Nonstick whisks are designed to keep delicate cookware scratch-free. In the test kitchen, we often use them when we’re whisking and blending recipes such as pan sauces or roux in a nonstick-coated skillet or enameled Dutch oven. They’re built like traditional wire whisks, but each loop is coated in silicone to be gentler on pans.
The trouble is, badly designed nonstick whisks can feel sluggish—the antithesis of an agile, whippy whisk. We tested eight models, priced from about $7.50 to about $20.00, to find one that blends efficiently; won’t scratch pans; feels natural; and doesn’t cause fatigue, especially when we’re whisking for extended periods. Since we use them over heat, we wanted designs that kept our hands cooler. And because they do hard work, we wanted durable whisks that hold their shape and are easy to clean. Most of the whisks in our lineup were traditionally shaped, but two were innovative. One switched with a twist of a knob at the end of its handle from a flat whisk to a balloon whisk, and another’s spherical head resembles a silicone cage with five wide scraping blades on a long handle.
We put them all through a series of tests, starting with roux. We used each whisk to blend flour into melted butter, and then we gradually added broth while whisking constantly for several minutes to prevent lumps from forming in the roux as it thickened. We did this in both a shallow nonstick skillet and a deeper enameled cast-iron Dutch oven to see how the whisks performed on two different cooking surfaces and at two different angles of approach. Some whisks weren’t able to prevent or break up doughy clumps, while others kept the mixtures smooth by quickly breaking up any lumps that did form. While we didn’t want floppy whisks that couldn’t push food, we also didn’t want stiff whisks that struggled to get into pan corners and couldn’t flex and flatten as needed to optimize contact with the roux mixture; moderately flexible whisks performed best. But there was more to the equation.
As we worked over the hot pans, we came to appreciate longer whisks; the total lengths of the models in our lineup ranged from 10 inches to 12.5 inches. The shortest of these, at just 10 inches long, resulted in intolerably hot hands, even when we held it by the tip of its handle. But we were surprised when we compared that whisk to our front-runner, which kept our hands cooler but was just ½ inch longer. After taking a closer look, we saw that the wire loops of the 10-inch-long whisk were a full ¾ inch shorter than those of the front-runner, so we needed to hold it at a lower angle to engage with food, leaving our hands too close to the heat. Handle design was also a key factor when assessing comfort. The handles of our less-preferred whisks were thin, hard cylinders of steel, many with hanging loops that poked us in the palm when we switched our grip. The handles of our two highest-rated whisks were wider, rounder, and made of softer rubber or plastic with no hanging loops, allowing us to assume a variety of grips without discomfort. We continued testing the whisks by blending and reducing teriyaki sauce in a nonstick skillet, using the fond from seared steak, and by emulsifying vinaigrette in a metal bowl. In each case, the whisks behaved similarly to how they had when we used them to make the roux.
It was our next test that revealed radical differences in how efficiently each whisk whipped food. Efficiency counts because it’s your hands and arms providing the power. We whipped ½ cup of cold heavy cream into stiff peaks—and then kept whipping it into butter, which not only fatigued our hands but also strained the wire loops as the butter solidified. One of the slowest models put us through more than 4 minutes of tiring work to get stiff peaks and an extra 4 minutes of misery to make butter. By contrast, the fastest model took just over 1 minute to whip the cream and just 1½ minutes more to turn it into butter. This was a full minute faster than its nearest rival at each stage, and using it felt nearly effortless in comparison. During this test, a loop detached from the handle of one whisk as it worked the firm butter, springing permanently out of place. But our front-runners stayed bouncy and intact. By the end of this test we had sore arms as well as some answers.
A major key to whisking efficiency lies in the number of wire loops and how those loops are arranged. Our highest-rated whisks had eight loops, while the least effective had just four. Even more intriguing was how the loops at the tips of the whisks were arranged. Whisks with loops of varying lengths and more space between the tallest and shortest loops at the tip worked significantly better than whisks whose wires were closer in length and nearly touched at the tip. This measurement aligned well with our data on the whisks’ speed and performance: the more distance between the loops at the tip of a whisk, the better. Combined with a high number of moderately bendy loops, as we’d noted while making roux, this arrangement not only put more wires in contact with food but also incorporated more air with each stroke. What’s more, this tip arrangement helped whisks whip well even in an almost vertical position, meaning we didn’t have to hold the whisk at a low angle to engage with food, which helped keep our hands cooler. Two things, wire thickness and whisk weight, didn’t matter as much as we’d thought. We didn’t find big differences in loop thickness; we thought thinner might be better, but the loops of our top whisk were actually slightly thicker than most of the others. The whisks’ weights ranged from 1.5 to 3.5 ounces; our favorite was one of the heaviest at 3 ounces, but it felt sturdy and balanced in our hands.
To be sure that the whisks hadn’t damaged the pans we were using despite their silicone coatings, we checked the pans after each cooking test. We also firmly scraped each whisk’s loops 20 times across the cooking surfaces of brand-new nonstick skillets and then checked for scratches. None of the pans were damaged. To test the durability of the whisks themselves, we dropped them each three times onto the counter from a height of 12 inches and ran them through the dishwasher in addition to hand-washing them after each use. Most were easy to clean and didn’t trap water or food, with one exception: the dual-purpose flat-and-balloon whisk, whose multipart handle held water. Unfortunately, the knob at the end of this whisk’s handle, which both holds the whisk together and can be turned to switch it from flat to balloon style, arrived partially broken and often fell off, so the handle constantly separated and loops fell out of place unless we held the handle and loops together. (A second copy that we ordered from a different retailer arrived fully broken.) We put this whisk through all the tests anyway, but it wasn’t a strong performer even without its fatal fragility. Finally, since we often use silicone-coated whisks on the stovetop, we were interested to note that their manufacturer-provided maximum temperature ratings ranged from 450 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit (this is because not all silicone is identical; it can have different compositions and properties). However, none of the whisks’ silicone loops melted in hot pans during normal use.
In the end, we found a nonstick whisk that met all our requirements—and then surpassed them. The OXO Good Grips 11” Silicone Balloon Whisk was the most efficient and comfortable whisk we tested, easily outpacing all the other whisks in our lineup. Its eight moderately flexible, silicone-coated loops were set at widely varying lengths, providing many points of engagement with any ingredients we wanted to blend, at any angle we needed, without scratching bowls or cookware. It was comfortable to hold no matter how long we were whisking; its grippy, rubbery handle with a rounded, neutral shape let us shift our grasp as needed—without a hanging loop poking our palms. At just under 11 inches long, it kept our hands and forearms far enough from steaming sauces and roux as we whisked, without sacrificing leverage or a sense of control. It was tough and durable, and it cleaned up nicely whether we washed it by hand or in the dishwasher. If you have nonstick cookware and only want one whisk, the new winner by OXO is a great choice.