Stand mixers excel at demanding jobs like mixing thick dough, and serious cooks say they're a must if you bake regularly or turn out large quantities. Most stand mixers come with three attachments: a flat beater for mixing batters, a dough hook for kneading and a wire whisk; 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, thus reducing the need to stop the machine and scrape the sides of the bowl.
Cheaper stand mixers -- such as the Sunbeam Heritage Series (*Est. $185) -- work differently. The beaters on these models (usually two, like those found on a hand mixer) are stationary; the bowl, mounted on a turntable, revolves around them. These models tend to earn lower ratings in reviews, because they don't blend ingredients as well, especially along the edge of the bowl.
The iconic KitchenAid Artisan Series Stand Mixer (*Est. $350) tops both expert and owner reviews. Reviewers say the 325-watt mixer is unquestionably the best choice for serious bakers. This 5-quart stand mixer earns high ratings for whisking egg whites, mixing cake batter and kneading pizza dough; owners call it a workhorse and report very few durability issues. The bowl and attachments -- with the exception of the whisk -- are dishwasher-safe.
If you want to spend less, the KitchenAid Classic Series Stand Mixer (*Est. $250) is a well-reviewed alternative to the Artisan: It has a smaller motor (250 watts vs. 325 watts) and a smaller bowl (4 quarts as opposed to 5). In addition, it doesn't have convenience features like a handle on the bowl or a pouring shield. Professional reviewers who have compared the KitchenAid Classic Series to other stand mixers say it surpasses comparably priced (and more expensive) stand mixers at kneading bread dough, mixing cookie dough and whipping cream.
Another highly rated stand mixer is the Cuisinart 5.5-Quart Stand Mixer SM-55 (*Est. $375). Reviewers give it top marks for whipping and mixing and say it outperforms other models at heavy-duty kneading tasks, thanks to its uniquely shaped spiral dough hook. However, in tests conducted by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, the Cuisinart didn't perform as well as the KitchenAid Artisan Series Stand Mixer in kneading tests. The Cuisinart's attachments are dishwasher-safe and can be adjusted by loosening a nut at the top. This 12-speed mixer has a fold setting and a countdown timer with automatic shut-off. It's available in white, black and silver and is covered by a three-year warranty.
We selected the KitchenAid Artisan Series Stand Mixer as a Best Reviewed product because it's chosen more often as a top performer in professional tests and earns high overall ratings from thousands of owners.