If you're looking for a new kitchen tool that you can have a ton of fun with, experiment with inexpensively, and make fancy foods you never thought would be so easy, consider the humble whipping siphon. You may think it's what Alton Brown would call a "unitasker," used only for whipped cream, and pulled out only at Thanksgiving for pumpkin pie.
Au contraire, mon ami. There are many, many ways to use a whipping siphon. They are staples in upscale restaurants, where you may see a dozen or more siphons lined up, charged with different foams, gels, and infusions for fancy plating, whimsical finishes, and unexpected flavor (and textural) delights.
Foams, gels, quick pickling, infusions, and so much more. Read on for our list of ways to use a whipping siphon--it's incomplete, but it will get definitely get your creative juices flowing.
What Is a Whipping Siphon?
A whipping siphon, also called a cream whipper, a cream siphon, or just a siphon, is a device that uses pressurized gas to create whipped cream, foams, infusions, and other pressurized culinary delights.
From the ChefSteps site: "High-end whipping siphons have three main applications: foaming, carbonating, and rapid infusion. And you can use rapid infusion to quickly create foods that traditionally take a long time to make. Think kimchi and other pickled vegetables, cold-brewed coffee, even flavorful bitters for your cocktails."
You fill the canister with the liquid or solid food (yes, solid--infusion purposes only, though) you want to pressurize, screw on the lid, and use small chargers filled with either nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide to create pressure.
This image from modernistcuisine.com shows a cutaway view of a whipping siphon and describes how it works:
When you press the lever on a pressurized siphon, the gas escapes. If the siphon has been properly shaken to distribute its contents, the escaping gas contains a suspension of whatever liquid is also in the canister. The pressure creates the familiar whipped, fluffy texture that we're all familiar with.
Depending on how large a quantity you buy, cartridges cost from $0.50 to $1.00 apiece; possibly cheaper if you can find them in bulk. (And buying bulk is a good idea because they do not lose their charge over time.) You typically need one or two cartridges per charge; two usually produces a lighter, fluffier texture.
One really cool feature of the whipping siphon is that it extends the life of homemade whipping cream, which will stay fresh--and fluffy--in a whipping siphon for as long as 10 days. The blanket of nitrous oxide inside the siphon protects the cream from spoilage.
What's the Difference Between a Whipping Siphon and a Soda Siphon?
Whipping siphons and soda siphons perform the same general task: pressurizing liquids. However, there are a few major differences:
- A whipping siphon uses pressurized gas only to push out fluids, so it has to be turned upside down for best results (see cutaway image at the beginning of the article). A soda siphon has a tube to the bottom of the canister (like a spray bottle of cleaner) so the pressure in the can pushes liquids down and then up into the tube--thus, you use a soda siphon upright. Also because of the tube in the soda siphon, it can be used only for liquids.
- A whipping siphon has a larger opening so you can put more things in it, such as solid foods. (It doesn't look that much larger in these photos, but take our word for it: it is.)
- Because of the small opening and tube feed, the soda siphon should be used only with carbon dioxide, which dissolves best in thin liquids. A whipping siphon works with both carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide chargers.
You can begin to see here that that the whipping siphon is the more versatile tool. You use your soda siphon for making carbonated beverages--definitely a worthy endeavor--and you can use your whipping siphon for that, too--plus everything else.
Do I Need Anything Else to Use a Whipping Siphon?
Whipping siphons come with a number of attachments. Though not pictured with the siphon in the Amazon listing, our favorite ISI Whipping Siphon comes with a number of heads and tips for dispensing creams and injecting fillings and marinades into foods. Other brands should come with a variety of tips as well, such as this Zoemo siphon, which comes with all of these:
What you do have to buy separately is the chargers. For standard use (whipped cream, that is), you'll need to buy the cream (nitrous oxide) chargers:
If you want to experiment with other uses, you will also need carbon dioxide chargers:
You do NOT need to buy the same brand of chargers as the siphon you get. Any brand of charger should work in any brand of siphon.
