What is a Flat Whisk?
A flat whisk, sometimes called a sauce or roux whisk, is different from the standard whisk in shape and function. Unlike the rounded wire whisk, the flat whisk merely consists of a single set of wires in a U shape, usually about four or five, that all follow a semi-U pattern in different concentric lengths. It isn’t rounded, and is therefore “flat.”
While the rounded whisk is great for mixing and stirring, and for adding extra air to ingredients mixed, the flat whisk is better for mixing sauces in low pans. It’s not spun in the hands like the round whisk, but used to scrape ingredients from one side of the pan to the other. This makes it especially useful when you’re making something like gravy and need to bring together drippings from meat you have just cooked. The scraping action of the whisk helps incorporate these flavorful bits together in order to make delicious gravy.
Many chefs prefer a flat whisk when making sauces that require a roux base (flour and butter). This unusual whisk with its scraping action can keep sauce from collecting or burning on the bottom of the pan. It’s thus useful for Alfredo, Mornay, Béchamel and a variety of other cream sauces.
The flat whisk varies in size and price. Most are between $10-20 US dollars (USD). It’s important to look for one that is sealed where the whisk wires leave the handle. If this part is unsealed, the whisk can be challenging to clean, as flecks of food can accumulate in the center of the whisk and be difficult to remove.
In terms of size, the average flat whisk is about 10 inches (25.4 cm) in length, though a few can be smaller. Since you’re often using this type of whisk to stir over high heat, it helps to find those with a heat resistant handle. You can also find flat whisks made out of nylon that are safe for non-stick pans. Commonly, most flat whisks are made of stainless steel and feature stainless steel, ceramic or wooden handles. A few have a rubberized or nylon coating over the steel handle for better grip.
Though the most common recommendation for the flat whisk is for use in making sauces, the scraping ability of this whisk has other applications. For instance, if you’re trying to get the last bits of batter out of a bowl for a cake, a flat whisk can be the perfect tool. Consider using flat whisks for stirring hot cereal or porridge of various types. Again its ability to scrape the bottom of the pan is handy, since it means you won’t be burning the bottom of your porridge. This whisk also proves useful for stirring custards or chocolate sauces.
I've always used a flat whisk for everything that most people use a round whisk for. I think that a flat whisk actually works much better. It has even more uses than a round whisk. I even use it like a spatula sometimes to flip omelettes and crepes.
Another advantage of a flat whisk is that it fits much better in drawers and it's easier to clean too. I don't know why stores don't give preference to flat whisks. I can find round whisks at most large stores, but flat whisks are more difficult to find. I think more people need to be introduced to this type of whisk.
@Scrbblchick-- Ah, so there are ones that are safe to use with nonstick pots and pans. All of my pots and pans are nonstick, so it would be impossible to do some of the things people suggested with a steel flat whisk. I'm glad there are other options out there.
Thanks for this article. I've had a flat whisk for a while and had no idea what to do with it. My mother had gifted me a kitchen utensil set when I first moved in to my apartment. I've always used a regular whisk for sauces and couldn't understand what a flat whisk was good for. I think I will be able to put the whisk to good use now though.
When I make soup, I use flour which can make the bottom stick easily. I think the flat whisk can prevent this problem. I can also use it when I make pudding since pudding has the risk of sticking to the bottom as well.
I've seen flat whisks, but never really knew what they were for. Using them to make gravy makes sense, since you want to break up the flour lumps, but not necessarily incorporate air.
Like Scrbblchick, I've always used a wooden spoon for roux. A flat whisk might be good for candy making too, to get the lumps out of the hot candy. Might be really good for fudge after you add the marshmallows. It might also be good for making custards on top of the stove, to help break up lumps without adding air.
I'll have to look around and see who carries good whisks at a reasonable price.
I have a flat whisk, but I never use it for roux. That's what a good wooden spoon is for. It's best for making pan gravy, to me. I got one that has silicone coating on the wires so I can use it on nonstick pans, and that's also heat resistant.
It does get in the corners of the pan very well, and brings everything to the center. It's also good for dragging once or twice through cake batter (like you would a knife) to get rid of any air bubbles. After you bang the pan on the counter a couple of times.
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