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Mixers

Mixer buying guide

Last updated: June 2012

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Getting started

Getting started

For whipping, puréeing, and a host of other food prep tasks, a reliable mixer is essential. The market is divided into hand mixers and stand mixers that range in price from $10 to $400.

Just about any stand or hand mixer will do for simple chores. Hand mixers cost less but don't do as well at heavy-duty tasks such as mixing dough. A few models we tested did a good job when we used their dough hooks, though.

If you're buying a hand mixer, look for one that comes with extra attachments. A separate whisk makes whipping easier. Wire beaters are easier to clean than traditional center-post beaters. In addition, mixers with slow start-up are less likely to cause splatters.

Stand mixers are the go-to appliance for mixing big batches of cookie dough, kneading bread dough, and whipping cream until it's light and airy. For an extra $60 to $140, you can add attachments that transform the mixer into a grinder, ice-cream machine, or fresh-pasta maker.

Our tests showed considerable differences in how well particular models of hand and stand mixers performed. And while manufacturers stress wattage and number of speeds, neither figure necessarily translates into better performance. Use this mixers guide to help your buying decision.

Types

Match the machine to the way you prepare foods. You might find you need more than one. Which food-prep appliance best suits your style and the foods you prepare? Hand mixers can handle light chores such as whipping cream or mixing cake batter. And powerful stand mixers are ideal for cooks who make bread and cookies from scratch. Here are the types of mixers to consider.

Hand mixers


These are best for light-duty tasks such as whipping cream or egg whites, mixing cake batter, and mashing potatoes. But they are not as good as some stand mixers at mixing dough.

Most of the top-performing hand mixers have wire beaters without the thick center post found on traditional-style beaters. The wire beaters performed well and were easier to clean.

Stand mixers


These are best for almost everything a hand mixer does, plus mixing cookie dough and bread dough. Their drawbacks are that they are heavier and take up more counter space. Make sure you'll have enough clearance in the "up" position if it will be sitting on a countertop below an overhanging cupboard.

Stand mixers work in different ways. Some use two beaters, which spin against each other. Others use one beater, which spins in one direction and moves around the bowl the opposite way.

Light-duty stand mixers typically have stationary beaters and a bowl that sits on a revolving turntable. The bowl sometimes needs a push to keep spinning.

With most stand mixers, you tilt the mixer head up to remove the beater(s) or bowl; but on some models, you crank a lever that lifts or lowers the bowl.

Features


Match the machine to the way you prepare foods. But you may find you need more than one. Which food-prep appliance best suits your style and the foods you prepare? Hand mixers can handle light chores such as whipping cream or mixing cake batter. And powerful stand mixers are ideal for cooks who make bread and cookies from scratch.

Comfort

A hand mixer should be well balanced and comfortable to hold. A stand mixer shouldn't be too heavy for you to lift in and out of a cupboard.

Attachments


Stand mixers generally come with one bowl and either single or paired beaters, whisks and dough hooks.

Type of beater


Look for a mixer that has wire beaters without the thick center post found on traditional-style beaters. The wire beaters are easier to clean.

Speed

Some stand mixers have as many as 16 speeds and some hand mixers have nine or so speed settings. We think that three well-differentiated speeds are sufficient. The slower the lowest speed, the better, as slow speeds prevent spattering. Some hand mixers have a "slow start" feature, but you can achieve the same result by manually stepping through three or so speeds.

Easy-to-read controls

With some of the inexpensive hand mixers we tested, the switch you use to select speeds didn't line up well with the speed markings.

Stability

An indentation on the underside of the motor housing allows a hand mixer to perch on the edge of a bowl.

Locking power heads

You should be able to lock a mixer's power head in the "up" position so it won't crash into the bowl when the beaters are weighed down with dough. You should also be able to lock it in the down position so beaters don't ride up in the bowl when tackling stiff dough.

Brands


Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, and Sunbeam are the dominant brands among hand mixers. KitchenAid owns about half the stand-mixer market; Hamilton Beach and Sunbeam are the next-best-selling brands. Use these profiles to compare mixers by brand.

Cuisinart

Cuisinart is a perennial big player in the world of small appliances, though it is a relative newcomer in the mixers market. The company sells two models, a 5-quart and a 7-quart version, available in three colors, and they are available at many department stores, specialty stores, and online retailers.

Hamilton Beach

Hamilton Beach sells mixers in its Eclectrics line. These come in five colors and are sold at most kitchen-appliances retailers. The company also sells a commercial line of mixers, which are sold at specialty retailers and online through Amazon.com and others.

KitchenAid

This high-end brand is the major brand in the mixers market. KitchenAid sells about seven models across the tilt-head bowl-lift lines. These models have capacities that range from 7 to 14 cups, and come in more than 20 colors. KitchenAid mixers are widely available at retailers nationwide.

Sunbeam

Sunbeam's midpriced mixers come in five colors and are sold at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, JCPenney, and a number of online retailers.

Viking

This high-end mixer maker—with the slogan Professional Performance for the Home—sells a 5-quart and a 7-quart model. These mixers are available at department stores, specialty stores, and online merchants.

   

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