How we tested
Judging by what we’ve seen in most kitchens, nobody has just one whisk. Fat or skinny, tapered or short, with wires that twist at odd angles or sport a colorful silicone coating, there seems to be a whisk for every facet of cooking. Has the market overreached? Can’t one all-purpose whisk tackle everything from whipping cream to blending a silky pan sauce?
We began by placing our bets on skinny whisks. In the past, we’ve found that slim, tapered French-style whisks and “skinny balloons” work best at getting into the corners of a saucepan, where wide balloon whisks can’t reach. As for whipping air into egg whites and heavy cream, a skinny whisk is nearly as handy as a fat balloon, provided your arm can sustain enough speed. So we rounded up 10 stainless steel French models and skinny balloons, priced from $2.49 to $29, and tried them out on these tasks.
Sure enough, most of our contenders whipped 1 cup of cream to stiff peaks in a nonfatiguing two minutes or less and brought four egg whites to full foam even more quickly. But some whisks were clearly better at incorporating air than others. The more wires a whisk has, the more streams of air it pulls through liquid, creating foam. Our top performers had at least 10 wires; whisks with seven or eight wires took up to 30 seconds longer to whip cream and egg whites into stiff peaks. The best whisks also had wire loops that were thin and flexible. The more flexible the wires, the more quickly we could pull the whisk through the thickening mixture. The real drags were heavy whisks with eight thick, stiff wires, which fatigued testers’ forearms as they slowly churned.
Wire thickness varied greatly from whisk to whisk: 1.16 to 2.25 millimeters. Thicker, stiffer wires worked best with pan sauce: They were able to break up browned bits in the pan and incorporate them into the sauce. Whisks with very thin, flexible wires tended to brush over the browned bits without scraping them up. Some heft and stiffness in the wires also helped blend heavy cookie dough and custard as it thickened, plus thicker wires had good shape memory, so that after even vigorous bending, they returned to their proper form. Moderately thin wires (1.3 to 1.4 millimeters) were best able to address both ends of the whisking spectrum: They tackled pan sauce and cookie dough as efficiently as thick, stiff whisks, and they churned cream and egg whites almost as quickly as did those with the thinnest, most flexible wires.
Overall whisk length was also important. When whisking and deglazing pan sauce in a 12-inch skillet, we found that the 11- and 12-inch whisks kept our hands safely away from the heat. Longer whisks felt more proportional in large mixing bowls, although they did have an annoying tendency to flip out of a medium bowl if we left their handles resting on the bowl’s edge for a moment to attend to another task. The 10- and 11-inch whisks stayed perched, even in small mixing bowls.
Whisking is repetitive and taxing. Throughout our triceps-building whisking sessions, we began to see the virtue in a comfortable handle. The ergonomic rubber handle on one contender made it feel like an extension of a hand. Too-slender handles made a few minutes of cream whipping feel like a lifetime, and handles with metal loops at their ends (for hanging) felt awkward when we gripped them as we reached into tall saucepans.
With its slightly bulbous, rubbery handle, our winner was big enough not to get lost in skillets and all but the largest mixing bowls. Its moderately thick wires could scrape the browned bits in pan sauce and also whip heavy cream quickly, and its light overall weight made using it effortless. It was also the second-cheapest whisk we tested, making its range of abilities an even better bargain.
OXO Good Grips 11" Balloon Whisk
With an ergonomic Santoprene rubber handle and a balanced, lightweight feel, this whisk was like an extension of a hand. It whipped cream and egg whites quickly, thanks to 10 wires that were thin enough to move through the liquid quickly but thick enough to push through heavy mixtures and blend pan sauces to smoothness.
Best Manufacturers Standard French Whip
This whisk weighs less than our winner and has thinner wires, making it a superb choice for whipping air into cream and egg whites. Its slender shape allowed it to easily reach pan corners. But for stirring heavy mixtures or scraping the fond in skillets for a smooth pan sauce, its wires proved a bit too thin.
Rösle Balloon Whisk/Beater
This slender model easily reached the corners of the saucepan. Although heavy in our hands, its 12 flexible, medium-thick wires easily whipped egg whites and cream. But those assets didn’t justify the price: It costs at least twice as much as most other whisks in our lineup.
Kuhn Rikon Balloon Whisk
This heavy whisk featured flexible wires that whipped cream and egg whites easily, but at 3 inches in diameter, it was a tad fat to reach into tight pan corners. A loop at the end of its steel handle, meant for hanging, made it uncomfortable when we were stirring something inside a deep saucepan.
Cuisipro Stainless Steel Egg Whisk
Ten thin, flexible wires made this whisk brilliant at whipping air into egg whites or cream. But those wires brushed over the top of browned bits in a skillet more than they scraped them into a sauce, and they bent out of position when stirring heavy dough. A loop at the handle end got in the way.
Norpro Krona Stainless Steel 7 Wire Balloon Whisk
This lightweight, maneuverable whisk was long enough to keep hands a safe distance from the heat of a skillet. It needed more than seven wires for speedy whisking of egg whites and cream, however, and its wires were not quite thick enough to scrape browned bits or stir heavy mixtures.
Norpro Krona Stainless Steel Balloon Whisk
With 12 medium-thick wires, this whisk whipped egg whites and cream with respectable speed. Shorter than all but one other whisk that we tested, its stature was a handicap, putting our hands dangerously near the hot skillet and getting lost in large mixing bowls. A loop at the base got in the way when we stirred in deep saucepans.
Update International 12" French Whip
With eight thick, stiff wires, this heavy stainless steel whisk meant business when scraping a skillet or stirring any thick mixture. But whipping air into egg whites and cream took too much time and effort. Plus, a pointed loop wire at the tip was a pain to clean by hand.
Paderno World Cuisine Stainless Steel Whisk
This long, heavy whisk wore us out with its thick, inflexible wires that had us whipping and whipping to get air into egg whites or cream. Although handy for scraping browned bits from a skillet, using it felt like wielding a club. The handle was thinner than on most whisks, so our hands worked harder to hold it.
Rachael Ray Balloon Whisk
With just seven wires, this stubby stainless steel whisk took too long to whip cream and egg whites. It got lost in large mixing bowls and a 12-inch skillet, and its fat handle, designed to rest upright on the countertop, tired testers’ hands—and let whatever they’d been whisking dribble down.