Kristen Hicks on August 13, 2015 3 Comments Table of Contents Types of Kitchen Mixers Factors to Consider While Shopping Customer Reviews of Popular Brands While it’s entirely possible to make most of the things you’d want to cook or bake without a mixer, why bother? With a mixer, you can save time on many of your current favorite go-to recipes and probably find yourself trying out all new foods you wouldn’t have thought to make before. And unless you’re especially vigilante when you stir things by hand, a mixer will almost certainly mean better textures and consistency for many of the things you make. For anybody who bakes regularly (and many people that don’t), kitchen mixers are the kind of item that you only think you can live without until you’ve had one. Once you get used to owning one, the idea of going back to mixing everything manually seems crazy. That means there are two main categories of consumers for mixers: Those that are buying a mixer for the first time and are unsure of what to really look for. Those looking to replace a beloved mixer that recently stopped working (RIP). Whichever category you fall into, our buyer’s guide to mixers should serve as a useful guide in gaining a clear idea of the kind of options are available on the market and which one right for you. Types of Mixers The first decision you need to make in order to choose the right mixer is which of the two main types to go with. Hand Mixers Click Here to View All Hand Mixers If your main priorities are affordability or finding a mixer that won’t take up much space, hand mixers are likely to fit the bill. They have a simpler design than stand mixers, can usually easily fit in a drawer in your kitchen, and can cost less than $20. You have two choices with hand mixers: electric hand mixers and rotary hand mixers (sometimes called eggbeaters). With rotary models, you use a lever to do the mixing. With electric hand mixers, all you have to do is hold the mixer in place while the movement happens automatically. On the spectrum of how much easier a mixer can make your life, hand mixers fall firmly in the middle. They’re faster and easier than stirring dough by hand, but require more work and time than using a stand mixer. Benefits: Hand mixers are more affordable. These kitchen mixers do not take up any counter space. Clean up is easy and quick. You can use any bowl. Portable. To Keep in Mind: Hand mixers involve a little bit of manual work. Usually not as fast or thorough as stand mixers. These mixers tend to be somewhat messy. Stand Mixers Click Here to View All Stand Mixers Usually if you hear someone talk about not being able to live without their mixer, they’re talking about stand mixers. Stand mixers make the process of baking or mixing just about anything considerably easier. They’re especially useful for any baking that involves thick dough, like bread or pizza dough, or recipes that require trickier mixing duties like making meatballs. Stand mixers typically come with a large mixing bowl and several different attachments designed for specific types of mixing – you’d use a different attachment for making meringue than you would for making bread, for instance. Because they’re stationary, you can start mixing something and leave it while you work on gathering other ingredients. For recipes that call for adding ingredients while you mix, a task that’s nearly impossible for one person to accomplish without a mixer, they make it a breeze. One of the main inconveniences of a stand mixer is the size and weight. If you don’t have the space to keep it on the counter, you may begrudge the process of getting a heavy stand mixer in and out of a kitchen cabinet. Benefits: Stand mixers are more powerful than a hand mixer. These units will mix faster and more thoroughly. Since it’s stationary, you can start it mixing and leave to work on other things. Usually stand mixers come with (or you can buy) different attachments designed to achieve the best results for various types of mixing. Some stand mixers allow you to make pasta, ravioli, juice, sauce, ice cream or even mill grain. To Keep in Mind: This type of mixer costs more than hand mixers. Takes up a lot of counter space. Takes up more kitchen storage space. Sometimes these are a pain to clean. For the dedicated baker, there’s really no reason you should have to choose between the two. Hand mixers are affordable enough that, even if you’ve decided to invest in a stand mixer, you can easily grab a hand mixer as well. That way, you can turn to the smaller tool for your more minor mixing needs rather than having to pull out and clean the stand mixer for every recipe. 9 Factors to Consider When Buying a Kitchen Mixer To hone in on the best kitchen mixer for you, you should consider some of your main needs and preferences before starting your search. Below are nine factors you should consider during the buying process. 