The best mixers will save you time and muscle
It's hard to imagine life in the kitchen without an electric mixer. Home cooks use them for everything from whipping cream into light, fluffy peaks to powering through the thickest cookie and bread dough. The best mixers are powerful, easy to use and clean, feel sturdy and stable, and evenly mix ingredients without leaving lumps or unmixed areas. Experts say that regardless of whether you opt for a hand or stand mixer, it should have at least three speeds.
Stand mixers are best for heavy-duty baking
Stand mixers excel at demanding jobs like mixing thick dough, and serious cooks say they're a must if you bake regularly or in large quantities. Most stand mixers come with three attachments: a flat beater for mixing batter; a dough hook for kneading; and a wire whisk for whipping cream, etc. Specialized attachments, ranging from enameled beaters to pasta makers, are also available for some models. Most top-rated stand mixers have a single beater mounted on a disc that rotates around a stationary bowl. Experts say this process, called "planetary action," is the most efficient means of blending ingredients because the beater can reach the sides of the bowl, reducing the need to stop the machine and scrape the sides On cheaper stand mixers, the beaters (usually two, like those found on a hand mixer) are stationary; the bowl, mounted on a turntable, revolves around them. Some experts turn up their nose at these less-expensive units, but they suit some people just fine.
Hand mixers make quick work of easier jobs
A hand mixer may be all you need if you only bake occasionally or just need a mixer for lighter tasks, such as whipping cream, mixing cake batter or beating eggs. You can use a hand mixer in any kind of bowl or even in a pan. Some hand mixers are powerful enough for jobs like kneading dough and combining thick cookie ingredients, but don't expect a hand mixer to perform those tasks as quickly and easily as a stand mixer. A lot of people own both a stand mixer and a hand mixer so they don't have to dirty their larger stand mixer for smaller jobs.
KitchenAid and Cuisinart rule the mixer world
Consider yourself warned: This report may seem like a KitchenAid and Cuisinart love fest. But that's because those two manufacturers rise far above most others when it comes to stand mixer and hand mixer reviews. That said, Hamilton Beach's affordable mixers are also piling up some pretty good ratings.
Also keep in mind that a mixer may not always be the best option for the job you need to do. If you like to make a lot of bread, a bread machine can make quicker, easier work of that task and churn out more consistent loaves. In addition, plenty of bakers find that their food processor works well for kneading dough, and they tend to be more versatile than mixers. We have a separate report on those as well.
How we chose the best mixers
There are some very good professional tests and roundups of stand mixers and hand mixers. We analyzed professional tests and in-depth reviews by experts at TheSweethome.com, ConsumerReports.org, Foodal.com, Good Housekeeping and Cooks Illustrated. We then compared those results and recommendations to long-term, real-world experiences as reported by hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of owners at sites such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com and BedBathandBeyond.com. The result of that research is our recommendations for stand mixers and hand mixers with the best combination of performance, durability and ease of use.
Best Stand Mixers
Serious bakers need a quality stand mixer
Experts and owners agree: Short of professional-grade models, it's hard to find a better stand mixer than the KitchenAid Artisan (Est. $300). Described as a "workhorse" by many, this 10-speed, 325-watt mixer can power through the toughest duties: kneading bread, mixing thick cookie dough and even tackling several pounds of meat mixtures for loaves and meatballs. But reviewers say it also makes short work of more delicate tasks, such as whipping up creams, meringues and frostings, and creaming butter and sugar into a light, fluffy blend.
The Artisan's 5-quart bowl can mix up enough dough for nine dozen cookies or four loaves of bread, but it also can handle small quantities with ease, without the ingredients getting lost or splattered around the bowl. Owners say it's very easy to use; the tilt-head design offers ample access to add ingredients to the bowl and stays securely in place in spite of the lack of a head-lock feature. The bowl has a handle that makes it easy to hold and includes a plastic pouring shield to keep messes to a minimum.
One of the Artisan's most popular features is its array of color options -- more than 30 in all -- that can complement almost any kitchen décor. The Artisan also has a long-standing reputation for durability, so much so that most reviewers say not to worry about the fact that it comes with only a one-year warranty. Be warned: this is a large mixer. It's heavy and takes up a lot of counter space. If you don't have room to store it on the counter, be sure you can lift its 26 pounds.
