Published January 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.
Can these gadgets deliver on their promise to provide all the convenience of Reddi-wip, minus that product's additives and sweeteners?
Whipping heavy cream is no big deal—all that’s required is a whisk or mixer, a chilled bowl, and a few minutes. But what about those occasions when all you need is a dollop for a piece of leftover pie or a mug of cocoa, and you don’t want to make a whole bowl or deal with storing leftover whipped cream, which separates as it sits? Enter cream whippers. These nitrous oxide-charged metal canisters can whip a pint of fresh cream in a matter of seconds or hold the cream for several days in the refrigerator, letting you whip it as needed, with all the convenience of Reddi-wip—minus that supermarket product’s additives and sweeteners. (Between uses, the tip should be removed and washed, but the rest of the cream-filled canister can go back in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, the typical shelf life of pasteurized heavy cream.)
Chargers (sold separately and interchangeable among brands) infuse nitrous oxide into the canister, creating a pressurized environment. The pressure serves to aerate or “whip” the cream as it sprays out of the nozzle. One charge is good for the entire contents of the canister, but once the canister is opened, the charger must be replaced.
We tested four 1-pint models and found that the type of tip, canister shape, and level of control all mattered. With each model, we made between 63 and 67 rosettes (1.5 inches in diameter) before the canister was empty. We found we preferred narrow metal tips that formed neat rosettes as opposed to wider plastic ones that made amorphous ones. Canisters with smaller diameters were easier to hold and squeeze with one hand. Models that dispensed the cream slowly and gently were easier to control, and their tempered strength ensured the piped cream didn’t overwhip and break as it sprayed out of the nozzle.
Unfortunately, you get what you pay for: Flaws were confined to cheaper brands. The best models both featured narrow stainless steel nozzles and piped out smooth, creamy, billowy mounds and perfectly formed rosettes of any size we wanted. In the end, we chose the winner for costing $50 less. While it’s still pricey, the convenience of instant fresh whipped cream makes this reusable device worth the splurge.