We tested six flat whisks, using them to make a béchamel sauce and a pan sauce for skillet-roasted chicken breast alongside the tools we’d ordinarily use for these dishes—a wooden spoon and our favorite all-purpose whisk.
Published May 1, 2016. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 17: Summer Dinner Party
A flat (or roux) whisk has a unique shoehorn-like shape that allows it to get into the corners and sides of pans for more efficient stirring when making sauces and gravies.
We tested six models priced from about $7.00 to $22.00, using them to make a béchamel sauce and a pan sauce for skillet-roasted chicken breast alongside the tools we’d ordinarily use for these dishes—a wooden spoon and our favorite all-purpose whisk, the OXO Good Grips 11” Balloon Whisk.
The best flat whisks excelled at their given tasks. All of the flat whisks took far less time than the wooden spoon to scrape the fond off the skillet for the pan sauce. And they really shone when making béchamel. While the fat balloon whisk struggled to reach and scrape the outer edges and sides of the saucepan, the flat whisk’s narrower, more two-dimensional profile made it easy to control, maneuver, and get into corners, thus keeping the béchamel from settling, scorching, or forming lumps.
But not all flat whisks are created equal, as rigidity, material, tine spacing, and comfort separated the best from the rest. We liked whisks that were stiff enough to scrape well but not so rigid that they made us press too hard against the cookware, tiring our hands. Tines coated with silicone (presumably designed for nonstick pans) were too flexible and slick, providing less resistance against fond or clumps of béchamel; plain metal tines were more efficient. We preferred whisks with regular, even spacing between tines; whisks with large gaps occasionally allowed big lumps of roux to slip through intact and offered poorer pan coverage overall. And while the handles on all the flat whisks were oddly short, taking us a little closer to the heat than we’d have liked, those on our favorite two whisks were wider, keeping our hands comfortable and cramp-free after a half-hour of continuous whisking.
Because its compact tine arrangement doesn’t incorporate air as efficiently as a balloon whisk, a flat whisk won’t replace your all-purpose whisk for, say, whipping egg whites for an omelet. But if you make a lot of sauces, we think a flat whisk deserves a place in your kitchen. Our winner, the OXO Good Grips Flat Whisk, has a small but cushiony handle and evenly spaced metal tines with just the right amount of give. It effortlessly produced pan sauces and béchamel. In addition, we found that it did a great job of scrambling eggs, and it could even be used to whip cream in a pinch, though it took a few minutes longer than our balloon whisk to do so. Best of all, it was the cheapest of the whisks we tested.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.