the mixture and the rhythm should be steady. As the volume of the mixture increases, the size and speed of the strokes should increase as well.
If you are whisking egg whites you will get the best volume if you use a copper bowl and allow the egg whites to come to room temperature. The copper reacts with the egg whites and helps stabilize them as well.
Using a wire whisk is easy and results in higher, lighter cakes and other baked goods. With a little practice it is a technique that almost anyone can master.