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Cream Whippers

By Cook's Illustrated Published December 2016

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 $29.99 to $115.90, 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 $99.27 and $69.00, but they were the only models that produced consistent, flawless results. Our favorite, the iSi Gourmet Whip ($99.27), 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).

Methodology

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.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*
Best Buy
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*