Tips for finding the right mixer
There are two basic types of mixers, stand mixers and hand mixers. In general, stand mixers are better at heavier jobs and bigger batches, but hand mixers take up a lot less space and are easier to use. Here's a closer look at both types.
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. Most experts turn up their nose at these less-expensive units, but they suit some people just fine.
A hand mixer may be all you need if you bake only occasionally or just need a mixer for lighter tasks, such as whipping cream, mixing cake batter or beating eggs. Many also come with a good array of accessories, for whipping, kneading and mixing. If you value convenience look for one with a snap-on bin where you can store the accessories to make a neat, compact footprint. 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.
Will your mixer do that?
Keep in mind that a mixer may not always be the best option for the job you need to do. Although a hand mixer can be used to puree soups and scramble larger quantities of eggs, it won't do so as well as an immersion blender. 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 separate reports on all of those kitchen appliances.