What the best mixers have
speeds. At a minimum, stand mixers and hand mixers should have low, medium and
high speeds with noticeable variation between settings. However, serious cooks
will need additional settings -- particularly on stand mixers -- so they can
slowly stir thick batters or quickly whip meringues. Most stand mixers will
have 10-12 settings, though truly heavy duty mixers may have fewer since their
motors are so powerful.
- A sturdy chassis. Stand
mixers are big and heavy (typically, at least 20 pounds) for a reason. They
need to be able to operate even on the highest speeds without vibrating or
"walking" across the counter. Similarly, a hand mixer should be light
enough that it won't cause fatigue while you're using it, yet sturdy enough
that it's easy to maintain control while mixing even thick ingredients.
- Sufficient power. Although high
wattage is often associated with a powerful motor, experts say the wattage only
tells how much power goes into a mixer, not how much comes out. The best mixers
should be able to handle bread dough or thick cookie batter without whining,
straining or smoking. They should also leave ingredients well-incorporated,
with no lumps or unmixed areas.
- Good ease of use. Attachments should be simple to attach and remove. A handle on the bowl is a
great touch, making it much easier to move than just a smooth bowl. Most accessories
should be dishwasher safe, and the mixer itself should be easy to wipe down
after use. Controls should be intuitive and easy to see and use. A slow-start
feature that helps prevent ingredients from flying out of the bowl after
starting the mixer is a nice plus.
- A good array of attachments. A stand
mixer should at least include a beater (or a set of beaters) and dough hooks.
Many stand mixers, like those from KitchenAid, have with a vast array of other
optional accessories and attachments as well, but most stand mixers have at least
some options for adding attachments. A hand mixer often only includes beaters,
but some also include dough hooks and whisks. Quite a few now include storage
caddies to keep everything together.
Know before you go
What do you prepare -- and how often? If you make bread, pastries or cakes on a regular basis, or like to cook
or bake in larger batches, you'll need a powerful stand mixer with a large-capacity
bowl. If you use your mixer frequently, but not so much for bread as for other
ingredients like fillings, whipping cream, or mixing batters, a smaller stand
mixer will probably be a great fit. A 5-quart mixing bowl can typically
hold enough dough for nine dozen cookies or four loaves of bread. Most experts
say a 4½ to 5-quart mixer is the right size for most average baking and
cooking needs. If you do a lot of large-batch baking for a home-based business
or as a volunteer for church or school, you may want to consider a mixer with a
6- or 7-quart capacity. On the other hand, if you only
need a mixer for the occasional recipe, a hand mixer might be all you need.
How much space do you have? Stand mixers
are big, bulky appliances that are meant to be permanent fixtures on your
countertop. However, if you have low cabinets or narrow counters, not all stand
mixers may fit. Before buying a stand mixer, it's important to measure the
space available beneath your cabinets (accounting for tilt-head room) to ensure
that the one you have your eye on will fit in your kitchen.
want to match your décor? Stand mixers are meant to be left out on the
counter, so owners appreciate being able to match their mixer to their kitchen
décor. Although some mixers come in a vast array of colors, even just having a
choice between the basics -- black, white and stainless -- is a nice extra.