When shopping for a stand mixer, which qualities should I pay attention too?
1. Mixing Power
Stand mixers are available in a wide range of power options, from 275 watts all the way up to 1000 watts, found in some of the professional models. Choose the power of your mixer for the biggest, toughest job you plan to use it for, then it will be able to handle those as well as all of the smaller ones. Routine whisking and beating tasks – such as thinner and softer doughs for cookies and cakes, can be readily accomplished with a lower wattage model from Sunbeam or Hamilton Beach. Mixing bread and heavier doughs, like pizza doughs and pastas, require mixing at a slower speed for a longer period of time and thus a more powerful motor, that will also be more durable over time. If you plan on doing this type of mixing frequently, then consider one of the more heavy duty professional models offered by Viking, Cuisinart, or KitchenAid. These will be much heavier and less likely to move on your counter top when in use, but will also be more expensive and harder to move when needed.
2. The Right Bowl Size
For most brands the bowl sizes range from 4 to 7 quarts. A 4 quart bowl is ideal for smaller, everyday tasks, such as mashed potatoes, cakes, and small batches of cookies. Bowls in the 5 to 7 quart range are better suited for larger quantities, up to 13 batches of cookies or 8 loaves of bread at one time for a 6 quart KitchenAid model. A larger bowl size will decrease the number of batches and the amount of work that will need to be done on larger baking projects, which is a major goal of a stand mixer. A larger bowl size will also take up more precious counter space and can make mixing smaller batches a more awkward experience. For this reason there are some models that come with two bowls of different sizes and many offer optional bowl sizes. A sturdy handle will make carrying and pouring much easier.
3. Full Die Cast Metal Bodies
While what your mixer is made of may not affect it’s performance initially, it can impact durability and appearance. Full die cast metal bodies will be the most durable, the heaviest, and usually have the most durable motors, but typically the most expensive. These full metal bodies will weigh more and thus offer more stability and less movement on your counter top. Mixers with plastic components will be lighter, generally less expensive, and less durable over time, but can be well suited for smaller and infrequent mixing tasks. Weight will also affect portability as well. If your budget allows, an all metal body mixer is a highly recommended, long-term investment that will provide dependable long-term value.
4. Drives and Gears
The power from the motor is transferred to the mixing attachments through a set of gears. While mixers with plastic gears will usually be less expensive, they will not be able to consistently handle the heavier duty mixing jobs and will have a much shorter lifespan than their metal alternatives. All steel geared transmissions, as found in the KitchenAid Professional series, are more reliable, durable, and better suited for heavy doughs and large batches. Some metal gear models will also have a direct drive connection from the motor which isn’t available on the plastic geared models. This means less moving parts and fewer places for a problem to occur, along with being a stronger power option.
5. Tilt Head or Bowl Lift
Tilt head mixers have a stationary bowl and the head is tilted back to access the bowl, while with bowl lift models, the bowl is raised and lowered with the mixing head remaining stationary. Tilt head models require additional head room to operate, but are shorter and more likely to fit on a counter under a cabinet when stored, while bowl lift mixers will not need additional space overhead to operate and often come in models with a larger bowl capacity. Tilt head mixers are easier to access when adding ingredients during the mixing process, but be sure the tilting head has a way to lock it into the raised position to prevent it from falling into the bowl.
6. Speed Settings
The majority of mixers come with 6 to 10 speeds, which is very sufficient. Higher speed settings are used for whipping light mixtures such as cream, egg whites, and salad dressings. Medium speeds are used for cake batter and small batches of cookies. The slowest speeds are for heavy doughs used to make bread and pizza. Mixers with a very slow setting or a slow start feature are best to help minimize the mess when first starting to mix. Some models come with a larger selection of speed settings that simply allow for more variability when mixing. Keep in mind that you may eventually want more than you initially think.
