We all know how to whisk, right? Whisking is a basic cooking technique our parents teach us in cooking basics 101. But, even though we know how to whisk, we may not know how to whisk in the most effective way possible. The chefs at America’s Test Kitchen noticed some of their cooks tend to use their whisks in different ways, so they decided to get to the bottom of this whisking question: which way whisks best? Watch the video below to learn the best overall whisking technique you can use in the kitchen and why this whisking method is scientifically superior.

In their observations, America’s Test Kitchen found there were three go-to techniques when it came to whisking: back and forth, circular, and beating techniques.

To test which method was the best, the team had a chef use each method on the following food processes: emulsifying vinaigrette, whipping cream, and beating egg whites. A metronome was set so that all the whisking was done at the same pace and a timer was set to see how long each technique took on each task.

So who came out victorious?

The winner was: back and forth whisking!

Back and forth whisking kept a raspberry vinaigrette emulsified for 15 minutes, whipped heavy cream into stiff peaks in four minutes, and beat egg whites into stiff peaks in five.

Comparatively, circular whisking did VERY poorly – the technique could not emulsify and it took twice as long to whip cream and beat egg whites.

The looping motion of beating also did quite poorly – it could barely keep the vinaigrette emulsified and took eight minutes to whip cream. However, the one thing beating did excel at was beating egg whites, which we all probably saw coming. Beating is the usual technique most of us use on eggs, so it’s not too surprising it was the clear-cut winner in that category.

Beaten egg whites in stiff peaksAmerica's Test Kitchen

So why was back and forth whisking was the most effective technique overall? The answer is called shear force.

Shear force is the force put on one layer of liquid that then exerts force onto another layer of liquid. The back and forth method provides a lot of shear force, mainly because as the whisk moves one way, the liquid follows, only to be pushed against by the whisk coming back in that direction.

This shear force breaks down the oil in vinaigrette, helping it to stay emulsified as long as it did. For cream and egg whites, the shear force creates channels of air that helps to create volume in these liquids and keep each type of foam stable.

A graphic explaining how shear force works in whiskingAmerica's Test Kitchen

Beating holds a small advantage over the winning technique because the wide beating motion creates larger channels for more air to get into the egg whites, which is more important than shear force in this case.

Graphic explain how beating works on egg whitesAmerica's Test Kitchen

Bottom line: Back and forth whisking works for everything, beating is best for eggs, and circular whisking is best not used at all.

What do you think of this science experiment? Have you been whisking foods all wrong? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.