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Mixing Bowls

Tuesday, 3 November 2009 | Tags: , ,

While most at-home chefs think any old mixing bowl will do, we find out that they're not all created equal. A staple in the kitchen, mixing bowls come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Here's what we learned about mixing bowls during our research for Anna and Kristina's Grocery Bag.

The Basics

  • The style and design of most mixing bowls is very similar:

    • Some have pouring spouts and handles, which help with usability, but can make them a bit awkward to store.

    • Some bowls have lids for easy storage in the fridge or freezer

    • A non-slip base (e.g. a rubber ring around the bottom) is handy for keeping your bowls in place while mixing.

    • Some bowls have measurements marked on the inside or outside of the bowl.

    • Recent development in bowls include the ability to collapse flat for storage, where a plastic base and top frame a softer silicone or polypropylene middle area.

  • The main decision to make when buying a mixing bowl is the material. One isn’t necessarily better than the rest, but they do have different uses.

    • Glass, Ceramic, and Pyrex

      • These bowls are heavy, which some prefer since they help support mixers and other utensils being used in the bowl.

      • Most are safe for use in the oven, microwave, freezer and dishwasher, but be sure to read any instructions to be certain.

      • They don’t aquire odours (like plastic can) or leach a metallic taste into food (like steel or copper).

      • They can be breakable, and also aren’t usually an inexpensive option.

    • Plastic and Melamine

      • These bowls are usually inexpensive and are also lightweight.

      • Beware that plastic can scratch if you use sharp utensils, and leave tiny shreds in your food.

      • They can also retain and release odours and tastes from one food to another, especially if you store something in the bowl after it has been mixed.

      • These bowls are typically dishwasher and freezer-friendly, but they’re not recommended for use in the microwave and can melt under high temperatures.

    • Stainless Steel

      • These bowls are usually inexpensive, lightweight, durable, and non-reactive to other foods.

      • Stainless is especially useful when working with ingredients that should stay chilled. Putting the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes before using helps cream whip more quickly, for example.

      • Stainless steel bowls can also do double duty when you need a double boiler for melting chocolate. However, they’re not recommended for use in the oven or microwave.

    • Copper

      • Long-lasting copper bowls are great for when you actually want the metal’s ions to react with ingredients, most commonly for whipping egg whites.

      • Copper bowls produce a yellowish, creamy foam that is harder to overbeat than foam produced using glass or stainless steel bowls, thus ensuring your egg whites are done to perfection.

      • When you whisk egg whites in a copper bowl, some copper ions migrate from the bowl into the egg whites. These form a yellow complex with one of the proteins found in eggs, called conalbumin. The conalbumin-copper mix is more stable than conalbumin alone, so egg whites whipped in a copper bowl are less likely to unfold.

      • NOTE: If using a glass or steel bowl to whip egg whites, add an acid such as lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar (about ¼ tsp per 2 egg whites) to help stabilize and bind them together. Cream of tartar is often preferred since it’s flavourless.

TEST CRITERIA

We bought a variety of different bowls made from different materials and used them in our kitchens for a number of weeks.

  • Progressive International Collapsible Mixing Bowl (polypropylene): $15
. . Amazon.com
  • Paderno Canada (stainless steel, non-slip base): $17
. . Amazon.ca
  • Sophie Conran for Portmeirion (porcelain): $45
. . Cookworks.ca
  • Bormioli Rocco (glass): $13
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Old Dutch Beating Bowl (solid copper): $60
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Homesmart measuring bowl (plastic): $4
. . At a local department store or dollar store.

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

     

 

OUR TOP PICK

After using each of the bowls, we concluded that it really is a matter of preference, and also budget. If you like the heavier feel of glass, ceramic, or Pyrex, you will be paying more, and maybe replacing them more often than bowls made from other materials. Copper is also usually very expensive. Stainless steel is a sturdy alternative, and plastic is great for chefs on a budget. Plastic can gouge and break down faster than glass, ceramic or metal. If you purchase plastic, be sure it’s BPA-free.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/melanie.escaravage Melanie Escaravage

    Why would one potentially replace glass mixing bowls more often than other materials? Wouldn’t it be plastic that you would need to replace more often?

    • annaandkristina

      Hi Melanie, for the glass, we were thinking about the clumsy factor more than wear & tear. You’re right, plastic would probably break down faster than glass if you’re not a butterfingers!