7. Power Hubs and Additional Accessories
Most models come with standard attachments, such as a dough hook, whisks, and a mixing paddle, designed to accomplish the most common tasks. Optional attachments vary between models and offer more specialized uses. Some higher end models by Cuisinart and others along with all of the KitchenAid models, have a power hub. This allows optional accessories to be attached such as a meat grinder, ice cream maker, pasta maker, and more turning your mixer into a complete kitchen appliance. The standard attachments are sufficient for all of the usual mixing jobs, while the power hub models offer the ability to expand your mixer’s use as your needs grow. This infographic gives a cool overview of 25 kitchen items you can replace with a stand mixer.
What are the leading brands?
The most popular and widely used stand mixer brand is KitchenAid. All of their products come with a 1 year warranty and are popular for their planetary mixing action of 59 points or more. Planetary mixing is how often the attachment comes into contact with the side of the mixing bowl while in action. Higher planetary mixing points equals better overall mixing. All models come with a power hub for optional attachments to turn your mixer into a meat grinder, ice cream maker, pasta maker, and more. This an optional feature on some other brands, but comes standard on all KitchenAid models. They offer a wide range of features for every budget. KitchenAid mixer purchases include attachments such as a flat beater, whisk, and a dough hook. The attachments are either nylon coated or burnished metal. Keep in mind that the burnished metal attachments are NOT dishwasher safe.
Cuisinart offers high end stand mixers in either 5.5 quart or 7 quart bowl sizes. Both sizes work well for cake batters, whipping creams, and egg whites. Included are the standard paddles, dough hooks, whisks, and splashguards. Great features include head locks in the upright position, digital timers, slow start, and a fold feature to incorporate flour without over beating. Similar to KitchenAid mixers, Cuisinart offers three power outlets to attach accessories such as food grinders, pasta makers, and blenders. Bowls and attachments are all dishwasher safe.
3. Hamilton Beach
Hamilton Beach offers more budget minded mixers, that are well suited for lighter jobs, and come in 6 or 7 speed models. With 300 watts, which is slightly less than KitchenAid and Bodum mixers, it is possible to create your favorite cookie doughs, cakes, mashed potatoes, small batches of bread and more. They all have 4 quart, stainless steel bowls, and include a flat beater, dough hook, and whisk. Each mixer features professional 2-way rotating mixing action, quick release tilt-up heads and all of their products come with a 3 year warranty.
Bodum is well known for their heavy duty Bistro mixer. The Bistro has 7 speeds and a 4.5 quart, stainless steel mixing bowl. It includes non-stick coated attachments such as a dough hook, beater, and whisk. The mixing bowl and attachments are dishwasher safe and the removable splash-guard and funnel attachment eliminate counter mess while mixing. A nice feature with this product is the base suction cups that ensure secure countertop fixation and stability while the mixer is in use.
Sunbeam stand mixers are a budget brand that comes in 2 different series, the Heritage and the Mixmaster. Heritage mixers offer 3-way mixing action along with off-center bowl position. This mixer has 350 watts, 12 speeds, and is a die cast metal product with non-skid rubber feet. The Mixmaster offers the same wattage and number of speeds which is perfect for cakes, breakfast breads, cookies, and mashed potatoes. Features include Burst of Power button, soft start technology, and tilt locking heads and bowl selector. Sunbeam products include 2 year warranties.
When it comes to commercial stand mixer models, look for these add-ons and attachments:
1. Countdown Timers
Some high-end, professional style mixers such as ones made by Cuisinart and Breville have a countdown timer feature. This advanced feature allows you to multitask by automatically shutting the mixer off at the specified mixing time. This can allow you to take care of other tasks in the kitchen or somewhere else in the house, knowing that the job will be finished when you return. This also saves you the trouble of having to monitor the process.
2. More Speed Control
Some professional models will have electronic speed sensors which will maintain the motor’s speed regardless of the load. The KitchenAid Pro series can also adjust the speed depending on the stage of the current mixing job by adjusting up or down as the mixture requires. Other models have sensors that can tell you what speed is right for various tasks, from folding and kneading to aerating and whipping. Also look for a feature only found on higher end models that automatically shuts down the motor if the mixing action becomes obstructed.