Since you typically need to use 2 chargers for a 1 liter siphon, you can see that a pack of 10 isn't going to last very long. For this reason--and also because it's more economical--we recommend buying the largest container of cartridges you can find.
What Size Whipping Siphon Should I Buy?
Siphons generally come in two sizes: pint and quart. Which size to buy depends on how you'll use it. If you do a lot of entertaining, you may want the larger size. However, the pint size makes enough whipped cream for an entire banana or coconut cream pie.
Keep in mind that you'll go through more cartridges with the larger size; even if you're making a small amount of whipped cream, the larger siphon will require more charging to achieve the right texture. So unless you plan on siphoning for crowds on a regular basis, the smaller siphon is probably the best size for most people.
How Do I Know How Much Gas to Use?
Typically, a 1 liter siphon will require 2 nitrous oxide cartridges for best results.
Most recipes will tell you how many cartridges to use. But if you're uncertain, or going off into uncharted territory, here are some helpful guidelines from the Modernist Cuisine website:
Each cartridge holds 8 g of gas, can be used only once, and costs about 50 cents. Two cartridges are typically sufficient to charge a 1 L siphon. Use about 2% gas, or 8 g of gas for every 400 g of liquid, more if the liquid is low in fat.
Are Whipping Siphons Safe? Safety and Use Guidelines
Like all tools and appliances, whipping siphons are safe when used properly. They are pressurized, though, so you have to be careful with them. Here are a few safety notes for working with whipping siphons:
- Never fill above the fill line.
- Never fill more than the recommended amount of gas (usually not more than 2 cartridges).
- Always shake well to get the most homogenous results.
- Do not attempt to remove the lid if the container is still pressurized; squeeze lever until all pressure is expelled, then open the siphon.
- Wash parts carefully between uses. Sticky valves can cause leakage or spraying.
- Strain liquids (that you're going to dispense through the nozzle) of all chunks and globs before putting into the whipping siphon.
- Room temperature liquids mix better with the gas than cold liquids.
Finally, be sure to read all the instructions that come with your whipping siphon. It is a pressurized tool, so misusing it could result in injury.
20 Ways to Use a Whipping Siphon
And now, what you've all been waiting for: all the ways to use a whipping siphon!
1. Deep-Fry Batter
This is one of our favorites. It can be tricky to achieve a light, lacy batter when deep frying. People use all sorts of methods like beer, soda water, and even vodka to lighten up batters. A whipping siphon is one of the best, and easiest, ways to lighten up deep fry batter. Here's a recipe from Food & Wine for onion rings, but you can use this batter for just about any deep fried food. (We've used it for fish with phenomenal results.)
2.Hollandaise Sauce (and Others)
If you've ever had light, fluffy hollandaise or bernaise at a restaurant and wondered how they did it, it was almost certainly done with a whipping siphon. You can put any sauce in a whipping siphon and aerate it to achieve that light, fluffy texture. Doing so will also make the sauce go further and reduce calories (by adding air) without any sense of deprivation.
Here's a recipe from the ISI website for whipping siphon hollandaise sauce. Or, if you have a favorite recipe, you can use it, then simply follow the instructions for putting it in the the whipping siphon. And here's a recipe from Chef Steps using sous vide to make hollandaise sauce. (Kind of cool, if you're into that sort of thing.)
3. Mousse (Chocolate and Otherwise)
Mousse is an ideal dessert to make in your whipping siphon. Getting it fluffy and light is a no-brainer with this method. Here is a recipe for whipping siphon chocolate mousse from Alton Brown. And here is an even easier recipe (no cooking!) from the ISI website for berry mousse. You can really make any flavor you want: strawberry, lemon, coffee...it all works with the right technique.
4. Homemade Soda Pop
You can make homemade soda pop with a whipping siphon and any flavor juice you like. For this one, you need a few weird ingredients, like malic acid, phosphoric acid, and fructose. The good news is you can find most, if not all, of these on Amazon, and if you can't find them there, Modernist Pantry is certain to have them.
