I used to think I had a whisk problem — I had more whisks than anyone could ever possibly need. But when I tried to pare down my whisk collection, I realized I actually do use all of my whisks. Sure, I use some more than others, but that's because different whisks serve different purposes.
If you've ever been following a recipe telling you to whisk something and struggled because the only whisk you had isn't working... you probably didn't have the right whisk for the job.
How Whisks Work
When you stir or beat a mixture with a whisk, the wire tines mix air into the mixture so quickly and efficiently it doesn't have time to escape. That's what makes them so perfect for beating egg whites and whipping cream. They also cut through lumps so you end up with a smooth, silky texture.
The rule of thumb we learned in pastry school for whisking is: whisks are for liquid ingredients.
Of course, this was just a rule of thumb — you can certainly whisk dry ingredients, and there are certainly times where you'd use a whisk to combine wet and dry ingredients together. They're great for getting out lumps, too, but your standard balloon whisk's number one job is to incorporate air into a mixture.
That said, depending on how quickly you move the whisk and the size and shape of the wire tines, whisks can be used for mixing all sorts of things.
Types of Whisks
The classic balloon whisk is designed to incorporate air. But other whisks, like flat whisks and spring/coil whisks with their narrow, coiled wires, excel at knocking lumps out of sauces and gravies, while dough whisks are made from thick, sturdy wire coils with large spaces making them ideal for efficiently mixing doughs and batters.
Using a delicate wire coil whisk on a thick bread dough is a one-way ticked to Dissappointsville. And trying to use a bulbous balloon whisk to knock lumps out of a pan sauce is an exercise in frustration. It's not that it won't work — it's just that it's not the easiest, most efficient approach.
What to Look For in a Whisk
No matter what kind of whisk you're buying, there are a few things to consider:
- How easy it is to clean. Whisks have lots of tines and wires and coils, which means they've all got lots of nooks and crannies for literally anything to get trapped in. Look for whisks where the tines attach smoothly to the handle without lots of gaps or edges where grime can get trapped.
- Durability. Metal whisks > plastic whisks, pretty much every time. Even though plastic whisks come in all sorts of cute colors, the tines themselves are often quite chunky and tend to get chipped and knicked in the sink and dishwasher.
- Ergonomics. Depending on what you're whisking, you might spend anywhere from 10 seconds to 7+ minutes* holding on to that whisk. The handle should feel comfortable to hold and give you plenty of leverage so you can whisk as long as you need to.
*In pastry school my chef-instructor had me make 7-minute frosting by hand which involved literally whisking thick, sugary egg whites for 7 minutes over a double boiler. My arm and hand were killing me afterward.
The Practical Kitchen's Favorite Whisks
1. GIR Ultimate Whisk (11 inches)
When it comes to design, it's hard to beat GIR — whose name is literally an acronym for "Get It Right" — and their "Ultimate" 11-inch balloon whisk is the best I have ever used. See how the wire loops don't all just meet at the bottom? That mix of heights and the gaps between each loop in the balloon make them basically the superhero of the whisk world, allowing them to knock out lumps and incorporate air with startling efficiency.
I thought I understood what using a good whisk felt like, but the first time I used GIR's ultimate whisk it was like I had finally solved whatever equations are floating around that woman's head in that one gif.
GIR's whisks are well balanced and ergonomically designed, too, which means you don't have to worry wrist fatigue or about a heavy handle tipping the whisk out of your bowl, flinging mess everywhere.
Bonus: GIR whisks come in a range of fun colors with matching (and equally well designed) spatulas, flippers, peelers, and more.
2. GIR Mini Whisk (8 inches)
The number two slot on this list also goes to a GIR whisk. This is GIR's mini whisk, although at 8 inches tall, it's more of just-slightly-smaller-than-average sized whisk. It's the "just right," the "baby bear bed" of whisks, able to handle everything from pan sauces to pancake batter.
