If you only bake occasionally, a stand mixer is overkill -- a hand mixer is all you need. Among top-rated hand mixers, the Cuisinart Power Advantage 7-Speed Hand Mixer (*Est. $60) earns praise for its powerful motor, which makes quick work of mixing and whipping most ingredients. Like many hand mixers, it struggles with heavy batter or dough, and it doesn't come with dough hooks.
The Cuisinart is loaded with features, including electronic speed settings, an LED display and dishwasher-safe attachments, which include a whisk, spatula and extra-long beaters with no center posts (makes them easier to clean). It also has a slow-start function that's designed to prevent splattering, although several owners say this feature tends to start with a burst of speed before slowing down, which may causing spattering.
The Cuisinart Power Advantage Plus 9-Speed Hand Mixer (*Est. $80) is very similar to the seven-speed model, but it includes a storage case and dough hooks. Reviewers say the mixer is powerful enough to handle bread dough but is slow, taking just as long as kneading by hand. Both Cuisinart mixers have a three-year warranty.
Another option is the KitchenAid 9-Speed Digital Hand Mixer (*Est. $90). Reviewers say it handles light-duty jobs -- like combining cake mixes or whipping cream -- but it struggles with thick dough. Like the Cuisinart hand mixers, the KitchenAid has digital controls, an LED display, and dishwasher-safe beaters and dough hooks. It also comes with a liquid blender rod attachment for whipping up smoothies and milk shakes. The mixer has a slow-start feature that works very well, according to owners. It's also quiet, surpassing other models in a test conducted by The Wall Street Journal. And it's very light -- weighing just 3 pounds. The KitchenAid, however, has a shorter warranty (one year).
We chose the Cuisinart Power Advantage 7-Speed Hand Mixer as a Best Reviewed product, primarily because it represents the best value among top-rated hand mixers. It's also the top choice among owners at Amazon.com and Cooking.com.