The 10 Best Mixing Bowl Sets
10. FineDine Mirror-Finished
9. Useful UH-NSB138
8. Oxo Good Grips
7. Bellemain Stainless Steel
6. Nordic Ware Prep N Serve
5. KitchenAid Plastic
4. X-Chef Lidded
3. VonShef 5-Piece
2. Pyrex Prepware
1. Old Dutch Copper Trio
Don't Knead Dough Without It
Cooking is a craft. That means that anyone who can follow directions, monitor times and temperatures, and replicate written techniques exactly can learn how to do it. In addition to technical knowledge and experience, perfecting that craft requires the right tools.
Everyone already knows about the stars of the show in the kitchen. The grill, the saute pans, the deep fryer, the blender — these pull much of the weight while cooking dinner. But there's one simple tool that sees as much use as any other, if not more.
That is the mixing bowl.
Bowls, themselves, are as old as human ingenuity itself. Indeed, Cro-Magnon man sat on a stump in prehistoric Europe, frustrated that he had no vessel from which to sip his vichyssoise (a cold leek and potato soup from the southern part of France) when his eyes rested on the skull of a recently hunted animal, and the soup bowl was born. But even if that's not exactly how it happened — after all, vichyssoise may have been invented in America some time later — it's no doubt that bowls are integral to eating. It just so happens that they're incredibly important in cooking, as well.
Welcome To The Mixer
There are a lot of ways to influence the food we cook. We can roast, broil, or braise large cuts of meat. We can grill-mark chicken breasts, steam beets, grind fresh beef patties, and puree corn and peppers into a spicy coulis. Teams of dedicated cooks can hand-press empanadas or slap out pupusas by the hundreds per hour. Kitchen staff employ all manner of tools to accomplish these tasks, from knives, to peelers, to strainers, and countless others. But the mixing bowl remains one of the most versatile and useful tools in the kitchens.
Very often used with a whisk or a hand mixer, these culinary champions really can do it all. One of the simplest tasks, one that's learned early on in many schools, is making an emulsion. To make a vinaigrette, a chef places vinegar and a touch of mustard, honey, and salt in — you guessed it — a mixing bowl. Then, the chef slowly pours a quantity of oil, usually grape seed or olive, into the bowl while briskly whipping with a handheld whisk. This causes the two normally unmixable liquids to each split into countless tiny droplets, which then form a temporary suspension in which they occupy the same space. The honey, salt, high-quality oil, and type of vinegar used help to determine the tastiness of your fresh salad dressing.
Another, more complicated emulsion highlights just how useful this simple tool is when making some of the most delicious foods. The well-known hollandaise sauce is made by gently heating egg yolks and vinegar and very carefully whipping hot butter into the mix, resulting in the magical combination of luscious, tart, wholesomeness that is one of the most popular sauces in history. Science tells us it's hard to pack any more flavor into a food that's already made of basically just egg yolk and butter.
The miracle of whipped cream, it's own special mixture of air and liquid, exists thanks to this beautiful tool. Or, you can switch out the cream for egg whites and enjoy a classic meringue. You can mix up a marinade in one of these bad boys, and then marinate some chops right there in the same container. Wrap with plastic and store in the fridge for 2-24 hours, and you have some deliciously brined pork.
In contrast to the aforementioned double-boiler method of heating, use the right bowl to dunk blanched vegetables into an ice bath for their use as crudites or on salads. Are you a fan of fried chicken? You'll be looking for receptacles in which to place flour, egg, and breadcrumbs while dredging your way to crispy, breaded goodness. Or combine a number of mixtures of flour, water, butter, sugar, leavening, and seasonings and unlock an entire world of wonderful pastries.
Speaking of desserts, how about custard? You'll need to break out that boiling water technique one more time for this rich, egg-yolk and sugar delicacy. Even make your own homemade mayonnaise using low-saturated-fat canola oil, diluted egg yolk, and a whole lot of elbow grease. The list really goes on and on.
Not All Bowls Are Created Equal
You'll encounter a few different styles when selecting the right mixing bowl for your needs. Above all, they're differentiated from normal bowls by their size and depth, allowing for all the wonderful techniques outlined above.
The next important factor is the material of the unit. Popular in restaurants is the classic stainless-steel type, which is the only one that can be used as a double boiler. Metal sometimes has the drawback of being reactive. This happens when acidic foods interact with molecules in the metal, and it can discolor and alter the flavor of food.
Copper also reacts with some foods, but in a helpful way. Egg whites react with ions in the copper and become more stable when they're whipped. When items containing those ion-enhanced egg whites are baked, their texture is noticeably fluffier and more pleasant than products not prepared in a copper bowl.
To avoid any kind of reactions, there are a lot of great options made of plastic, glass, or even clay that won't react. Plastic is popular because it's easy to clean, durable, and inexpensive. Glass or pyrex construction helps a mixing bowl double as food storage or even a serving bowl in a pinch. Stoneware bowls add a touch of class and elegance on a table.
But in the end, what it's made of isn't nearly as important as what you put into it: food and love.