Whisks: 101Posted: January 6, 2012
With the new year, we’ve started bringing in new kitchen toys; namely, molecular gastronomy tools. Food shows like Top Chef have brought previously foreign techniques and tricks into our home kitchens at a staggering rate. Molecular gastronomy is a branch of food science where chefs use practical chemistry to plate wildly imaginative dishes, driven by presentations that are equal parts playful and artful. It’s a kind of cooking that makes us think and forces us to use different senses each time. What do whisks have to do with this? Glad you asked…
Plenty of molecular gastronomy is coaxing foods into forms through different means than we are used to. Take Maltozoon for example, which is a texturizer used as a bulking agent and to disperse dry ingredients. Its chief (and only) ingredient is Maltodextrin, a poly-saccharide used to (you guessed it) thicken foods. It’s also found in plenty of other sneaky places, such as commercial sweeteners like Splenda. There will be plenty of time down the road to detail molecular gastronomy. Today, we’ve also got other, more manual tools used to coax food into new and different forms. We’re talking about whisks…
As an indispensable tool in any home kitchen, the primary goal of any good whisk is to incorporate air into whatever the whisker is whisking, hopefully not while drinking whiskey! (Sorry, we had to.) But really folks, whisks are most associated with baking, like for airing up a meringue. Getting down to it, there are a number of specific whisks for specific jobs. We put together a short primer on the ins-and-outs of whisking:
Coil whisks work best with small quantities of light, liquid ingredients.
Flat pan whisks work best in low sided dishes or pans, when using a small quantity of ingredients.
Churn beaters, or bedspread coil whisks, work best with light, liquid ingredients in small bowls or cups, using an up-and-down motion.
Handled egg beaters also work best with light ingredients. Their geared mechanism makes for quick whipping.
Birch whisks are traditionally used for light whipping primarily in baking. Made of twigs that are stiff, yet relatively pliable.
Wood and plastic whisks are used primarily in non-stick pans, where it is important to keep from scratching the surface.
Silicone coated whisks are also great for non-stick pans, as well as for other uses. Their greater number of wires makes them more effective, and their non-stick silicone surface helps make clean-up quicker.
French (or Sauce or Standard) whisks, are great for all mixing and whipping uses. The stiffer (thicker) the wires, the stiffer the mixture they can work on.
Balloon whisks have rounded wires, and work best at whipping light ingredients. They usually have more wires than French whisks, and, as such, they incorporate more air. They are sometimes called piano whisks.
Keep an eye out in the coming weeks when we delve deeper into the land of molecular gastronomy and chemistry in the kitchen! Happy cooking!