If you want to try making your own soda, don't balk at getting these offbeat ingredients. They're inexpensive, they last a long time, and if you're into modernist cooking or even experimenting, you'll find other uses for them.
5. Whipped Potatoes
Potatoes? In a whipping siphon? This may sound crazy, but it will yield the smoothest, lightest "mashed" potatoes imaginable. And how much fun to use your whipping siphon for potatoes!?
Here's a recipe from Marxfood.com for Siphon Whipped Truffle Potatoes (but you can make them without the truffle salt, too).
Once in the siphon, you can use the potatoes to create a stunning presentation, too: one to rival the fanciest restaurant.
6. Quick Pickling
With a whipping siphon, you can make pickles in about half an hour. The pressurized siphon works incredibly fast and results in pickles that taste like they marinated in brine for weeks.
Here's a recipe from Food & Wine for Quick Bread-and-Butter Pickles.
7. Blue Cheese Foam
You can use this for any of your favorite cream-based salad dressing recipes as long as you process until completely smooth in a blender or food processor. This recipe from Food & Wine shows you how.
8. Sri Racha Foam
Salad dressing shouldn't get to have all the fun: you can also create airy condiments using just about any of your favorite recipes--again, as long as you process until completely smooth in a blender or food processor. This recipe from Food & Wine for Sri Racha Ranch Foam can be adapted for just about anything.
Sabayon, an Italian custard made with egg yolks and sugar (similar to cremé bruleé but lighter), usually has to be made right before serving so as not to lose its whipped texture. A whipping siphon makes it possible to make a sabayon in advance because it won't lose its airiness. Here's another recipe from Food & Wine for Whipping Siphon Sabayon with Strawberries. As with all of these recipes, you can adapt your favorites for the whipping siphon, use different fruits, and generally make these your own.
10. Foams (Cream-, Gelatin-, Agar-, and Xanthan Gum-Based)
Foams are huge in modernist cooking and upscale restaurants. They add flavor, texture, and whimsy to any dish.
With the right tools, you can make any liquid (or liquified solid) into a foam. A whipping siphon makes it easy! Here are the four main types of foams you can make in a whipping siphon.
Cream foams are the best known and easiest foams. They use the natural thickeners in the cream to create whipped, airy results--whipped cream being the most famous one. Mousse, lemon curd, and other high-fat liquids also fall into this category.
Creamy, high-fat liquids work so will with siphons because nitrous oxide dissolves into fat easily. Thus, any recipe that has heavy cream is probably not going to need any extra thickener.
Here's a recipe for traditional whipped cream, lightly sweetened, from the ISI website.
When your liquid base has a low fat content, you can thicken it by other means. Probably the most popular of these is gelatin. Here's what the Amazing Food Made Easy site has to say about gelatin foams:
"Gelatin foams range from light and airy to heavy and dense. All gelatin foams have fine, evenly distributed bubbles. Gelatin foams must be served cold or they will break down and melt. The addition of agar can help strengthen gelatin foams.
For light foams, powdered gelatin in a 0.4% to 1.0% ratio work well. For denser foams, using powdered gelatin in a 1.0% to 1.7% ratio is typical. Sometimes you will see even higher ratios.
If you are using sheet gelatin you would normally use 0.2 to 0.55 sheets per 100 grams of liquid for light foams or 0.55 to 0.9 sheets per 100 grams of liquid for dense foams.
To make a gelatin foam, first hydrate the gelatin then disperse it into the liquid you want to foam. Pour the mixture into the whipping siphon and refrigerate it for several hours so the gelatin can set before dispensing it."
And here is a recipe for White Chocolate Clouds (a gelatin foam) from the same site.
Here's what Amazing Food Made Easy has to say about agar foams (from the same page as above):
"Agar foams are made from an agar fluid gel. They typically range from light, coarse foams to dense, fine foams. One big benefit of agar foams is that they can be used in hot or cold preparations so you will often see them on savory, hot dishes.
