Whether you’re mixing a tomato sauce or a delicious veggie soup, do you ever think about how you stir that food? For most people, the answer is probably not. And while it may seem like such a small thing to worry about when cooking, it turns out that there is, in fact, a best way to stir your dishes. Trust me: You’ll feel smarter after learning this trick, too!
According to the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, there’s actually a science to mixing your food when you’re cooking it — it’s literally about physics! Their team tried three different whisking techniques, including mixing a vinaigrette, whipping cream, and emulsifying egg whites to get a sense of what works best.
While their experiment didn’t take place in a laboratory, they did come up with a definitive finding. When it comes to blending ingredients, moving your wooden spoon or whisk back and forth in your pot or pan is actually more efficient than just stirring the utensil around in endless circles. “As the whisk moves in one direction across the bowl, the liquid starts to move with it,” their guide explains. “But then the whisk is dragged in the opposite direction, exerting force against the rest of the liquid still moving toward it. Because stirring and beating take the liquid in the same direction of the whisk, they produce less shear force.” In other words, moving your whisk, spoon, or ladle side to side actually allows your ingredients to combine and mesh together quicker.
Pretty much the only food they found needed to be stirred in circles were the egg whites, largely because they requiring a constant wipe-down from the sides of a bowl to ensure that all of the whites are being whisked together properly. Again, it’s incredible what science can teach us!
So the next time you’re mixing something together in a bowl or on the stove top, considering moving your utensil back and forth instead of round ‘n’ round. It’ll actually make a difference!