If you’re a serious baker, you probably own a stand mixer and, without hesitation, admit it's your best friend in the kitchen. For others choosing a mixer is a difficult decision that sets up a classic battle between "I want it" and "do I need it."
If you’re eyeing that lovely KitchenAid stand mixer in your favorite shade of blue but are not sure you really need it, take a deep breath and read on. Today at CHEFS Mix, we help you understand what to look for in a stand mixer and hand mixer so you can decide if one or both are best for you. (For the record, I own both a KitchenAid stand mixer and KitchenAid hand mixer – both get regular workouts in my kitchen.)
Stand mixers are countertop appliances with a motorized base and mixer head that holds the beater or other attachments. The mixing bowl locks into place below the beater. The mixer head either tilts up or lifts with a lever, allowing you to attach or remove the beater and the bowl. Stand mixers offer hands-free operation – mixing, beating, blending and whipping like a hand mixer, but with more power. Their powerful motor easily handles stiff batter and dough and prolonged tasks like kneading bread.
Stand mixers are ideal for home cooks who bake frequently, regularly double or triple baking recipes, do lots of seasonal and holiday baking, make their own bread or are unable to use a hand mixer for health or safety reasons. A stand mixer is also a pricey investment so choose yours carefully. Many home cooks own both a stand mixer and hand mixer.
When choosing a stand mixer, consider its:
The best stand mixers are large and bulky, requiring significant space for storing on the countertop or in the pantry. If you plan to display it on your counter, check the mixer’s dimensions including height – you want to be sure it will fit beneath your cabinets. For example, the KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer has an 8-3/4-inch by 14-3/4-inch base and stands 13-3/4-inches tall.
Style and Color
Choose the style you prefer: tilt head or bowl lift.
Tilt Head Tilt Head Bowl Lift
If space is a consideration, note that bowl lift stand mixers are taller. For example, the KitchenAid Artisan (tilt-head) is nearly 14-inches tall while the KitchenAid Pro 600 (bowl lift) has a height of 16-1/2-inches. If you’re planning to display your stand mixer on the counter, color may be important. KitchenAid offers stand mixers in an array of trendy and classic colors while other brands have limited palettes.
The mixer should be heavy to prevent it from “creeping” on your countertop during use. Many popular brands weigh 20 pounds or more, making them stable on the counter but awkward to lift and transport. For convenience and safety, many home cooks store their stand mixer on the countertop.
Typical bowl sizes range from 4-1/2 quarts to 7 quarts – choose the size that will accommodate most of your baking needs. As a rule, stand mixers with larger mixing bowls have motors that are more powerful. Bowls may be stainless steel or glass. Some have a pouring spout and handle. The manufacturer may sell extra bowls as accessories.
The best stand mixers use a "planetary mixing action." The single beater or attachment moves the way the Earth orbits the sun, simultaneously spinning on its own while traveling an elliptical path around the bowl. Planetary mixing action maximizes the contact between the beater and the bowl, resulting in even, efficient mixing and fewer stops to scrape down the bowl.
The best stand mixers offer a range of differentiated or distinct speed settings. At the low end, a slow start or soft start setting prevents “puffs” after you add dry ingredients to the bowl and splatters after you add wet ingredients. At the high end, a fast or high speed easily aerates and whips egg whites and cream. In between, look for five or more settings that let you choose the optimal speed for tasks like folding, stirring, mixing, creaming and blending.
Choose a stand mixer that can easily handle your biggest mixing and kneading tasks. As one gauge of the stand mixer’s power, look for the maximum number of cups of flour the stand mixer can handle in a single load. For example, the KitchenAid 5-quart Artisan stand mixer can handle up to 9 cups of flour while the Cuisinart 5.5-quart stand mixer can handle up to 12 cups.
Most stand mixers come with three basic attachments: an all-purpose flat beater or paddle, a wire whisk for whipping egg whites and cream, and a dough hook for kneading yeast dough. Some stand mixers have a height adjustment screw or knob that lets you fine tune the position of the bowl or beater/attachment. Brands like KitchenAid extend the stand mixer’s versatility by offering a variety of accessories and attachments that turn the mixer into a pasta maker, food grinder, citrus blender, ice cream maker, grain mill and more.
A hand mixer is a portable, handheld appliance that mixes, beats, blends and whips like a stand mixer but with less power. Its portability lets you mix where you need to like over a double boiler or in a saucepan. It excels at smaller mixing tasks such as whipping a single egg white or small amount of cream. A hand mixer is also less expensive and easier to clean and store than a stand mixer.
A hand mixer is ideal if you have limited kitchen counter space, bake occasionally, knead bread by hand or are on a budget. All come with a pair of all-purpose beaters. Many include other attachments like a whisk attachment for whipping egg whites and cream. Many home cooks own both a hand mixer and a stand mixer.
When choosing a hand mixer, consider its:
Weight affects comfort and maneuverability. Choose a hand mixer that’s sturdy and durable but not too heavy. If the mixer is too heavy, your arm will tire after just a few minutes of mixing. You should be able to hold the mixer and mix comfortably for 5 to 10 minutes. An ergonomic handle will further reduce strain on your forearm.
Many inexpensive mixers have three general speed settings: low, medium and high. Better hand mixers offer 5 to 9 differentiated or distinct speed settings, giving you more control over mixing tasks. At the low end, a slow start or soft start setting prevents “puffs” after you add dry ingredients to the bowl and splatters after you add wet ingredients. At the high end, a fast or high speed easily aerates and whips egg whites and cream. In between, look for additional settings for tasks like folding, stirring, mixing, creaming and blending. The speed control pad should be easy to read and use so you can quickly change settings while you're mixing.
Look for models with newer styled beaters. Older, traditional beaters have flat metal strips that encase a thick post, a design that easily traps clumps of batter. Newer beaters feature thinner, curved stainless steel wires without a center post. They mix and whip better and clean up more easily than traditional beaters. Beaters should lock securely into the mixer body and, when you're ready, eject easily.
When you make cake batter or cookie dough, you don't mix continuously. Many hand mixers have a convenient resting feature that lets you prop the mixer onto the side of the bowl or a heel rest that lets you set the mixer squarely on the counter in between mixing tasks.
Depending on your kitchen's layout, cord length may be important. Make sure the cord is long enough to reach from an outlet to the places you'll use the mixer (e.g., stovetop, table or countertop). If you’re left-handed, look for a model with a swivel cord. Some hand mixers feature a retractable cord for neater storage.
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