A rotary beater, also known as a rotary egg beater or a rotary whisk, is a hand-operated kitchen tool that was first created in the latter half of the 19th century. It is used in food preparation to blend ingredients, or to make a mixture fluffy by incorporating air. Its creation and purpose is to eliminate the long and laborious hand beating of batters, cream or eggs that traditionally was done with a fork or wire whisk. Rotary beaters are probably most commonly used to beat egg whites and whip cream, but have been largely replaced by electric alternatives.
The original rotary beater, introduced around 1865, was comprised of one whisk with a crank and gear attached to the top of it. The crank and gear, which resemble the reel on a fishing pole, allow the user to mix at any desired speed. In 1870, the two-whisk rotary beater was introduced. This new and improved rotary beater was patented by inventor Turner Williams of Providence, Rhode Island, USA. The crank and wheel were similar; however, an extra whisk was added. The two whisks rotate in and out of each other, one turning clock-wise, while the other turns counter-clockwise. By adding an extra whisk, more movement was created during use, allowing for a smoother, more airy result.
In order to operate a rotary beater, the conductor must use two hands. One hand holds the top handle and directs the whisk, while the other hand turns the crank. The crank then turns the gears, which in turn rotates the whisks. A rotary beater is most commonly made out of stainless-steel, cast aluminum, or chromed steel. The whisks are circular with dull-edged blades, and are generally comprised of about ten wires. The device is built as one solid component; no pieces are detachable and no set-up is required.
Rotary beaters are relatively inexpensive, and are a great tool to have around the kitchen. They are available at most stores specializing in kitchen accessories or the kitchen department of most discount retailers. It is possible to obtain a good quality rotary beater that will last for years, and requires little more than routine cleaning and care.
Alternatives to rotary egg beaters include the standard whisk. Some cooks do not prefer this tool, however, because hand beating in this way can be strenuous. Rotary beaters have also been supplanted to some degree by electric alternatives. Both hand mixers and stand mixers can be used for a variety of purposes that rotary beaters fulfill.