Everyone knows how to use a whisk, right? The folks at America's Test Kitchen applied a little rigour to find out which approach is best for really combining ingredients and a better finished dish.
The better your whisking technique, the faster and more well-combined your ingredients. The ATK team took a look at three whisking methods — stirring, side-to-side strokes and beating — for three different situations: Making vinaigrettes, whipping egg whites and whipping cream. They made everyone time their strokes with a metronome to control. Then they looked at how long each vinaigrette held its emulsification, and how long it took to form stiff peaks from the egg whites and the whipped cream.
Bottom line? Side-to-side motions with the whisk were the most effective — the vinaigrettes held longer, and you got stiff peaks from the whipped cream and egg whites the fastest — leading to fewer tired arms and more well-combined ingredients. Beating and stirring failed pretty badly at emulsifying and whipping cream, taking much longer to get where you needed to be. The beating motion did perform well in one area though: whipping egg whites. That beating motion is usually associated with beating eggs, and as a result, a lot of us think it's the best way to use a whisk in general.
The video above goes into more detail about why side-to-side whisking motions work best. It also discusses shear force and how that force unfolds proteins in egg whites. There's a lot of science that goes into an everyday kitchen tool.
Science: The Best Way to Use a Whisk [America's Test Kitchen]