A mixer is a culinary appliance that uses a system that’s driven by gears to spin a set of beaters to prepare food in a bowl. The continuous rotation of the beaters helps to stir, whisk or beat the food that’s in the bowl. Every baker and cake decorator is familiar with a mixer because it makes life in the kitchen quite easy.
Mixers are categorized into two; hand mixers and stand mixers. They are both configured in basically the same way but there are features that differentiate them. Let’s examine the difference between a hand mixer and a stand mixer.
A hand mixer is a basic kitchen appliance considered a “must have” in every kitchen. It helps you to speed up the process of mashing potatoes, creaming different types of recipe ingredients and whipping fresh cream. It is called a hand mixer because you have to hold the mixer to perform whatever task needed.
The continuous mixing and power of a hand mixer ensures that you get the right consistency of whatever you’re mixing. Although hand mixers come with fewer attachments than stand mixers, they are definitely better than manual rotary beaters. We wouldn’t even mention how much better it is than using a wooden spoon.
Hand mixers come in variety of designs and with different number of attachments. Different brands also come with different number of attachments; the minimum being two attachments. Most hand mixers would come with a beater attachment and a whisk.
Benefits of a Hand Mixer
(i) The different attachments and different speeds allow you prepare different recipes; this makes it a handy appliance for any home maker.
(ii) It is versatile. It can be used for large batch of recipes; that is for recipes that are light. It can also be used to whip up small recipes.
(iii) A hand mixer is easy to use; there are no complicated parts to assembly.
(iv) Hand mixers are usually portable; they don’t take up much space which makes storage easy
Disadvantages of a Hand Mixer
(i) A hand mixer must be held while in operation. This means that the user cannot multitask while using it.
(ii) It doesn’t have power to mix heavy cookie batters nor can it knead bread or pie dough.
(iii) It cannot work continuously for a long time at a stretch.
We have a more detailed piece on hand mixers; click here to read it.
A stand mixer does everything that a hand mixer does but takes it a notch higher. It frees you to do your blending, mixing and whipping more conveniently.
As the name implies, a stand mixer stands and functions without being handheld. All you need to do is fix the mixing bowl in the stand, add the ingredients then insert the beaters and start mixing.
There are a lot of benefits to be derived from using a stand mixer. We’ll discuss some of these benefits here.
Benefits of a Stand Mixer
Hands- Free Operation
A stand mixer operates without being held by the user. This allows the user to do other things while the mixer is in use; you can go about gathering other ingredients. You can also do other small chores while blending, mixing and preparing your food.
A stand mixer cuts down preparation time by giving you less work at a faster rate with better results.
You don’t need to get your hands all floury and doughy as you prepare even the thickest of recipes. A stand mixer does as good a job as your hand would if not even better. And the best part of it is that it does it without a mess.
You can prepare all types of frostings, icing and whipped cream without having a mess all over your countertop and kitchen walls. This is unlike what happens when you use a hand mixer for some recipes.
Power and Control
Stand mixers are usually sturdier and have more power than hand mixers; this makes it easier for them to mix heavier batters and recipes. Most people usually get tired of the mixing process with a hand mixer; so they skimp on how long they should mix a batter. A stand mixer helps you to mix a recipe as long as is required.
A stand mixer has powerful motors and some have up to twelve different speed. With these different speeds, you can control your mixer to make any kind of dough.
There are different designs of stand mixers that help you with controlling the unit; most stand mixers come with a tilt am or tilt head. This design allows you control how you add and mix ingredients. It also allows you to add and remove the bowl and any other attachment you may want to change up.
A stand mixer is versatile kitchen appliance; most brands come with three standard mixers. These mixers can work with other attachments that can be bought separately. This means that you can use the mixer for a wide range of tasks.
The additional attachments that you can buy separately help you to make things like mashed potatoes, cup cakes, pizza dough and guacamole
A good stand mixer allows you to make your dough and batters faster with less stress. With a hand mixer, you have to stand over your bowl and hold the mixer for all long as it operates. You most often would get tired and sometimes would not go as long as the recipe calls for.