To make an agar foam, combine a liquid with agar using an immersion or standing blender, bring it to a boil for 3 to 5 minutes, then let it cool into a gel. Blending that gel turns it into a fluid gel. This fluid gel is added to the whipping siphon which is sealed and charged.
The more agar you use the denser the resulting foam will be. For light foams, a ratio of 0.3% to 1.0% works well. For denser foams 1.0% to 2.0% is recommended. You can also add gelatin, locust bean gum, or xanthan gum to change the density and coarseness of the foam."
Xanthan Gum Foam
Also from Amazing Food Made Easy (same page):
"Xanthan gum is a very common foam stabilizer. It works by thickening the liquid being foamed which helps to trap the bubbles. Most xanthan gum foams are light and frothy, though xanthan gum is also often used for denser foams in conjunction with another ingredient such as gelatin or agar.
Making a xanthan gum foam is very easy. Simply blend the xanthan gum into the liquid you want to foam. Place the liquid into a whipping siphon, seal, and charge. Xanthan gum foams can be used hot or cold, though they are a little firmer when cold.
For xanthan gum foams, a ratio between 0.2% and 0.8% is typically used. The more xanthan gum you use the denser the foam will be."
Here's a recipe (from the same site) for Lemonade with Blueberry Foam.
As you can see, you can use these thickeners to essentially turn any liquid into something thick enough to work in a whipping siphon. Just follow the percentages and with a little experimenting, you can come up with your own whipping siphon foams.
Bitters are basically an infusion: herbs and spices steeped in liquid solvent to extract the flavor. But they're a special category of infusion. We discuss infusions in general below (see number 14), but here we give a specific recipe for bitters; you can adapt your own recipe or get creative with other ingredients--the sky's the limit as far as different kinds of bitters! (Bonus: you can put these in pretty jars and give them away as gifts--any whiskey connoisseur will greatly appreciate them.)
Here's a recipe for Orange Bitters from the ISI website to get you started.
12. Brining Meat
Whipping siphons come with needle-like attachments that you can use to inject brines into meats. To use, you would make any brine recipe, filter out the solids, and pour into the siphon. Pressurize with one cream charger, and inject into the meat where desired.
How is this better than other brining techniques? The pressure forces the brine further into the meat, so it will be more evenly distributed.
13. Injecting Fillings (e.g., Cream Puffs)
Just as you can use the needle attachment for brining, you can also use it to inject whipped cream or other viscous fillings into pastries.
With a whipping siphon, you don't have to cut into the pastry to fill it. Simply insert the needle into the pastry and squeeze. The pressurized filling goes into the pastry easily--much more easily than with non-pressurized methods!
14. Liquid Infusions
Infusion, according to Wikipedia, "is the process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from plant material in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the solvent over time (a process often called steeping). An infusion is also the name for the resultant liquid."
Tea and coffee are both examples of water infusions.
You don't need a whipping siphon to make an infusion, but they make the process go a lot faster. What can take days or weeks without a siphon may take just a couple of hours with one. The pressure inside the siphon forces the flavors to meld more quickly--in most cases, a lot more quickly.
The bitters above was just one example. You can use your whipping siphon to make your own flavored vodka, your own flavored cooking oils, and do other delicious experiments. You are limited only by your imagination.
Here's are three recipes from Modernist Cuisine for "instant infusions": one for herb-infused olive oil, one for maple syrup, and one for vodka. And here is a more generic recipe for alcoholic infusions.
For a more detailed discussion mainly about how to do alcohol infusions, see this discussion on the Cooking Issues website.
15. Carbonated Fruit
Ever hear of carbonated fruit? Just put your fruit in the siphon (add some sweetener if you wish) and pressurize it with a couple of carbon dioxide cartridges. Let sit so the siphon can do its magic, then de-pressurize. Pour the fruit into serving bowls and voila: fizzy fruit.
Your guests will be talking about it for the rest of time.
Berries are the easiest, but you can carbonate grapes, citrus fruit, kiwi, and many others. You can even carbonate celery--it makes a fantastic garnish for a bloody Mary.
