Mixer Buying Guide

Whether you're a rookie or a semi-pro in the kitchen, a reliable mixer is essential for tackling a host of food prep tasks.

Hand mixers are ideal for lighter jobs and smaller batches–it's far easier to whip up two egg whites with a hand mixer, rather than haul out the heavy equipment. Stand mixers are the go-to appliance for heavier chores such as mixing big batches of cookie dough and kneading bread dough.

Our tests show considerable differences in how well particular models of hand and stand mixers perform. And while manufacturers stress wattage and number of speeds, neither figure necessarily translates into better performance.

In the Mix: What to Consider

The market is divided into hand mixers and stand mixers that range in price from as low as $20 to up to $500. For an extra $60 to $140, you can add attachments to your stand mixer that transform it into a meat grinder, an ice-cream machine, or a fresh pasta maker.

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.

For stand mixers, make sure you'll have enough clearance in the "up" position if it will be sitting on a countertop below an overhanging cabinet. With most, you tilt the mixer head up to remove the beater(s) or bowl; but on some models, you can crank a lever that lifts or lowers the bowl.

The Hand or the Stand

Which food-prep appliance best suits your lifestyle? Match the machine to the foods you most frequently prepare and how you like to prep. (And keep in mind you might need more than one.) Hand mixers can handle most light chores, while powerful stand mixers are ideal for heavy lifting.

A hand mixer.

Hand Mixers

These are best for light-duty tasks such as whipping cream or egg whites, mixing cake batter, and mashing potatoes. But just know that 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 perform well and are easier to clean.

One definite plus is that hand mixers are easy to store and don't require any counter space.

A stand mixer.

Stand Mixers

A stand mixer can do everything a hand mixer does, but is more capable at mixing cookie batter and bread dough. One major drawback: They're heavier and take up counter space. Plus you have to clean the bowl.

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 models typically have stationary beaters and a bowl that sits on a revolving turntable.

Spin Control: Features to Consider

To make kitchen prep a snap, safe, and with easier cleanup, here are a few features worth noting.

Mixer 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 is a perennial big player in the world of small appliances, though it is a relative newcomer in the mixers market. The company sells both hand and stand mixers, they are available in a variety of colors, and are sold at department stores, specialty stores, and online retailers.
Hamilton Beach a popular brand in the mixer category offers both hand and stand mixers. They come in various colors and are sold at most kitchen-appliance retailers. The company also sells a commercial line of mixers, which are sold at specialty retailers and online through Amazon.com and others.
This high-end brand is the major brand in the mixers market. The stand mixers are versatile with various attachments and come in a wide array of colors. KitchenAid mixers are widely available at retailers nationwide.
Sunbeam's mid-priced mixers come in a variety of colors and are sold at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, JCPenney, and a number of online retailers.
Other brands on the market include Black & Decker
, Bosch, Breville, Kenmore, and Oster.
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