3. More Power
Besides offering more wattage and heavier duty motors with more horsepower, commercial and professional models also offer more torque which ultimately provides more efficient power. Many of these also have all steel gearing that runs cooler to prevent overheating during those prolonged jobs and quieter like the KitchenAid Pro series.
4. Increased Capacity
Most high end mixers will have a bowl-lift design. This comes from a more professional style, which due to the heavier components means the bowl-lift design offers more stability over the tilt-head versions while also allowing for greater bowl size for mixing larger batches. When choosing a high-end mixer look for bowls that have handles for ease of carrying and pouring.
5. Mobility and Stability
Professional stand mixers are typically heavier due to a combination of factors that include a full die cast metal body that houses a heavy duty motor. In addition to being more durable, this means that they don’t walk around you kitchen counter when in use as lighter models will do, but this also makes them much more difficult to lift and move when needed. Viking has a model that is built on wheels to make moving the mixer a much easier job.
6. Add On Features
Many high-end models offer more additional attachments than the standard mixers. KitchenAid far surpasses all others when it comes to additional attachments and accessories. Power hubs are a feature that allow you to turn your mixer into a complete kitchen countertop appliance. In addition to offering the widest range of attachments, all KitchenAid models come with a power hub feature. Power hub attachments include citrus juicers, ice cream makers, sausage grinders, a fresh pasta maker, and many others to expand your mixers uses far into the future.
7. Power hubs
Mixers with a power hub feature allow you to transform your mixer into a complete kitchen appliance, while saving the additional kitchen counter space that multiple stand alone machines would occupy. The power hub is located on the front of the mixer for easy access and is used to power a wide range of attachments for grinding meats, making ice cream, rolling pasta, and more. KitchenAid offers the widest range of power hub attachments, but other brands, including Cuisinart, also offer this feature.
8. Pasta Maker Attachments
KitchenAid offers a total of six different pasta making attachments that are sold as a complete set as well as in various combinations. The complete set includes a pasta roller, ravioli maker, and individual spaghetti, fettuccine, lasagnette, and capellini (angle hair) cutters. The roller is used to make perfect sheets of pasta and you then choose the cutter style to produce the finished homemade pasta. A big benefit is being able to use both hands to manage the dough.
9. Food Processor
This attachment turns your mixer into a complete food processor. It includes four discs, a slicing disc for meats and vegetables, a dicing disc for tomatoes, onions, and peppers for making salsa and more, a grating disc for cheeses and chocolate, and a julienne disc to cut fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes for french fries. You can also quickly change slice thickness, by sliding an exterior lever, meaning you don’t have to change discs to change thickness. It has a wide feed tube for feeding large pieces. It also comes with a storage case for the blades.
10. Juicer Attachment
This power hub attachment is a complete juicing machine that allows you to make juices, sauces, and jams. It comes with a juice pitcher, a separate pitcher for catching pulp, and three strainer sizes. The adjustable pulp shoot lets you determine your juices final pulp content. It is well suited for making fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, and a wide variety of sauces of varying thicknesses. There is a separate, unrelated citrus juicing attachment that is only for making citrus juices.
11. Ice Cream Maker
This KitchenAid power hub attachment, turns their stand mixers into an ice cream maker. However, it does not fit the 7 or 8 quart models. It will make 2 quarts of soft-serve ice cream in 30 minutes and can also make sorbet, gelato, and many other frozen desserts. It uses their Freeze Bowl, which must be left in the freezer for at least 15 hours ahead of time. It is also best to use chilled ingredients to help speed up the process. Note that the Freeze Bowl is not dishwasher safe. For harder ice cream you simply store your finished ice cream in the freezer until it is the desired hardness. It also comes with several recipes.
12. Meat Grinder
A meat grinding attachment allows you to save money by processing your own meat, and fruits and vegetables, at home while also having more control over what you eat, including controlling the fat content. There are options available for making sausage as well as jellies, jams, and sauces. It comes with a stomper, which is used for advancing the object being ground, and two grinding plates, one fine and one course. Other manufacturers make a food grinder option for the KitchenAid line of mixers.