GIR's whisks — the mini and the ultimate — are both super sturdy with just the right amount of flexibility. You don't have to worry that the tines are going to snap or bend out of place, but they still have just enough bend to them to move through slightly thicker batters with ease.
Unlike some of the other truly "mini" whisks on this list, the width of the bulb doesn't make it ideal for whisking inside narrow containers, but that's okay — that's what those other whisks are for.
A flat whisk like this isn't designed to incorporate massive amounts of air. It's designed to whisk lumps out of shallow pan sauces. The wire tines make it easy to cut through and clumpy flour and to scrape the fond (the brown bits that stick the to bottom of your skillet) off the surface when you deglaze the pan (by adding stock or water to it, which releases the fond).
There are other whisks designed for pan sauces, like these coil whisks, but what I like about the flat whisk is that you can also use it as a spatula or food turner in a pinch — lifting fish or chicken off the pan to flip it. The flat whisk is also much easier to clean than the ones with the tighter coils.
All-Clad is known for its high-end, well-made and durable kitchen gear, and as with everything they make, this whisk comes with a lifetime warranty.
4. Stainless Steel Ball Whisk (13 inches)
Ball whisks, like this stainless steel one from Williams Sonoma, have long thin tines with weighted balls on the end, making them ideal for whisking in narrow or awkwardly shaped containers.
The flexible tines can move independently of one another, and the long thin shape means you can leverage it at all angles into the corners of your jars or mixing containers to make sure there's no hidden lumps of flour or cornstarch waiting to ruin your meal.
I always appreciate tools that have loops in the handle so you can hang them up, rather than letting them clutter up your utensil drawers.
A dough whisk is one of the first things I bought when I started making bread, and I'll be honest — I didn't fully understand how it worked at the time. Once I got the hang of it, it became one of my favorite tools for mixing bread doughs, and it turns out it's also great for muffin batters, where you want to be careful not to overmix (it's okay if there are lumps in your muffin batter, btw — they'll bake out!).
While the dough whisk I have comes with a wooden handle, if I were buying one today I'd go for one like this Tovolo stainless steel option, because it's dishwasher safe and easier to clean.
Though a dough whisk has "whisk" in the title, you don't use it the way you use a normal whisk — you move a dough whisk in slow, steady strokes, using the coil to cut through tough doughs to break up any sneaky lumps of flour inside.
The idea isn't to incorporate air, it's to efficiently mix ingredients with as little gluten development as possible. When it comes to quick bread and muffin batters, Tovolo says: "The uniquely shaped whisk cuts through batters and dough to distribute ingredients and add-ins evenly, contributing to your best-ever bakes."
6. Tovolo Mini Whisk (6 inches)
I love my Tovolo 6" mini whisk. Small things are just cute, and this whisk is perfect for beating a single egg or a small amount of maple bacon vinaigrette salad dressing.
I particularly like the flat bottom of the handle, which means you can stand it upright so it doesn't drip all over your counter when you have to put it down. Oh and, it's dishwasher safe. Thank goodness.
7. Elegant Mini Gold Whisks (set of two)
What's that? Another mini whisk? These ones are different, I promise. These are so cute and delicate — perfect for when you need to dissolve salt in a couple tablespoons of water or whisk up an egg wash for your favorite soft sourdough beer pretzels.
They're also pretty and elegant, so if you need to leave them out on the table so your guests can whisk a salad dressing right before pouring it, or if you want to make whisking hot cocoa feel extra fancy, they won't seem out of place.
This set of two is dishwasher safe, with loops at the end for easy storage.
Yes, I did save the whisk with the coolest name for last. Rösle's twirl whisk (also known as a "galaxy whisk") is made from one springy coil of 18/10 stainless steel with a satin finish handle. It's meant for liquids only — the coil is too flexible and bendy for thicker batters — and is dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.
Bonus: Rösle offers a lifetime warranty!