Mixing bowls just might be the most important tool in the kitchen, especially if you’re a baker. All the spatulas, whisks and spoons in the world are awfully difficult to use if you don’t have a good bowl for mixing your ingredients! Mixing bowls are important, but most of us don’t pay all that much attention to the function of a mixing bowl in the same way we might scrutinize the features of a stand mixer or other flashy kitchen implement. Cook’s Illustrated knows just how important mixing bowls are and put them to the test in a recent issue (Setp/Oct 2014) to see what brands stood out from the rest.
The test kitchen rated bowls for performance, ease or use and durability, and both stainless steel bowls and glass bowls were tested. The performance testing included a lot of mixing, both thin batters and thick doughs, while the ease of use tested how comfortable the bowls were to handle under normal mixing conditions when used by testers ofr varying heights, strengths and skills. The durability test included repeated washing, bumping, dropping and double boiling. Plastic bowls were excluded, although they are common, because the can’t be used in a double boiler, making them a bit less useful overall than the other two types of bowls.
The winning stainless bowls were the Vollrath Economy Mixing Bowls, which are inexpensive bowls that you can find at most restaurant supply stores. They’re lightweight, with a broad and shallow basin that is easy to mix in. They tested 1 1/2 quart, 3 quart and 5 quart bowls, but they’re available in a wide range of sizes. The runner up was Cuisinart’s Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids, which are sold as a set. This trio of bowls got knocked down for being excessively tall and deep, but they were also very lightweight and easy to use. The lids might come in handy if you do a lot of advance prep and don’t want to constantly use foil or plastic wrap to cover your bowls.
The winning glass bowls were Pyrex Smart Essentials Mixing Bowls with Colored Lids. These bowls were very heavy when compared to the stainless bowls, but they had a broad and shallow basin for easy mixing and were easy to handle overall. The glass is tempered, which makes them surprisingly durable, so they should not break even if one slips out of your hands and onto the floor while mixing. The runner up was Arc International Luminarc 10-piece Bowl Set, which was a bit lighter than the Pyrex set, but not quite as easy to handle because they lacked an easy-to-grip rim. You do get a lot of bowls with this large set, which is handy if you use a lot during your prep work. Models that were not recommended were Oxo’s Stainless Steel Set, Duralec Lys Stackable Bowl Set and Anchor Hocking’s Mixing Bowls with Red Lids.