Do you really need a stand mixer? Yes, and here's why
True story: A long time ago, as a lowly magazine assistant with the ink still drying on my grad school degree, I dreamed of a promotion beyond my usual duties of grabbing lunch for my bosses and answering reader mail. When the day finally came and I got my own cubicle, a new title on my business card, and a RAISE, I didn't splurge on Louboutins or a Louis Vuitton tote. (Those came later.) Instead, I marched myself over to Williams-Sonoma and got myself a tangerine stand mixer.
More than a decade later, the stand mixer is still one of my best friends in the kitchen, taking pride of place on the counter and outlasting the fancy bags and shoes collecting dust in my closet. If you want a splurge that actually pays off, a stand mixer is your best bet.
If you're mentally picturing a stand mixer, chances are what you're thinking of is the KitchenAid version — like Kleenex and Q-Tips, the brand name has become the industry standard descriptor, likely much to the chagrin of Breville, Cuisinart, et al. As of 2014, KitchenAid was selling more than 2.5 million stand mixers annually, so for all intents and purposes, that's probably the only brand you've encountered. A stand mixer combines heavy duty steel construction and a powerful motor to make it an indispensable tool for both bakers and cooks alike.
Essentially, a stand mixer is an extra pair of big, beefy arms in your kitchen. Use it wherever you could use a helper to do a mixing task while you busy yourself with another part of the recipe at hand. It's more efficient and better at evenly combining ingredients than a human could ever be; it cuts down on your prep time; and it's built to last. (Yes, as a professional cook, I actually own two stand mixers: the everyday 5-quart KitchenAid Artisan, and the big, badass 7-quart Pro Line version with 1.3 horsepower under the hood.)
What's a stand mixer good for?
A basic stand mixer comes with three blade attachments: a beater, a whisk and a dough hook. Which one you want to use depends on your desired outcome:
• Use the flat beater for most tasks, including mixing cookie and cake batters and frostings; for shredding pulled pork or chicken; for mixing meatloaf or meatballs if you don't want to touch it with your hands; and for blending both sweet and savory ingredients, such as incorporating butter into warm citrus curd or mashing boiled potatoes with butter and milk for a creamy comfort meal.
• Use the whisk for beating eggs and cream into fluffy peaks, and if you take it even further, for making marshmallow fluff and homemade butter without lifting a finger. (OK, except for the finger you use to flick the power on.)
• Use the dough hook for kneading any kind of dough you can imagine, from stiff baguette dough and whole grain rolls to soft, pliant pizza dough and cinnamon buns.
Like a Vitamix, the price of a stand mixer essentially correlates to the horsepower you're purchasing. You're buying a powerful motor, so there's no reason to relegate it just to mixing and whipping duties. That's where the attachments come in.
At the very least, get a second beater blade with a silicone scraper edge. This tool should, in my opinion, come standard with every mixer — it scrapes the bowl as you mix, making it even more effective at creaming butter and sugar together, folding dry ingredients like flour and cocoa powder into your batter, and generally keeping everything well-blended.
If you want to go further, you can get attachments that will roll and cut pasta, grind meat, take the place of a food processor for shredding, slicing, and dicing, spiralize fruits and vegetables and even make ice cream. Each add-on isn't cheap, to be sure, but consider the ease in which you can make piles of pappardelle or stacks of spiralized sweet potatoes.
The Best Stand Mixers for Every Kind of Baker, According to Thousands of Reviews
For home bakers and professionals alike, a sturdy stand mixer is key. The appliance is adaptable enough to whip up everything from airy layer cakes to stiff bread dough, and it cuts down on the time and effort of mixing by hand. What's more, many stand mixers include accessories to tackle other kitchen projects, like from-scratch pasta, DIY ice cream, and freshly squeezed juice.
But like other powerful kitchen appliances, electric stand mixers are an investment. Quality machines retail for hundreds of dollars, and high-end brands can cost more than $1,000. Plus, there are tons of options to choose from, ranging from budget-friendly basics to feature-rich models with stylish hues and designs. So if you're considering buying a stand mixer of your own, it can be a challenge to find the right fit.
How to Choose the Best Kitchen Mixer
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.
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.
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.
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.
Green Stand Mixer
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.
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.