If you're a dedicated baker who is willing to pay more for a higher-capacity stand mixer, the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series (Est. $350) boasts those perks with many of the same advantages of its well-known sibling, the Artisan. Chief among them are versatility, the same much-vaunted durability and More than 20 color choices.
The Professional 600 has a larger 6-quart bowl that can yield 13 dozen cookies or 8¼ loaves of bread. Its motor offers more power (and makes more noise, testers note) than the Artisan's: 575 watts compared with 325. The Professional also boasts a heavy-duty burnished aluminum spiral dough hook compared to the Artisan's coated C-shaped version. All of these factors combine to make this mixer especially good for frequent bread bakers, reviewers say. Those tasked with more delicate jobs may want to opt for the Artisan; "the whip didn't even make contact" when tasked with a single egg white in tests by TheSweethome.com.
Reviewers say the Professional 600 is easy to use, though some say the bowl-lift design (which lifts the bowl to the mixer head and attachments instead of vice versa) has a longer learning curve than a tilt-head model like the Artisan. It also comes with a plastic pouring shield and bowl with a comfort handle. This mixer is quite heavy at 29 pounds and will demand a permanent spot on the counter.
A worthy KitchenAid alternative, the Cuisinart SM-55 (Est. $250) is strong all around like the Artisan with a few added functions. This mixer did just as well as the Artisan with small, delicate tasks like whipping one egg white or ½ cup of cream, says TheSweethome.com's Lesley Stockton. And its 800-watt motor is more than powerful enough for bread, experts with Foodal.com say.
The 12-speed SM-55 has a few bonus features the Artisan lacks: a timer, auto shutoff, and three outlets meant for accessories, sold separately, such as the Pasta Maker (Est. $70) or the Blender Jar (Est. $40). A slow-start feature also aims to keep ingredients from flying out of the bowl, which owners appreciate. Like the Artisan, the SM-55 has an easy-to-use tilt-head design. But some reviewers say they don't like the 5½-quart bowl's double handles, which are too small and high to be useful.
The SM-55's "heavy-duty die-cast metal" is made to last, Foodal testers say. The mixer also comes with a generous three-year warranty, but reviews indicate that Cuisinart's service isn't as seamless as KitchenAid's. The mixer weighs 21 pounds -- no lightweight, but a bit lighter than the Artisan for those who may not want to keep it on the counter. It comes in white, silver and black.
If you're not a frequent bread baker, the Breville BEM800XL (Est. $300) has a lot of fans for its sleek, user-friendly design. Reviewers say this stand mixer excels in tasks like whipping and creaming, and is particularly adept with cake batter and cookie dough.
Like the KitchenAid Artisan, the BEM800XL has a 5-quart bowl and a user-friendly tilt-head design that offers easy access to ingredients. It offers a more powerful motor (550 watts versus 325) and more speeds (12 versus 10). Other differentiating features: An LED display shows speed and includes a timer, and the BEM800XL includes a scraper beater in addition to a flat beater. Reviewers say the scraper beater effectively keeps the sides of the bowl clear and easily, effectively incorporates all ingredients.
Several reviewers say the BEM800XL is not the best for bread, though. Experts with the Good Housekeeping Institute note that it's only meant to knead one loaf at a time, and TheSweethome.com's Stockton says it rocked back and forth while kneading. The mixer is available in silver, black and red. It's slightly lighter than the Artisan at 21 pounds and has a one-year limited warranty. A few reviewers report overheated motors, particularly when making bread.
Finally, if you just can't stomach paying $300 or more for a stand mixer, don't despair: The 12-speed, 400-watt Hamilton Beach Electrics All-Metal Stand Mixer (Est. $150) includes some of the high-end conveniences of the KitchenAid Artisan and its competitors for much less money.
The Eclectrics has a 4½-quart bowl with an ergonomic handle that users say is very comfortable to use, and it has a pouring shield to guard against spills. It also has an easy-to-operate tilt-head design with a head-lock feature that reviewers love. The mixer is reportedly easy to use, though a few reviewers do complain that the release button for the head is awkwardly placed. Several experts also say it has too many crevices to make clean up easy, but few owners note that as an issue.
In professional tests, the Eclectrics ranks right up with the Artisan in whipping and mixing, but it doesn't do quite as well when tasked with mixing the heaviest, thickest dough or kneading larger quantities. The bigger question is durability: While the mixer comes with a generous 3-year warranty, some reviewers report burned-out motors or frequent wobbles on the counter. Customer service gets mixed reviews. It comes in black, white, silver and red.