How to Choose a Mixer
The top performers in our review are the KitchenAid Artisan, the Gold Award winner; the Cuisinart Stand Mixer, the Silver Award winner; and the Breville Scraper Mixer Pro, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a mixer to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 products.
All of those recipes you see on Pinterest look easy enough, but as you read through the steps it takes to make bagels, pretzels, marshmallows, pizza dough, mousse, meringues, creamy mashed potatoes, you realize that simply don’t have the time, counter space or wherewithal to do it. If you have a basic stand mixer, though, you can easily create all of the items listed without having to buy any special attachments.
Although a stand mixer can replace many small appliances in your kitchen, it can’t actually do the baking and cooking for you. If you want to make bread from start to finish in the same vessel, you’re in the market for a bread machine, and you can find the best bread makers here. You can use your stand mixer to create the dough for pretzels, but how do you get that perfect pretzel shape? There are pans and griddles out there to help you make the best pretzels. Although some of the best stand mixers include additional attachments you can purchase, not all of them offer add-ons for grinding your own meat or making your own ice cream.
Two types of rotation in stand mixers are available to home bakers: center and planetary. The center stand mixer has attachments that turn one way only, and the bowl may rotate as well. Planetary-style mixers, however, keep the bowl still while the agitator and attachment move in both rotations and revolutions, much like how the earth orbits the sun. This type of movement ensures thorough mixing of ingredients, and some paddle attachments can scrape the bottom of the bowl. Both styles are versatile, because you can switch out a paddle for other attachments, such as a dough hook or a whisk. Some center models give you the option of removing the mixer from the base and using it as a handheld mixer.
Mixers: Another Choice for the Pros
Professional bakers have another option in spiral-style mixers, which use a spiral-shaped attachment that remains stationary while the bowl turns. This kind of mixer is generally used to make dough for bread and pizzas. It isn’t the most versatile machine, which is why it’s rarely created for home use. Spiral mixers are bigger and stronger, so they can handle much more dough at once without straining the motor.
What We Tested, What We Discovered
Every manufacturer of stand mixers is going to claim its machine is the best at mixing, kneading, whipping and being the most versatile of the bunch. Which one, though, lives up to the hype? We put each mixer on our lineup to several tests to determine which one really is the most powerful, which one scrapes the very bottom of the bowl and which one produces the fluffiest meringue. For more information on what you can do with your mixer, read our articles on stand mixers.
The single most important function of a stand mixer is how effective it is at doing what it claims. Bread dough should come together easily without causing the machine to wobble or the motor to strain. The best stand mixers blend cake batter and cookie dough effortlessly and thoroughly – some models even have paddles with rubber scraper blades to help get every last speck of flour from the sides and bottom of the bowl. If you’re whisking several egg whites to make meringue for the top of your pie or to give your chiffon cake some lift, you want a mixer that's going to add the most volume possible.
We tested each attachment for its effectiveness using basic recipes for chocolate chip cookies, whipped egg whites and bread dough. The best mixers proved able to tackle all three tests with no issue in creating the most voluminous egg whites, thoroughly mixed cookie dough and shiny, elastic bread dough. Other mixers excelled at one or two of the tests but didn’t do as well with another, but this didn’t kick them out of the running.
If you choose a center-style rotation mixer, you get a different kind of versatility than a planetary-style mixer. Many of the center mixers detach from their bases, which transforms it into a hand mixer. This is helpful when you want to, say, cream mashed potatoes in a pot or a serving bowl separate from your mixer.
Kneading dough by hand is an exercise in patience and forearm strength. If you’re lacking in both, stand mixers were made for you. You want to make sure you get one that can handle the dough, and overload protection is an excellent feature that prevents your motor from overdoing it and possibly burning out when you mix up a bread dough that’s just a bit too much for it to take.
If you have a machine with enough power to push thick and heavy ingredients around, you likely won’t see that overload protection kick in. Although the wattage of an appliance seems to be the most important number to look for, when it comes to stand mixers, you really want to know what the torque is. Torque is a measurement of twisting force. For example, when you open a jar of pickles, the amount of force you’re using is measured in torque. It’s an important factor, especially when you’re kneading a thick batch of bread dough or cookie dough, and you want the most torque possible if you’re making lots of bread.
Having all of the power of a strong motor in a narrow bowl can sometimes mean you’ll wear half the flour you add to the bowl when mixing a batch of cookies. The best stand mixers, though, have a slow start when you turn the knob or move the lever to the first setting, so you stay clean and the flour stays in the bowl. Higher-end electric mixers include features such as a timer that will count down or up so you know how long your ingredients have been mixing. It can be especially helpful if you're supposed to knead dough for exactly 10 minutes, or if you’re testing a new recipe and need to know how long the mixing process took.
