How we tested
There are few desserts that aren’t improved by a swirl of fresh whipped cream. But if you want to make your own, you have to haul out a mixer or, worse, whisk until your arm goes numb. Luckily, there is an easier way to make homemade whipped cream: Use a cream whipper, a pressurized canister powered by nitrous oxide. You simply fill the canister with heavy cream, twist on a single-use nitrous oxide charger (sold separately for about $0.50 a pop), shake to distribute the gas, and press a lever to pipe out swirls and rosettes. Beauty doesn’t come cheap, however—many cream whippers retail for upwards of $100.00. Are cream whippers worth the expense?
Eager to find out, we rounded up nine cream whippers, priced from about $30.00 to about $115.00, and used each to pipe a pint’s worth of 2-inch whipped cream rosettes using every included decorating tip. We also had five testers—men and women, lefties and righties, pros and novices—use and evaluate each whipper. We used branded chargers if a product’s manual specified to do so; otherwise, we stuck with generic chargers.
Testers immediately zeroed in on the appearance of the whipped cream. Only a few whippers made swirls that were uniform, fluffy, and detailed; most produced misshapen, gloppy rosettes that looked jagged, uneven, and almost curdled. At first we suspected that the decorating tips were the culprit. Each whipper came with between one and three (most had three) tips of varying widths for producing swirls of different designs. While a few models had tips with narrow openings that clogged and sputtered when we used them, most had tips that appeared so similar in shape and size that they could almost be interchangeable.
Instead, we found that the unattractive, blobby rosettes were a result of testers having trouble gripping the canisters and using the dispensing mechanisms. Testers of all sizes preferred shorter canisters, which were easier to move and angle when dispensing the cream. Our favorite whippers were 7.5 and 8.3 inches from top to bottom—as much as 2 inches shorter than some of the more unwieldy canisters.
Testers also disliked whippers with levers that were difficult to push or hard to reach. One model with a button instead of a lever was immediately singled out as hard to control. To use the rest of the whippers, you wrap your hand around the head of the canister and press a lever with your fingers to dispense the cream. The distance of this grip ranged from 3.6 to 4.2 inches, depending on the whipper. And while ½ inch might seem insignificant, for some testers it made the difference between complete control and grasping by their fingertips. Testers struggled to control hard-to-grip, heavy, or sticky levers; this lack of control resulted in blobby, unattractive rosettes. Top-performing products had smaller, more secure grips that allowed more leverage to dispense cream slowly and evenly and make perfect, detailed swirls. Our favorite whippers also had rubber grips for an even sturdier, slip-free hold.
Finally, we evaluated how easy each model was to load, charge with gas, empty, and clean and how easy it was to change tips. Some whippers had finicky inner pieces that moved around when we changed tips or slippery, hard-to-turn handles that made recharging difficult. We preferred products with grippy rubber or plastic handles, sturdy gaskets that stayed in place, and tips that easily screwed onto the nozzle. We also gave an edge to whippers that were dishwasher-safe.
Ultimately, we concluded that the convenience of a good cream whipper is worth paying more for: It not only makes it easy to create professional swirls and dollops of whipped cream but can also can hold cream for several days in the refrigerator. Our top two options are priced at roughly $100.00 and roughly $70.00, but they were the only models that produced consistent, flawless results. Our favorite, the iSi Gourmet Whip (about $100.00), made perfect, restaurant-worthy rosettes and was sturdy and comfortable for pros and novices alike (note that iSi also makes our lowest-ranked whipper, so check the model numbers when purchasing).
We tested nine 1-pint cream whippers, following manufacturers’ instructions for loading, charging, and dispensing whipped cream and for cleaning. We used generic nitrous oxide chargers unless the product’s manual specified to use branded chargers. Each whipper was rated on its comfort, control, dispensing, and ease of use. Prices shown were paid online, and products appear in order of preference.
COMFORT: Testers of different sizes, genders, and dominant hands evaluated how comfortable and sturdy the whippers were to hold and maneuver. Products lost points if they were slippery, awkwardly designed, or had hard-to-reach levers.
CONTROL: We observed the sensitivity and responsiveness of each product’s levers or buttons. Whippers received full points if they dispensed in slow, even, steady streams.
DISPENSING: Testers evaluated the appearance of the cream after dispensing, noting how easily each whipper made attractive, uniform 2-inch rosettes. Products lost points for cream that looked curdled, messy, or inconsistent.
EASE OF SETUP: We assessed how easy the whippers were to load with cream, charge, change tips, and empty. Top scores went to products that were intuitive and quick to set up and disassemble.