1. Your Cooking Needs Really sit down and think about what you’re likely to use this mixer for – both in terms of the recipes you’ll make and the quantity of food you typically need. If you make gifts of bread for all your friends every holiday season, or like to make big batches of cookies for parties, you should go for a mixer that allows you to make a lot of dough at once. Stand mixers can be used for a lot more than your typical pastries and desserts. With the right attachments you can use them to make pasta, ravioli, meatballs, tamales, butter and all sorts of other recipes that may have seemed overly complex previously. So think both about what you regularly make now, what you’d like to try to make, and what kind of quantities you’d ideally like to work with. That will help give you a clear idea of the type of mixer to go with, the size to pick, and what attachments you should make a point of getting. 2. Price Range If you’re sticking with hand mixers, you can find a lot of options for under $100 (some closer to $20). If you’re ready to invest in a stand mixer, most models will cost you somewhere from $200-$700. Some commercial models get over $1,000, but you’d only need one of those if you intend to make especially large quantities of food (and you’d probably want a commercial oven to match). For most home chefs, a $200-$300 model will do the trick, but the higher end mixers could be a good choice for those who: Make lots of recipes that involve a lot of heavy duty mixing (like regular bread makers). Want a big enough mixing bowl to make especially large quantities at once. Want lots of different settings options for precision in making different types of food. 3. Weight For a hand mixer, you’ll probably want to stick with something light and easy to hold for a while as you mix. Keep in mind, the more stuff you have to mix, the longer you will be holding it. For some, this could be a deal-breaker in itself. For a stand mixer, you want to aim for the opposite. The heavier a stand mixer is, the sturdier it will be as it mixes. On the one hand, you want it to be good and sturdy, so it doesn’t bounce around on the counter. On the other, you want to be able to actually handle it. If you’ll be keeping your stand mixer on the counter, the weight may be a minor concern. If you’re going to be getting it out of a cabinet every time you use it, you should go with a model that’s not too difficult to lift. If getting it out is a major inconvenience every time, you may find yourself not actually using your mixer enough to justify the investment. Typically, mixers of at least 20 pounds will do the best job of staying stable while mixing thick dough. With lighter models, you might risk there being some general movement around the counter so you’ll have to keep a closer eye on it. 4. Speed Settings Different types of foods will call for different speeds of mixing. Most models of both hand and stand mixers offer several speeds — usually somewhere from 3 to 12 different options. All mixers should have a “slow start” setting, which makes it easy to add ingredients like flour to the mix without making a huge mess. Most models should also include a fast enough setting for making a meringue. Many bakers will be able to make do as long as they have at least three speed options, but if you’re especially ambitious and want to bake with absolute precision, going for a model with more speed settings could pay off. 5. Size You have two main considerations when it comes to size: How much space do you have available in your kitchen? How much food are you typically hoping to make in your mixer? Hopefully the answers to both those questions can work in conjunction and you won’t have to sacrifice one for the other. You can find a wide range of sizes on the market and, as you might expect, the prices will generally go up as the models get bigger. If you’ll often be baking for large groups and have the space, then investing in a larger kitchen mixer will likely make your life easier, at least enough to make the cost worth it. If you’ll mostly be cooking for your own small family, you can probably make do with a small-to-medium sized model. 