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How and why you should use a whisk

Hi there and Welcome to Tuesday Tool Day

As you can see the new Bluesky Kitchen is here.  I love the new look and functionality and I hope you do, too. Since a whisk is part of my logo, I thought the first Tuesday Tool post should be about whisks.  And since today is Julia Child’s 103rd birthday, it’s especially relevant.

Julia Child using whisk

Whisks may be one of the most underestimated tools in the kitchen.  I bet you may have one or two in your kitchen and don’t know it; maybe it’s hiding in the back of a drawer, lost or forgotten.  Not sure?  Go check right now and if you find one, pull it out because I’m going to show you why you should be using it.

Here’s where I keep mine:

holding whisks and other tools

I keep my whisks, Le Creuset spatulas, tongs, and wooden spoons in my Le Creuset bain marie handy on my kitchen counter.

A whisk is a tool that our grandmothers used before electric mixers and food processors. They are used to make airy meringues, frothy vinaigrettes, and smooth sauces, and fluffy scrambled eggs.   A good, strong whisk is essential in the first step in making polenta.

Today’s whisks are usually made of non-reactive stainless steel with a sturdy handle and the tines come in varying shapes and lengths, depending on the intended task.  Silicon ones are also available, but personally I prefer the heft of the stainless steel.  I also prefer ones with stainless steel handles rather than wooden handles so you can put it in the dishwasher.

Although there are many shapes, sizes, and designs, you really need to invest (in case, you didn’t find one lurking in the back of the drawer) in just a few types to get any job done in the kitchen. Whisks come in long and short, slim and rounded, stiff or flexible.  I like the classic whisk – no tines with funky little balls on the ends.

So here are the ones you need:

Balloon or French whisk are the most common type.  (You can thank Julia Child for introducing the whisk to America.)
balloon whisks

The name comes from the shape ~ wide and bulbous at the end.  Because the shape and good old elbow grease incorporates air, they are best for whipping egg whites (that’s what makes a souffle rise); choose one that has some flexibility, but with lots of tines.  This type of whisk is essential for making hollandaise and homemade mayonnaise.

Sauce whisks are the choice for making sauces and avoiding lumps.  Choose a long, sturdy whisk with a round shape. These are your good, all-around whisks.

sauce whisks

Flat whisks are also a nice tool for making pan gravies as they reach easily into the corners of your saucepan.

flat whisks

For making vinaigrettes or beating a couple of eggs, I prefer a smaller whisk that fits nicely in a small bowl.

small whisk

So that’s the why and what.  Now for the how.  First, remember to relax:  no scrunching up or tensing of your shoulders; that will tire you out and have you running for the Advil for aching shoulders.  Second, keep your elbows next to your sides, for the same reason.  All the motion is from the elbow down.  The wrist is really the main engine here.

How do you properly hold a whisk?  I teach two ways:  fist up or fist down.

For whipping egg whites or vinaigrettes, beating eggs, whipping cream, making aioli: fist down, hold the handle of the whisk between your thumb and index finger, with the loops pointing away you.  This method allows you to make a figure 8 motion. (It always helps if you place your bowl on a dish towel or damp paper towel to keep it still.)

whisking fistdown

For mixing batters or thick sauces, polenta:  fist up, hold the handle as if you were grasping a baseball bat, with the loops facing toward you.

whisking fist up   or like this   holding a whisk fist up

Here are some other reasons to have a whisk in the kitchen:

1.  When brown sugar clumps due to humidity, use a whisk to break up the clumps.

2.  Use a whisk to mix sticky ingredients ~ like honey or molasses ~ into a vinaigrette or marinade.

3.  We all have used a fork to scramble eggs, but a whisk is the secret to fluffy, light omelets and eggs.  More air means more fluff!

4.  When a recipe calls for combining dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa), use a whisk to distribute everything evenly.

There you have it.  Don’t put the whisk back in the drawer; leave it out where you’ll use it.  Hope this little tool lesson will make life in your kitchen easier.

Thanks for visiting and come back to see what else is happening in my bluesky kitchen.

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