You probably already have a balloon whisk or a French whisk sitting in your utensil crock. (If you don't, read our guide to the best whisks, including the difference between balloon and French versions, here.) So why buy a flat whisk? Devotees claim that the design, identifiable by overlapping loops of metal that form one long edge, is easier to clean since you don't have to maneuver a sponge inside the rounded shape. That flat edge also means the whisk can reach into the corners of saucepans and small containers. Some fans even claim that the flat whisk makes more efficient work of whipping cream and egg whites.
But, as someone who's gotten along perfectly fine with a simple balloon whisk over the years—and who has limited storage space for trendy kitchen gadgets—I'd always been skeptical of the flat whisk. Could it really do enough to replace my regular whisk, or warrant owning two styles?
I tested a few flat whisks against my regular old whisk to see if this less conventional style was worth owning. Keep reading for the full review.
How I tested
To see how the flat design compared to the balloon style, I performed a number of cooking and baking tasks with both. First, I scrambled eggs. In order to test the claim that the flat whisk reaches tight corners better, I employed a scrambled egg method that requires you to scramble the whites in the pan while leaving the yolks unbroken until the very last minute (affectionately known as the framble—a combo of a fried and scrambled egg). When whisking the eggs, you need to delicately scramble the whites without disturbing the yolks—a step that requires deft whisk work. Next, I made a pan sauce to see if the whisk could, indeed, maneuver itself into the corners of the saucepan. For the third test, I used the whisk to make whipped cream, carefully observing if it aerated and emulsified faster than a balloon whisk. Finally, I washed both to determine which was easier to clean.
A note about appearance and design
The flat whisk's loops of metal (which either overlap or graduate from small to large from the center) are less likely to warp out of place as the pieces of a balloon whisk do after heavy use. The flat whisks I tried felt lighter than standard whisks and were durable without being cumbersome. Of course, this design lies flat, so if you store your utensils in a drawer rather than upright in a canister, it'll take up less space.
The scrambled egg test
When it came to scrambling eggs in the pan, the flat whisk performed much better. Its flat defined edge was able to maneuver into the tight connective area between the yolk and whites, then separate and scramble the whites without breaking the yolk. It was much harder to perform this task with a traditional whisk, and I ended up breaking a few yolks in the attempt. The flat whisk's long edge also made it easier to scrape up bits of eggs from the bottom of the pan and move them around to ensure even heating, almost as a spatula would. Basically, it functions as both a spatula and whisk, which makes it an especially great tool for scrambled or frambled eggs.
The whipped cream test
Here, I found that I did not prefer the flat whisk to the traditional model. Kuhn Rikon claims that their flat whisk, called the Traverse Power Whisk, easily reaches into tight corners and, as mentioned above, this is true when cooking in a skillet with shallow sides that angle upwards. However, when vigorously whipping cream in a bowl, the flat whisk proved inferior. The long edge simply didn't fit into the rounded corners of a standard mixing bowl. The curved sides of the balloon whisk fit better, making it easier to whip up every ounce of cream. Don't get me wrong: it's not that the whisk failed this test. I was able to whip cream in more or less the same amount of time as with a regular whisk, but making a zig-zag motion around the bowl just felt awkward. To further examine how the flat whisk stood up to bowl-based mixing tasks, I scrambled a few eggs in a small, cereal-sized bowl, but ultimately found the whisk to be too wide.
The pan sauce test
Don't give up on the flat whisk just yet. It works for a pan sauce for the same reason it does for scrambled eggs: The flat edge does nice spatula-crossover work. After searing a pork tenderloin, I easily used the whisk to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, and the flat edge was much better for getting those bits than the rounded whisk. It also did a nice job emulsifying the pan sauce when I added butter. Was it overwhelmingly, tremendously better than a regular whisk at this pan sauce business? Not really. Still, with a balloon whisk, I also had to use a spatula to really scrape the pan. With a flat whisk, I could achieve a pan sauce with a single tool (the less dishes to wash, the better).
The cleaning test
Truthfully, it's not too difficult to clean either whisk after scrambling eggs, making pan sauce, and whipping cream. To really test how easy it was to clean each whisk, I needed to make more of a mess for myself. So, I made brownies for science. I needed both whisks to be thoroughly coated in annoyingly sticky, thick batter.
The flat whisk was marginally easier to clean for the reason you'd expect: Unlike balloon whisks, it doesn't have a large gap in the middle. With the flat whisk, there's no maneuvering your sponge into the open center and wedging your fingers between the whisk wires.
Most people probably don't use a whisk to make a full batter—you likely switch to a rubber spatula to fold the mixture together after whipping egg whites, cream, and eggs, or you use a stand mixer. But a flat whisk is ultimately easier to clean by hand.
Buy a flat whisk if you're looking for a tool that can serve partial spatula duty, like if you scramble eggs in the pan, or if you want a whisk that easily emulsifies a pan sauce. If you're primarily using your whisk for whipping cream or egg whites in a mixing bowl, stick with the balloon. But hey, if you've got room in your kitchen, I say own both.
The best flat whisks to buy
The Kuhn Rikon Traverse Power Whisk was our favorite flat whisk we tried, thanks mainly to its elegant design and sturdiness. Designed by Kuhn Rikon (the makers behind our favorite paring knife) in collaboration with Chris Kimball (of America's Test Kitchen and Milk Street), the Power Whisk is made of high-quality metal and has a sleek, smooth handle. It has a little more heft than other flat whisks, but remains balanced and comfortable to hold.
$25.00, Kuhn Rikon
OXO's flat whisk has the brand's signature comfortable handle and is lightweight and balanced for all of your scrambling and pan-sauce emulsifying needs.
Other solid options
Originally Appeared on Epicurious