Some units include extras, such as a splash guard or pouring shield, which helps you direct ingredients to the center of the bowl, instead of splattering sugar, flour or other mix-ins onto the attachment or base. It can also protect you from any flour explosions in the bowl if you happen to turn the speed up too quickly. A handle on the bowl is a convenient addition that helps you lock and unlock the bowl easily and transfer ingredients in the bowl with one hand. For the most part, stand mixers include a locking tilt head that lifts up when you’re not using it, making it easy for you to switch out attachments. Only one mixer on our lineup includes a bowl lift method rather than the tilting head. Every mixer on our lineup has some parts that are dishwasher safe, whether it’s the bowl or attachments – but you should never submerge a mixer base in water.
After each test, we removed the bowls and attachments and washed them by hand. There wasn’t a significant difference in how long it took to wash each bowl or tool, and in fact, each attachment came clean quickly and easily with just a little bit of effort, warm water and soap.
Capacity is vital in a few different ways. The cup capacity refers to the number of cups of flour a mixer’s motor can handle at one time as it works the flour into a dough – this is actually just another way to consider the motor’s torque. You need to consider the bowl capacity carefully because bigger does not always equal better. A couple cups of flour get lost in a 7-quart bowl and they won’t mix properly, just as attempting to whisk a single egg white would be an exercise in futility in a bowl that size. If you make four loaves of bread each day, you want a mixer with a bowl that’s big enough to handle that. If you just bake a batch of cookies or whip up buttercream for a single cake, the smaller 4-quart bowl will be plenty for your needs.
What Else is Important in Choosing a Mixer?
It’s like choosing the right piping tip for a scalloped border – you want to choose the right tool for the job. And in this case, you need to pick a mixer that can serve you in as many different ways as possible. You also want to make sure that if anything goes wrong with your mixer, you can contact the right people who can answer your questions and help you get it fixed, if necessary.
The basic attachments that you can expect with most home mixers are a paddle or traditional beaters, a whisk and a dough hook. The traditional beaters usually come with center-style rotation mixers, while the paddle is more common with the planetary-style mixer. These attachments are ideal for creaming butter and sugar, mixing batters and smoothing out mashed potatoes. The whisk attachment is, obviously, for whisking, so it’s perfect for whipped cream, meringues and whipping ganache for frosting. The hook transforms your mixer into a dough mixer that can knead bagel, bread and pizza dough.
Other mixers have even more attachments that are often sold separately and can help you do things you couldn’t before – or eliminate other appliances from your kitchen. A flex-edge beater slides along the bottom and sides of the bowl, picking up every last bit of flour and batter to ensure a well-blended batter. A meat grinder attachment gives you the ability to make your own ground meat or sausage. There’s also an ice cream maker attachment, shredder, pasta maker, and fruit and vegetable strainer.
Warranties & Support
A good warranty for your stand mixer protects you from defective parts for at least one year, which is the standard amount of time manufacturers offer. There are a few mixers that give you extra protection for two, three and even five years. Every mixer manufacturer offers support from its website, which means you get access to FAQs; an online user manual; user reviews; and phone, email or live chat support. Most of the mixers on our lineup also include a recipe booklet in the back of the user manual so you can get started with mixing and cooking right away.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
Choosing a great mixer depends on what you need to use it for. We chose the KitchenAid Artisan as the best overall stand mixer you could possibly buy, because it handled every task with aplomb. The machine did especially well in the egg-white test, producing fluffier, drier, stiffer egg whites in the allotted time than any other mixer. Although the Cuisinart stand mixer didn’t do nearly as well with the egg whites or cookie dough, it was exceptional at kneading, making it an excellent choice as a dough mixer. Also, we weren’t surprised to see that the Breville Scraper Mixer Pro performed so well in our tests.
Regardless of their placement on our lineup, each mixer was up to at least one of the tasks. So, if you’re looking for a mixer that works just as hard as the top three but doesn’t include overload protection and cannot create as many loaves of bread at once, the KitchenAid Classic Plus is a great choice. It performed well and costs less than some of the top contenders. Bosch has a reputation for its unique design and dough-kneading capabilities, and for good reason. The Bosch Compact Mixer quickly and easily pushed the ingredients around its slick plastic bowl until the bread dough came together in a perfect ball. If you only mix up a batch of cookies once in a while and you’re used to having a hand mixer, a machine like the Sunbeam Hand and Stand Mixer Combo might work for your needs. We were able to make a loaf of bread in this machine easily enough, but the unit doesn’t include a whisk, so whipping egg whites is an impossible task.
Now that you know what to look for in the perfect mixer for you, check out our top picks based on the aforementioned criteria. We’ve included mixers of different price points, capacities and power, so read through the reviews to find the right mixer for you.