The short video above shows how easy the process is. If you don't want to watch it, here's the recipe (from the same site, Umami Nata):
1. Chill fruit.
2. Add liquid for more flavor, if desired.
3. Use 3 charges of carbon dioxide (this is for the Pint siphon).
4. Refrigerate for 3 hrs, then release pressure and serve.
16. Carbonated Drinks
This is along the same lines as making your own soda pop, but instead of starting from scratch you can just add juice to a siphon and pressurize it with carbon dioxide to make it fizzy--no recipe necessary. Water, coffee, fruit juice, tea...if it pours, you can make it bubbly!
Did we just say cake? Yes, that's right: cake. Instead of using a leavening agent like baking powder, you can use a whipping siphon to create light-as-air batter. Here's a recipe from Food and Wine for Brown Butter Sponge Cake to prove that it's possible.
If you don't want to go to all that trouble, here's a recipe for 30-Second Chocolate Cake from Cooking Channel. And if cake mix is more your speed, here's an easy recipe on Chowhound--adapted from the Modernist Cuisine at Home book (a super fun cookbook!). You can keep the batter in the siphon (refrigerated, of course) for up to 10 days and have cake anytime you want in about a minute!
Burrata, the soft mozzarella cheese with a creamy center, isn't just for fancy cheese shops anymore. You can make your own with a whipping siphon, mozzarella cheese, and a little xanthan gum!
The recipe is on Chef Steps and you need a subscription to view it, but you can watch the video...looks pretty good, huh?
19. Rapid-Infusion Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee is one of the great pleasures that Starbucks has brought to the world, but did you know you can make your own, at home? And if you have a whipping siphon, you can cut the brewing time down from a few days to a few minutes--how about that?
The Modern Barista shows us how here.
20. Weight Loss
This isn't a recipe, but it's certainly something you can use a whipping siphon for. Because here's the thing: whatever comes out of it is fluffed up with calorie-free air, so it's going to have fewer calories. So whipping siphon chocolate mousse and blue cheese dressing (for example) are going to contain considerably fewer calories than their non-whipping siphon cousins.
Furthermore, you can make any sweet whipping siphon recipe with Splenda or Stevia or your choice of low calorie or natural sweetener, saving even more calories.
So if you're trying to lose a few pounds, your whipping siphon just might be your secret weapon!
I'm Convinced. Where Can I Buy a Whipping Siphon?
You can find several brands of siphons on Amazon, and this is a good place to purchase a whipping siphon. You can also find ISI whipping siphons at kitchen stores like Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table, both online and at the mall. Amazon is going to have the most selection, and is also likely to have the best price.
Nevertheless, shop around: you might find a sale, a clearance item, or some other great deal on a site where you don't normally shop.
We recommend the ISI whipping siphon. It's the most recognized name, but it is also an excellent company with excellent products and really excellent customer service. We own three ISI products: a whipping siphon, a soda siphon, and a Penguin carbonator (which you should get at Williams-Sonoma for the best price). When our Penguin quit working, after about 6 years of reliable service, they replaced it without a receipt. Just one short phone call was all it took. We were very impressed with this, and always recommend ISI products to anyone who asks.
The pint-size siphon is about $85 and the quart-size is about $109. The pint siphon is the best size for most people, and will be less expensive to use because it requires fewer chargers.
Check out Quart Size ISI whipping siphons on Amazon:
Check out Pint Size ISI whipping siphons on Amazon:
There are many other brands of whipping siphons on Amazon, many of them less expensive than the ISI siphon. Some of them get really good reviews, but we haven't tried them, so we can't give a recommendation on them.
Check out other whipping siphons on Amazon:
Check out Cream chargers (Nitrous oxide) on Amazon:
Check out soda chargers (carbon oxide) on Amazon:
We hope we've convinced you that a whipping siphon is a lot more than a unitasker/whipped cream dispenser. With the ideas here and your own imagination, just think of all the fun things you can do with your whipping siphon--and maybe save a few calories, too!
Thanks for reading!