WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Handles: Because whisking requires sustained, sometimes rapid, repetitive motion, look for a handle with a comfortable grip and sturdy metal construction that won't bend or warp. Rubber-coated handles aren't much softer, but they don't slip.
Wires: Look for wires sealed and closed into the handle for easy cleaning. Multiple loops of thinner, very flexible wires are usually best for whipping cream, eggs and some custards. Fewer, somewhat flexible and thicker wires work better for jobs like stirring polentas and cooked cereals.
Length: If you plan to whisk a roux for gravy, make sure the handle's long enough to keep hands from feeling the heat. The four hot-duty whisks tested measured 11 to 12 inches overall. Each one passed the heat test.
Materials: Teflon- and silicone-coated wires must be used with coated pans to prevent scratching. Plastic and nylon whisks stand up to cold jobs, but be sure they can also take the heat.
Cleaning and storing: Even if the whisk is dishwasher safe, don't bother. Use a whisking motion in hot, soapy water to clean the cage directly after each use. Hang to dry with the cage down so no water collects in the handle, even though most are sealed. Store by the hanging hook, on the handle in a basket or in a roomy drawer to keep the wires in good shape.
PUT TO THE TEST
WMF Profi Plus Stainless Steel Flat Whisk
- Pros: At just over 12 inches with a higher gauge wire than most, what this whisk lacks in delicacy it makes up in performance. For gravy, the flat shape dislodged the good stuff and mashed the flour to a fine roux. It blended the stock with ease, too, for lump-free gravy. When making pie, whisking the eggs with dry ingredients was a cinch, and folding in the pumpkin and evaporated milk was easy as pie.
- Cons: Whipping cream? Not so good.
- $14; Williams-Sonoma, multiple locations, williams-sonoma.com
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel 11" French Whisk
- Pros: The teardrop handle makes this a comfortable whisk for prolonged cooking. For making gravy, it tested right in the middle. Good at loosening tasty bits in the pan, fine for beating flour into the fat, but not spectacular. This whisk behaved best of the bunch in a small, deep bowl for whipping cream. It caught the edges and scraped the bottom without flinging heavy cream droplets on the counter. The cream doubled in volume in just nine minutes, soft and sweet.
- Cons: Didn't work well for mixing heavy canned pumpkin into the pie. Use it to mix spices and beat eggs, then pick up a good wooden spoon for the rest.
- $9.99; Macy's, multiple locations, macys.com
Kenmore Elite Silicone/Stainless Steel Whisk
- Pros: Bubble, bubble. You'll find no toil and trouble here when mixing pumpkin pie fillings. All the whisks made quicker work of blending spices cleanly into the sugar, but this whisk made a creamy pumpkin filling in no time. The Elite looks like a big brute, but its bubble shape beat the lightest cream to the largest volume in the quickest time. Performs best in a big bowl.
- Cons: Not so good with gravy. The bubble won't squeeze into corners and doesn't scrape pan drippings very well.
- $8.99; Kmart, multiple locations, kmart.com
Chef's Planet Whisk
- Pros: The funky design of this plastic whisk looks like too much fun. It's a version of a butterfly whisk gone higher tech. Its bulbous plastic shape with eight sturdy ribs ends with a circle and a pass-through on each leg. The open design is supposed to whip cream and eggs more quickly than traditional whisks.
- Cons: Two tries yielded lumpy whipped cream. The first batch took an arduous 13 minutes of rapid arm circles. It was fine one minute and near butter in the next two strokes. The second trial went better, but still took nearly 11 minutes. Stop before you think you should. Plus, this whisk is not designed to handle hot foods.
- $9.95; Cornucopia, 107 N. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood, kitchencopia.com
Kuhn Rikon Stainless Steel Tornado Whisk
- Pros: This whisk rocks scraping up pan drippings. Fling in the flour, and a roux comes together faster than you can say "mon dieu!" But you'll still have to stir for eons if you want a chocolate brown on that baby. Surprisingly, its spare cage turned heavy cream light-as-air in under eight minutes, but it needed a bigger mixing bowl to play in to keep the splatter down.
- Cons: Too light to mix heavy ingredients without risking bending the wires.
- $15.99; Bertarelli Cutlery, 1927 Marconi Ave., The Hill, bertarellicutlery.com