13. Grain Mill Attachment
Another power hub attachment that gives you complete control over all of your baking projects, is a grain mill. This allows you to grind, wheats, corn, oats, or any low-moisture, non-oily grain to your desired consistency. You can use it to make up to 10 cups of homemade flour for baking cookies, breads, and cakes and also use it to make your own homemade, gluten-free baked goods. A control knob is used to adjust the consistency of the end product. Other manufacturers make a grain mill attachment for the KitchenAid line of mixers.
14. Sausage Stuffer
This KitchenAid attachment comes in a combined kit with the Meat Grinder or can be purchased separately, for easily making a wide variety of homemade sausages in many different sizes. This gives you more control over your diet by controlling exactly what goes into your sausage. The kit comes with two tube sizes for stuffing that allow you to make bratwurst, kielbasa, breakfast sausages, and much more.
15. Attachment Packs
There are several different attachment packs available for KitchenAid mixers. These include various combinations of multiple attachments that are sold together as a package, but can also be purchased separately. Each pack includes the food grinder as it’s main component which is comes with a slicer/shredder, and the sausage stuffer in one pack, while another adds the citrus juicer, sausage stuffer, and a food tray. These can be good starter packs for expanding your mixer’s uses while also saving money by not having to purchase these attachments individually.
16. Stand Mixer Covers
Mixer covers offer protection from dust and dirt and can also add to the decor of your kitchen, when you are not using your mixer. They are available to fit most brands and some are specific to certain models. They come in a variety of shapes and colors. Some have convenient pockets for storing attachments and/or recipes. If not buying a cover made specifically for your mixer, be sure to measure before buying. Also look for a cover that is easily washable.
Our best tips to get you started using a stand mixer:
1. Getting Started
When learning how to use your new stand mixer, it is important to carefully read the instruction manual first. Getting to know how your product functions will not only help you produce best food products, but also help you to know how to care for and maintain your mixer to maximize it’s longevity.
Mixers come in a variety of choices when it comes to number of speed settings. A larger number of settings, may not be necessary, but give you more precise control for certain mixing jobs. Lower speeds are better suited for initially starting all mixing jobs, mixing heavy doughs, and when combining wet and dry ingredients. Middle speeds are used with heavy batters and in the final stages of mixing cake batters. Higher speeds are for whipping creams and egg whites.
3. Mixing Tips
While mixing, it is important to monitor the appearance of your mixture to be sure that you achieve the desired consistency. It is also helpful to pour ingredients near the side of the bowl as opposed to near the beaters to keep your countertops and kitchen clean from splatter. Also, when mixing liquids, be sure to stay at a slower speed so the ingredients don’t splash out of the bowl.
4. Finding Recipes
When purchasing your desired mixer, check to see if a recipe book is included. The recipes found in the included book will be geared toward your specific mixer and it’s abilities and therefore will be the most helpful and practical. If a recipe book is not included with your purchase, using search tools on the internet, reading cookbooks, and/or subscribing to baking/cooking blogs can also be great sources for new and exciting recipes to try.
5. Other Ways to Use Your Mixer
There are many types of food you can use your mixer to make that are not commonly thought of. You can make items such as marshmallows, mashed potatoes, sausage, butter, whipped cream, pasta, and even use it to shred chicken. Some of these items require the purchase of additional attachments like a pasta maker or meat grinder, but others can be made with the standard tools that came with your mixer like the whisk and flat beater.
6. Maintenance and Cleaning
Before cleaning your mixer or taking off attachments, turn off your mixer and unplug it for safety. Most bowls and attachments are dishwasher safe, but check your instruction manual to make sure. For items such as the body and beater shafts that are not dishwasher safe, use a damp cloth as often as needed. Keeping your stand mixer clean will ensure it’s proper function and prolong it’s life. Anytime your mixer is not in use, unplug it for safety.