What Are Whisks Used for in Cooking?

Written by jonita davis
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What Are Whisks Used for in Cooking?
The whisk is a common kitchen tool with several identities. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The primary function of a whisk is to pull air into a mixture. That air builds foamy peaks or thickens the mixture. The outcome depends on the type of whisk used and the speed at which it is drawn through the mixture. The first whisks were made of birch twigs. Julia Child, an American chef who specialised in French cuisine, introduced this versatile cooking utensil to American cooks. Today, whisks are created from silicon, metal and plastic. They also come in many shapes and sizes.

Vacuum Function

According to the Reluctant Gourmet, the whisk's tines work like a vacuum within a mixture. Tines are the wires held together by the whisk's handle. Each tine creates a channel in the mixture, drawing air through and trapping it, and creating a vacuum in the process. The process is repeated each time the tines are drawn through the mixture. The result is a mixture that is filled with air pockets. After several pulls of the whisk, egg whites, for example, become stiff and form peaks. Sauces thicken with slower whisking.

The All-Purpose Whisk

The most well-known whisk is actually just one of approximately 10 varieties. The French whisk, also known as the sauce whisk, has tines that form a teardrop shape. This whisk can do the jobs of all the others, so it serves as an all-purpose whisk in most kitchens. However, the French whisk cannot do things like beat egg whites into stiff peaks or take the lumps out of a thickened sauce as quickly as other types of whisks. Many cooks will have additional whisks on hand that can perform their respective tasks in a much more efficient manner.

Deglazing and Breaking Lumps

The whisks vary in their ability due to the variations in number and shape of the tines. Whisks with more tines will incorporate more air more quickly, while whisks with fewer tines are used for thickening a deglazing sauce. Deglazing is scraping the pieces stuck to the bottom of a pan left over after creating a roux. Those chunks are whisked into the sauce using a flat whisk that slowly creates fewer air channels than a French whisk. The flat whisk creates enough air channels to thicken the sauce and break up the lumps. A smooth sauce is the only goal. Vinaigrette whisks, coil whisks, sauce and flat whisks work well for creating thick but smooth sauces

Creating Foam

Whisks with more tines than a French whisk create fluffy foams, and turn slimy egg whites into light, malleable, delicate meringue. Examples of such a whisk include the ball whisk, matcha whisk, twirl whisk and the balloon whisk. These whisks have more tines than the whisks used in thickening and smoothing sauces. In fact, the abundance of tines allow the foam-creating whisks to create more air channels at a fraction of the time. The result is meringue created in half the time it takes when using a sauce whisk.

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