So we are talking this week about emulsions, and one of the tools we have mentioned is a kitchen classic, the whisk. This is the oldest form of making an emulsion we have, and while they all might look alike, there are some differences to be had, and I will tell you why I own three of them.
First and foremost a whisk’s job is to incorporate ingredients, where the difference lies is in how much air we want to add to the mixture. We accomplish this by looking at the basic types of wire used on the whisk, and the size of the “balloon” on the end of it.
THE PIANO WHISK or BALLOON WHISK
The piano whisk is named for the appearance of piano wire that this whisk’s balloon is made of. The idea here is that there are many wires, all very thin and this will help us add air into a mixture we are beating. This is great when we are doing a whipped cream, for instance, when we want maximum air suspension in the liquid.
Notice that the word suspension pops up again, so this leads us to learn that this whisk would do the same as we would pour oil into the water based liquids. This is usually the best whisk for the job, but you do have to keep it moving with vigorous motion to make it work. Usually a circular, vertical motion is best when using this whisk. We need the whisk to break the surface to bring the air into the mixture.
THE WIRE WHISK
The wire wish is usually a heavier gauge of wire that will not aerate the product nearly as much as the Piano whisk will. The large wire tough, lends itself perfectly to the slow incorporation of ingredients together.
This whisk is good for when you don’t want to add air, but need to mix two things very well together, like the introduction of a stock to a roux for instance. Air can also be damage in some cases if we use the smaller whisk, so being able to use the larger one quickly will leave more air pockets intact. This is true when I add chocolate into whipped cream to make chocolate mouse, for instance.
No matter which whisk you use, technique is important. Some you can just mix vertically, and that is fine if you are just trying to mix a few things. But if you need to get some air and some volume in there, you need to whisk in a certain method. Much like folding, whisking is a circular motion and breaks the surface.
If you are just trying to get a vigorous incorporation of ingredients, I recommend the ‘Z”’ pattern. While holding this whisk against the bottom of the bowl, keep making Z’s and S’s in the bottom of the bowl rapidly.
So I did mention the size of the balloon being a factor, and it certainly is. The relationship is pretty much the same as the size of the wire used to make the whisk. A balloon shape will be more helpful in bringing the air into our ingredients. The longer more oblong shaped balloons will be better at the mixing jobs.
You can find a mix of sizes and shapes, but generally I have three, one Piano with a big balloon, and one with a more narrow one, as well as one of the wire whisks for mixing.
WHAT ONES I LIKE
Well, it has taken some time to find what I am comfortable with. When you are whisking a whipped cream or a hollandaise, you need to be comfortable because you will be mixing for a while.
|The OXO Balloon||The OXO Whisk|
To that end I have found the best whisks around, and I believe my friend Lise turned me on to them. They are the OXO whisks, with the ergonomic, rubberized handles. The wires are very secure and it is easy to hold for long periods.
I hope that helps clarify what is going on in the Wonderful World of Whisks!