If you need a mixer just for simpler, lighter use, a hand mixer may make more sense than a larger, more powerful stand mixer. Hand mixers don't hog counter space like stand mixers but can still make short work of smaller mixing tasks, like beating eggs, whipping cream or making frosting. Many people also love them for smoothing out the lumps in their mashed potatoes. Best of all, you can usually use a hand mixer with just about any type of bowl or pan.
While most hand mixers can't do the job of a stand mixer, the Cuisinart Power Advantage Plus 9-Speed Hand Mixer (Est. $80) comes pretty close, reviewers say. It includes an excellent array of attachments -- wire-style beaters, a whisk, dough hooks and a spatula -- and they all store neatly in the included storage case. The hand mixer itself snaps onto the top of the case, making everything portable and compact for stowing in a cupboard or large drawer.
The powerful 220-watt motor on the Power Advantage Plus can handle light-duty jobs such as beating eggs, as well as tasks that are traditionally quite difficult for hand mixers, like mixing cookie dough and kneading bread dough. Many users say it does not handle the latter two jobs as well as a stand mixer, but no hand mixer will. If you don't have to combine heavy mixes very often, this Cuisinart will do just fine.
Reviewers say the Power Advantage Plus is easy to use, with a clearly marked digital display. There's a trigger on the chassis for popping attachments out with one pull, and all of the accessories are dishwasher safe. However, the so-called "SmoothStart" function gets mixed reviews. It's supposed to slowly start mixing and then gradually increase the speed to prevent splatters. However, reviewers say it actually starts fast, slows down, then speeds up again. Still, this is a minor issue for most. Cuisinart backs the Power Advantage Plus with a generous three-year warranty. For the most part, owners are satisfied with durability, but those who had issues aren't thrilled with Cuisinart's customer service, which gets pretty poor reviews across the board. The mixer comes in white and silver.
For a bit less money than the Power Advantage Plus, the KitchenAid 7-Speed Digital Hand Mixer (Est. $60) offers two fewer speed settings, but it also comes with KitchenAid's reputation for ease of use and durability. This mixer includes beaters and a whisk. KitchenAid Dough Hooks (Est. $10) are available as an add-on. Alternatively, the dough hooks are included if you upgrade to the KitchenAid 9-Speed Digital Hand Mixer (Est. $90).
The 7-Speed Digital has a 150-watt motor that excels at whipping and mixing in expert tests, but editors with the Good Housekeeping Institute say it's really not powerful enough for kneading bread dough. It has a "Soft Start" feature that gradually brings the beaters up to speed to prevent splatters, and reviews indicate that it works better than the "SmoothStart" on the Power Advantage Plus. A beater ejector button allows for easy removal of attachments, and a lockable swivel power cord lets users keep the cord out of the way while working.
This 7-speed mixer has KitchenAid's one-year warranty and comes in silver, red, black and white. There are very few durability or quality complaints, though some reviewers say they feel the mixer is underpowered. It comes in red, silver, black, white and cream.
If you're just an occasional baker, the Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Classic Hand Mixer (Est. $30) offers a good blend of power and convenience for the low price, reviewers say. This mixer also has a nifty storage case, similar to the one on the Cuisinart Power Advantage Plus, and it includes two types of beaters, wire and traditional, as well as a whisk. Many people say they purchased this hand mixer because they much prefer traditional beaters to the wire-style beaters on the Power Advantage Plus.
Reviewers say the Hamilton Beach 6-Speed is a great mixer for all but the heaviest mixing jobs -- although we did read some reviews that say it does very well on even thick dough as long as it's not too big of a batch -- and has enough power to quickly whip cream and meringues, cream eggs and sugar, mix cake batter and beat eggs.
At this price, durability might be the biggest concern. There are some complaints that this Hamilton Beach mixer died anywhere from 6 months to two years after purchase, but most say it's still going strong after several years. The mixer has a one-year warranty and comes only in brushed stainless steel with black accents.