Stand Mixer Buying Guide
Electric stand mixers make quick work of mixing tasks that used to take a lot longer years ago. Decades ago mixing was all done by hand and then hand mixers became the big thing. Now it’s the stand mixer and they really do make baking and cooking much faster and easier when it comes to getting ingredients mixed up efficiently and quickly.
There are a lot of stand mixers on the market today, with many different features, styles and even colors. This buyer’s guide will help you sort through the many models available and decide on the one that will be perfect for your needs and preferences.
What is a Stand Mixer?
A stand mixer is a standalone appliance that has a motorized base and a head that holds beater attachments and dough hooks. The bowl that is included with the mixer can be locked to the base in most models and depending on the kind of stand mixer you purchase, may even be on a turntable that spins as it mixes for more thorough mixing.
Differences between Hand Mixer and Stand Mixer
There are some notable differences between a hand mixer and a stand mixer. With the stand mixer, the motor is much more powerful enabling it to mix tougher dough like cookie or bread dough with no problems. This type of dough can be very difficult for a hand mixer to handle and mix well.
Stand mixers can have many different attachments that can be used with it that allows the user to make anything from homemade sausage to ice cream. Even though they are not as lightweight and portable as the hand mixer, they outperform the handheld counterpart in many areas.
They are bulkier and heavier than hand mixers so they will require a permanent spot on your kitchen counter and don’t really lend themselves to being stored away very well, but the convenience and versatility they offer is unmatched.
Benefits of Having a Stand Mixer
- The stand mixer takes the stress out of stirring large bowls of ingredients. No more having to do it by hand. It does all of the work for you making being in the kitchen baking much more enjoyable and less hard on the arm.
- One of the best things about stand mixers is that you can control how thick or thin the ingredients turn out which gives you a lot more precision and consistency in your results. Having a variety of speeds to choose from and a choice of mixing attachments means you can do a variety of mixing tasks. When you’re following intricate recipes, having precision over the exact thickness or thinness of your ingredients is crucial.
- There are many varieties and styles of stand mixers on the market. The features they offer allow you to do a lot of things in the kitchen, easily, that you may not have been able to do with a handheld mixer such as making pasta, grinding meat, making ice cream and any number of other things.
Before you start Shopping for your Stand Mixer
There are several things you should ask yourself before you start hunting for that perfect stand mixer for your kitchen. The answers to these questions will help lead you towards the right stand mixer for your needs.
Do you need a Stand Mixer? – This question might be hard to be honest about, because everyone thinks that having a stand mixer would be great. But what you have to look at for this question is what you make a lot of in your kitchen. If you make a lot of bread, you will love having a stand mixer because it makes the whole process easier and faster.
How often will you Use your Mixer? – If you’re using a hand mixer regularly, once a week or more, you will find a stand mixer useful. If you bake a lot or have a catering business of any kind you will love how efficient it helps you become.
What Kind of Space do you have? – Stand mixers are bulky and heavier than hand mixers and they normally need to be kept in one spot on the counter. Making sure that you have the room for this appliance will save you frustration. They don’t store away in small spaces, but if you have a pantry, you could keep it on the one of the shelves if they are reinforced.
Will You use your Mixer for other things besides baking?- Stand mixers can also be used to make pasta, so if you plan on making pasta or bread, check into the different brands that may be better suited to additional functions besides mixing.
What is your budget? – Knowing how much you have to spend on a stand mixer is important because they can range in price from $100 to well over $400 depending on features and brand names. If you’re going to use your stand mixer a lot, you are much better off buying a higher end model that will withstand the hard use. If you’ll just be using it once in awhile, you can get away with a less expensive model.
Features to Look for in a Stand Mixer
There are several different features that you will want to look at and compare between different models of stand mixers to see which one works the best for your needs. We’ve outlined them below.
Noise Level – You want a mixer that will run as quietly as possible so it is not a bother to other family members especially if you are baking in the early morning hours or later at night.
Weight – Most stand mixers are heavy but you want to look out for models that boast how lightweight they are. A lightweight stand mixer could topple over and not be as sturdy as a heavier-built one. You don’t want it so heavy that it can’t be put on a shelf or moved easily to another counter.
Speed/Controls – You don’t want to have to get tech support out every time you go to use your stand mixer. Make sure the speed and control panel is easy to use. Some models have three speeds and there are some that can have 10 or more. Lots of speed choices doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better model so be sure to compare all the factors listed here and also look at whether you would need that many different speed options.
Size – There are some really large, bulky stand mixers on the market today. Make sure if you want to get one that has a lot of size to it that you have the space on your counter for it. You want the base of your mixer to be sturdy and plenty large enough to hold the mixing bowls you’ll be using.
Capacity – Stand mixers range in capacity from about 4.5 quarts to 6 quarts or more. The capacity you need depends on what you use your mixer for. If you make a lot of bread you will want to opt for a larger 6 quart capacity.
Attachments – The more attachments your mixer has the more functions you can do with it. The different beaters and attachments add to the performance of your mixer. Make sure that the model you choose does everything you want to do with it such as making bread or pasta. Most mixers will come with a dough hook, a flat paddle and a whisk attachment. Other attachments that you can get include meat grinder, pasta extruder, ice cream maker, juicer and more.
