Unless you have a whisk that wobbles when you whisk, slips in your hand, or traps food inside, it seems like this most basic piece of equipment is not worth scrutinizing. If you are looking for the best mixing bowls for bread making, we have a recommendation for you!
When it comes to basic cooking tasks, good mixing bowl can’t be beat. They may not be as slick as chef’s knives or as cutting-edge as sous vide circulators, but they have their place. They are our go-to tools when making pancake batter or vinaigrette, or when simply melting butter. A good bowl should be so steady, durable, and comfortable to handle that you barely notice it while working with it.
Because of these reasons, we choose mixing bowls carefully when outfitting the test kitchen. The size of the bowls to be considered is first: at the very least, we need bowls of the following sizes: 1- to 112-quarts, 212- to 3-quarts, and 4- to 6-quarts, respectively. Additionally, we find it useful to have a set both in stainless steel and glass: The lightness of metal makes it easy to handle, while only glass can go in the microwave. It’s just not practical to use plastic or ceramic bowls: The former’s porous surface scratches and retains oils, while the latter is so heavy that it defeats the purpose.
Among our selection, we picked up three stainless-steel sets and four sets made of tempered glass (glass that has been strengthened mechanically to increase its impact and thermal resistance), each priced from $13.19 to $59.99. Whenever possible, we purchased nesting sets and assembled custom sets when the sizes we wanted were only available as open stock.
The mixing bowls were then put through the core tasks that we believe any mixing bowl should be able to handle. We whisked oil and vinegar together to make the dressing in each small bowl. Our batters for muffins and pancakes were mixed in medium and large bowls. We also used the large bowls to mix bread dough and the medium bowls to melt chocolate in a homemade double boiler, set over a pot of simmering water.
Good Mixing Bowl Will Help Getting in Shape
This basic function was not mastered by all the bowls. There were some models that even made easy work irritatingly difficult, due to a variety of design flaws.
You need to take the bowl height. Ideally, a vessel’s walls should contain food neatly, but also be shallow enough that users-particularly shorter people-don’t have to strain to reach it. In a side-by-side comparison of five-quart bowls from OXO and Vollrath, some testers struggled to reach over and over the rim of the OXO while the shorter Vollrath allowed easy access to the contents.
The shape of the walls were also perfect for Vollrath, Pyrex, and Arc International. This bowl is curved on both sides, which makes it comfortable for testers not only to reach into it to stir, but also to hold it aloft for pouring and scraping ingredients out of it.
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Furthermore, testers found they had to tilt bowls with steeper walls more dramatically if they wanted to scrape out every last bit of food, and once the bowls were nearly upside-down, it was difficult to maneuver a spatula around the inside.
Therefore, some shorter testers found the relatively tall and narrow Cuisinart bowl set difficult to access, although, since they were made of lightweight stainless steel, their shapes were still manageable. It was a different story for Anchor Hocking glass bowls, a brutally heavy fleet with L-shaped walls and sharp corners that were hard to clean. Observers reported that they resembled storage containers more than mixing bowls.
From Rim to Base
Bowls with rims were also more comfortable-or less-to hold when they had a rim. The rimmed models, which included all stainless-steel bowls and Pyrex, featured roughly 14 to 12 inches of grippable material. The alternative, a thickened collar that surrounded other glass bowls, was slightly better than nothing.
I had to use some serious strength to lift the empty 4-quart Anchor Hocking bowl by its collar, as it weighed over 312 pounds. One of its benefits was that the collar sloped smoothly down the inside of the bowl, whereas those on the Arc International and Duralex bowls stuck out, trapping food inside the crevices.
The vinaigrette test was used to determine the countertop stability by measuring how far the bowls moved as we vigorously whisked oil into the dressing. We were surprised that neither heavier glass nor lighter metal bowls, nor ones with wider or narrower bases, had any clear advantages or disadvantages. As a matter of fact, the bowl that travelled the farthest was the heaviest and the broadest at its base. The only model that flat-out failed the stability test was from OXO.
The rubber coating on the base, which the bowl was supposed to have as a selling point, proved to be its downfall: Instead of stabilizing the bowl, it caused it to twirl to the point of tipping over. (The final blow to the set: OXO warned against using the bowl in a double boiler, because its exterior plastic coating could overheat.)
In durability tests, one glass bowl cracked and another shattered, but all stainless steel bowls survived unscathed. Fortunately, the best models in both categories were also reasonably priced. The three from Vollrath’s Economy Stainless line will set you back just $14.30 (at the time of this testing), while the Pyrex Smart Essentials set of four glass bowls (and lids) is as functional as it is affordable at $13.19 (at the time of this testing).
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