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Under The Radar
One of the neat things about going to trade shows is the reward of finding a really good manufacturer in your field of interest, who does not have the big bucks to spend on a huge flashy booth or a big-name celebrity who doesn’t really use the product but is paid to sell. Some are new, but more common are those who have been in business for ages, have a steady commercial clientele and make available some of their tools to home consumers as well. You have to spend some time going up and down numerous aisles to detect them among the more spangly performers and glitzier booths. This small company located in Portland, Oregon is one of those unusual finds.
Last One Standing
I believe that Best Manufacturing, the brainchild of an inventor in Portland, Oregon and a salesman over 50 years ago, is the only true US manufacturer of whisks. It has a small cadre of employees who produce some 65 variations on the whisk theme – astonishing! Most of them are sold to commercial operations, including schools, restaurants and prisons. and some of their whisks are purchased for mixing wallpaper paste or mixing clay for pottery making. Although kitchenware chains have carried some of their whisks, often once a clientele is established, they get switched out for a copy that is made more cheaply abroad and not necessarily with the same safeguards and design quality as the original. The items are then stamped with the chain’s logo. This process, which most consumers are unaware of, is euphemistically referred to as a “reverse auction” and it is, in fact, a race to the bottom which shuts down many worthy domestic manufacturers . To quote Investopedia:
A reverse auction is a type of auction in which sellers bid for the prices at which they are willing to sell their goods and services. Sellers then place bids for the amount they are willing to be paid for the good or service, and at the end of the auction the seller with the lowest amount wins.
An Embarrassment Of Whisks
Having collected a fair number of whisks, including some made in France and Germany (I have one 14-inch circumference balloon whisk from France that makes foaming egg whites a breeze, but the material on the handle has already degraded) but those from Best are just what their company name says. They produce whisks with different gauges of wire. Their “French whisks” have thinner more flexible wire, plus a more narrow circumference, which makes them so efficient for making salad dressings and beurre blanc. I like both the 8 or 10 inch size. I also have a couple of heavier duty and less flexible “Standard” whisks with a wider circumference, which can beat any batter into submission.
The way the wires are inserted into the handles is important. Best is the only company that produces its whisks to comply with the National Sanitation Foundation specifications. In other words, they can be cleaned and sanitized in a commercial dishwasher (as well as a home one) and contain no toxic materials or crevices for bacteria to grow in. This is why their whisks (0r whips as they are called here in the industry) are used in hospitals for mixing ice baths for organ transplants.
Best Innovative Designs
Although I use the plain steel handle, Best makes some whisks with a dishwasher-proof wood handle which some of our shop customers felt was more comfortable in the hand, and of course will stay cool when used on a hot burner. A flat, somewhat curved whisk with sturdy wires is a béchamel and southern roux game-changer when you are combining the melted butter with the flour and then adding the liquid. It is the whisk I use when making the sacred turkey gravy (not sauce) for Thanksgiving right in the roasting pan. Another one that was requested by several La Cuisine customers is the Swedish Coil whisk. I have never used one, but those who love it say it is their favorite for making pan gravies or scrambled eggs. Best exports many of their designs to Japan, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Canada and there is a big market for their mashers in Mexico. I personally love the little version for avocados.
If you go to their website, you can look at the complete list of what they manufacture (and some of their imports too) and a list of their retail partners, as they do not sell directly to the consumer. Best does have an Amazon portal if you cannot find exactly what you want locally.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.