Tilt Head vs. Bowl Lift – Tilting head mixers are the most common where the bowl remains in the same place but the head is hinged and lifts out of the bowl. In a bowl lift model a lever is turned that lifts the bowl up to the beaters. Bowl lift designs are not as common, but some users prefer them. One reason people like bowl lift designs is because they fit better under cabinets and don’t have to be slid out to be used. They also look more professional and have larger bowl capacities that the tilt heads do.
Overload Protection – This is a good safety feature to have that prevents the stand mixer’s motor from getting burned out.
All Metal Construction – This gives the stand mixer more durability and makes it last longer as well. Metal stand mixers are much heartier than those with plastic parts and they’ll last longer as well, especially during heavy use.
Soft Start – This feature prevents the ingredients in the bowl from splattering out when the mixer suddenly starts. In a slow start mode, the mixer will start to turn slowly and build up momentum.
Cleaning Your Stand Mixer
Stand mixers were designed to last decades, but you can ensure that by taking good care of it and making sure that it is cleaned properly. There are a few simple steps that should be done every time you use the mixer to keep it looking like new.
- Unplug the mixer from the wall socket. Always work from top to bottom when cleaning it so you don’t mess up what’s already been cleaned.
- Take a slightly dampened cloth and start by wiping down the head of the machine. Make sure that you get all the way around it and remove any flour or food particles that may be there from use.
- Next you want to wipe around the knob that controls the speed settings. Don’t get any water into the opening here or it can mess up the mixer.
- Look for ventilation pots or holes behind the motor. Make sure this stays clean and free of dust and food particles.
- Wipe off the handle too since most people touch the handle with floured or sticky hands.
- Wipe inside the well of the gear attachment shaft if you’ve used it. Make sure to reattach anything you’ve taken off when you’re done cleaning,
- Don’t forget to wipe the cord as well and don’t get the plug wet.
- Wipe down the rest of the unit thoroughly with the same care and attention to detail you used on the first part. Don’t forget places like the base, the arms (if it’s not a tilt head model) and anywhere else you see that needs to be wiped off.
- Put the bowls, and attachments in a sink of soapy water or the dishwasher.
- Let dry before putting away.
Stand Mixer Safety Tips
Safety when operating a stand mixer is very important to avoid injuries to the hand or fingers. The tips below can help keep your experience a safe one.
- Don’t wear long sleeves when operating an electric stand mixer. They can get caught in the beaters. Also be sure to tie your hair back if it’s very long.
- Children need to be supervised constantly if they are around the stand mixer to ensure that little hands and fingers don’t get stuck into the bowl while it’s running. If the child is helping you bake, give them other jobs to do such as pouring ingredients into the bowl before it’s mixing.
- Turn the mixer off before you remove the eaters from the bowl so they don’t splatter food all over the place.
- Never put objects such as spoons, fingers or anything else into the bowl while the mixer is running.
- Always make sure the mixer is not close to the edge of the counter or table while it is running.
- Leave it unplugged until you’re ready to use it.
- Don’t try to scrape the spinning beaters or dough hook while it is in motion. If you need to scrape food off of it, turn it off, wait for it to stop completely and then scrape them off.
- Always unplug the unit before cleaning
- Don’t leave the power cord dangling off the counter or have it strung across the kitchen. This can cause accidents if the cord gets tripped over or the mixer gets pulled off the counter.
- When mixing hot ingredients, use a glass or metal bowl and start the mixer on the lowest setting and then gradually increase the speed. If your unit has a soft start feature, it’s even better.
- Never leave the kitchen when the stand mixer is in operation.
- Never submerge the base of the stand mixer into water of any kind.
- Unplug when cleaning the mixer
- Make sure the stand mixer is put together properly
- Read the instruction manual before using your stand mixer to be sure you understand how it works and how to properly use all the features it has.
- Be sure that the beaters don’t touch the bottom of the bowl during operation.
User Tips and Tricks
The tips and hints listed below will help make using your stand mixer enjoyable and you’ll have better results too!
- Using your dough hook attachment for making meat loaf will give you a finer textured meatloaf and it’ll hold its shape better too.
- Draping a towel over the mixing bowl while it’s running keeps flour from getting kicked up. Just be sure that the towel is not hanging IN the bowl or it’ll get tangled up in the beaters.
- Dump all your ingredients into the bowl at once unless the recipe calls for them to be added incrementally.
- You can make a DIY splatter guide by cutting a hole in the top of a plastic lid.
- If you’re whipping whipped cream or whipping egg whites, put the bowl in the freezer before mixing. Having a cold bowl will help it all whip faster.
- Turn off the mixer before adding dry ingredients to avoid kicking the ingredients up and making a mess.
- If a recipe calls for hand beaters, use the paddle attachment which will save time and save your hands too.
- Get familiar with all of the attachments your particular model offers. You ever know when you may want to start baking or cooking something that you have the ability to get an attachment for.
- If your mixer has been working for 15 minutes, let it rest to avoid burnout and affecting the power.
- Make sure that the base is locked in place as well as the locking bowl if it has one and the beaters and to be securely attached as well.
Your stand mixer could very well be the best kitchen appliance you buy and the benefits to having one are numerous. There are so many things you can do with one that once you purchase yours, you may never know how you got along all this time without it. With the information in this buyer’s guide you’ll be able to choose the best stand mixer for your needs and preferences and will have a lot of good kitchen baking times for years to come.