Stand mixers have become a very helpful tool to the home baker, and is becoming more prominent for the home chef as well. Deciding what features you need to accomplish the tasks you need your stand mixer to perform can be confusing, but it doesn’t need to be.
The following is a list of different features and specifications that you should consider before choosing which stand mixer is right for you.
Cheap Vs. High End
My biggest piece of advice: Don’t expect a cheap mixer to handle much. They tend to burn out easily and are really only good for cake mixes and beating eggs.
For more versatility and reliability, choose a higher-end mixer from a top name like KitchenAid or Cuisinart. Not only will you not be throwing money down the drain, but these mixers can open up a whole world of fresh cooking and baking to your home with the addition of attachments created specifically to allow you to use your mixer for several other tasks.
Everyone has different limits and one of the top considerations you should make when looking for your stand mixer is the weight – it should be comfortable enough for you to carry and move, yet powerful enough to tackle the jobs you need it to do.
Capacity & Motor
Of course, a stand mixer’s capacity is really what should be considered as the next most important point, because the capacity and rating is what will determine whether it will be able to handle the job you task it to do.
Be aware that when manufacturers advertise how much a mixer can handle, it’s usually on the high-side. You will probably not want to run it at those quantities regularly.
For small batters and mixes like cake or cookie dough, smaller mixers are fine. Look for at least 4 quart capacities and 250 watts.
Lighter dough like quick breads and pizza dough needs a bit more power in a stand mixer. You would ideally want to have a mixer that has at least a 5 quart capacity and a 325 watt motor.
Heavy bread recipes, think whole grain, or old yeast bread recipes that require a lot of kneading, should be mixed with a mixer that has at least a 6 quart capacity and no less than a 575 watt motor.
Beaters & Other Mixing Tools
I generally shy away from machines that use pairs of mixing tools – two beaters, two whisks, etc. It’s usually (but not always) a dead giveaway that it won’t function well for kneading dough. However, if you’re more interested in cake batters and beating eggs or cream, consider this a less important point.
Cheaper stand mixers have fewer speeds, but how many speeds do you need? While you want to have a full range of speeds, anything over eight or ten speeds is probably unnecessary.
Type of Power Head
There are two types of power heads – stationary (often called bowl-lift) and tilt-head. While the tilt-head style is far more common and often less expensive than its stationary counterpart, bowl-lifts often have the advantage of more thorough and heavier mixer capabilities.
Smaller, lighter units tend to be less stable. They also tend to be tilting head style mixers that require the bowl to move to incorporate ingredients rather than relying just on the beaters. These two points together often means that the operation is usually a little more hands-on by helping the bowl spin and stopping to incorporate the left-out ingredients more often.
More expensive and well-known brands tend to produce higher quality and longer life products. They also tend to be made of sturdier materials and have better warranties.
This is a feature that is generally limited to the more expensive mixers, but is one well-worth considering. If you try to mix too much or too thick a dough, mixers that have some form of overload protection will stop before the motor burns out and is permanently damaged. This is one feature I recommend everyone consider.
Some brands, such as KitchenAid and Cuisinart, have created an entire line of accessories and attachments to help you with a variety of other cooking tasks far beyond mixing. Often, these attachments will work across all models of mixers, but be sure to check.