6. Attachments What you can do with a stand mixer starts to expand as you invest in more attachments. If you want inspiration to try making new foods, look no further than the list of attachments available for a stand mixer. Most kitchen mixers come with the three most standard attachments: Dough Hook: This is the attachment that’s usually in a c-shape or spiral that used for making anything that requires kneading, like bread and pizza dough. Wire Whip: Sometimes called a balloon whisk, the wire whip is for the whipping movement that makes whipped cream, frosting and meringue. Flat Beater: The flat beater will be the most commonly used attachment for most bakers, as it’s the go-to choice for cake batter, cookie dough, and mashed potatoes. Many also come with a pouring shield that makes it easier to add new ingredients while you’re mixing without any mess. For more ambitious chefs, you can find a wide array of additional attachments, including: Pasta roller Ravioli maker Slicer/shredder Juicer and sauce attachment Ice cream maker Food grinder Sausage stuffer Fruit and vegetable strainer Grain Mill If you think you may be interested in adding new attachments over time, then it’s important to buy a mixer that is compatible with all the attachments that you’re interested in. Shopping around for attachments is easy, as they are widely available online. 7. Look You can stick with a simple white or black mixer, or you can buy one that adds a jolt of color to your kitchen. Whatever your stylistic preferences, you should have no trouble finding plenty of color options for your mixer. Many of the top brands offer a range of colorful choices. KitchenAid, for example, has some models available in over forty colors. Following the new trend of red kitchen appliances, Empire Red is one of the most popular colors for KitchenAid mixers. 8. Ease of Cleaning Hand mixers earn points in this category for being much easier to clean than stand mixers. With stand mixers, you end up with a lot of different pieces you have to clean. Some attachments are dishwasher safe, but others will need to be washed by hand after each use. Depending on the type of mixer you buy, you may need to wash your mixing bowl by hand as well. And you’ll want to rub the rest of the machine down with a wet cloth to keep it clean after each use. You should expect a similar level of maintenance for most stand mixers, but some may be a little more difficult than others. You can often get a sense from the reviews of which mixers will give you more trouble when you’re cleaning than others. 9. Noise Level Kitchen mixers are going to be loud any way you cut it. Rotary hand mixers won’t be too bad, but all of the electric models will make some noise. Some models are worse offenders than others though, so if you’re especially sensitive to noisy appliances, then look for models that reviewers cite as being quieter than usual. What Customers Are Saying About Popular Brands There are a few main brands that dominate the kitchen mixer market. We’ve researched what people are saying online about the products available from each brand to give you a clearer idea of what to expect. Cuisinart Cuisinart is one of the biggest players in the mixer market. They have a number of hand mixers in different price ranges and with different speed options. And they have one model of stand mixer, in two different sizes. Their many happy customers become advocates for the brand, but there are some reviewers (particularly regular bread makers) that complain the mixers burn out quickly for the price. Hamilton Beach Hamilton Beach is widely regarded as the best budget choice for those unwilling to spend as much as the top brands cost, and willing to trade out a little functionality and durability in exchange. Many reviewers are happy with the value for the cost, but a lot of them concede that another brand would be preferable if price weren’t an issue. KitchenAid KitchenAid is pretty much the gold standard of stand mixers. They have a wide range of mixers that come in many different sizes and colors and a fairly extensive line of attachments and accessories. Models in their Artisan series tend to top lists of the best mixers out there, and not just because of how easy they are to use, but also because of the overall look and durable build. Customer reviews are almost uniformly positive and often quite enthusiastic, with words like “love” showing up pretty often. If you can afford a KitchenAid mixer, then this seems to be the smartest buy on the market. Sunbeam Sunbeam is a popular brand of budget mixers that can serve well for basic tasks like making meringues and cookies, but don’t do as well with more heavy-duty mixing requirements like bread dough. Their mixers are made of plastic, so aren’t as sturdy as metal models. Many reviewers are happy with the value for the cost, but there are some complaints about the mixers’ durability. Takeaways The general takeaway we got from scouring the reviews of different models on the web is that, when it comes to kitchen mixers, the familiar mantra that “you get what you pay for” seems to hold true. If your needs are simple and affordability trumps power and durability, a cheap hand or stand mixer will probably be the best choice for you. However, if you intend to make recipes that involve heavier duty mixing or want to get ambitious with the kind of things you make with your mixer, an investment in a high-quality stand mixer will pay off.