When working with a stand mixer, all you do is place your ingredients in the bowl and start to mix. Some high tech brands have timers so that you can set the mixing time desired and go about other chores. The mixer would stop running when the time is up.
Basic and Extra Attachments
Every stand mixer comes with a basic set of attachments. They can also work with other attachments that can be bought separately. The extra attachments make the stand mixer a very useful appliance to have on hand.
It is this ability to be fitted with other attachments apart from the ones it came with that makes stand mixers versatile. Hand mixers can only work with the attachments that they are sold with and no extras.
Efficiency and Reliability
A stand mixer also helps to cut down preparation time because you can do other things while it’s in operation. It also has preset mixing actions that blend ingredients more efficiently.
Stand mixers are reliable appliances that help the user work efficiently; they are reliable because they are usually built with die cast metal. They are also heavy due to the material used to build them. The heaviness is what keeps the mixer grounded and keeps the bowl secure when in operation.
If you buy a good quality stand mixer, you are assured that it would last for a long time. That’s what makes it a reliable tool to help you through your baking tasks.
Multi functional Device
A stand mixer is a multipurpose appliance that you can use for many tasks in the kitchen. Apart from all the things you can use the mixer to do, the bowl also comes in hand. Even when the stand mixer is not in use, you can use the bowl for other purposes.
You can use the bowls as double broilers and the bowls that are deep and narrow can be used as ice cream and cake molds.
Although stand mixers are costlier than hand mixers, the value they provide is worth the price paid. They may appear expensive at the point of purchase, but when you calculate the work they do and how much effort and time they save you, you’ll be glad you spent the money.
If you are commercial baker or one who bakes often, you cannot afford not to have a stand mixer. They are an awesome addition to your arsenal. When you think of stand mixers, don’t just think of something that mixes cake batter fast and without stress. Think of all the other things that you get.
The cake decorator no longer has to knead large quantities of fondant on a regular basis. You also do not have to buy ready to use fondant so as to avoid the physical labor of making your own fondant. A stand mixer helps you do all the work.
Disadvantages of a Stand Mixer
Although a stand mixer is a great asset to any home maker or baker, it has some down sides. These downsides however are not deal breakers; they include the following:
(i) Most stand mixers are bulky and require space on your countertop. You cannot store them in drawers like hand mixers.
(ii) Some brands and designs of stand mixers cannot be used for small recipes.
(iii) A stand mixer is limited to the capacity of the mixing bowl it came with. This is unlike hand mixers that can be used for bowls or pots with different capacity.
From our discussion so far, you can agree with us that a stand mixer is a more convenient option than a hand mixer. Yes stand mixers are more expensive than hand mixers but the convenience and functionality makes it worthwhile.
Although stand mixers are such a great asset, we would suggest that avid bakers should have both a hand mixer and stand mixer. This would help you cover all the bases.
Buying Guide for Mixers
We have established the fact that mixers are an essential appliance for any kitchen. Stand mixers are even more useful if you bake quite frequently. And if you are a commercial baker, then you know it is a staple you must have.
In this buying guide, we’ll concentrate more on stand mixers. Some of these tips might also apply to hand mixers. So when you go shopping for a stand mixer, here are some factors to consider.
Frequency and Type of Use
When looking for the best stand mixer to buy, you should consider how often you’ll be using the mixer. Also consider what type of recipes you make frequently.
If you are a commercial baker or you have a large family that you bake for frequently you need a strong and powerful stand mixer. People who entertain frequently and love to bake should also look for powerful stand mixers with large capacity.
You should be considering a unit with a six quart bowl or large with a minimum power of 600 watts. Remember that having the right size of mixer for the type of recipes you make often is important.
If you make small recipes often, then buying a stand mixer may not even be necessary. If you make both large and small recipes, then you best be thinking of having both a hand mixer and a stand mixer.
There are commercial stand mixers that are more suited for bakeries and commercial bakers. If you are a frequent and heavy user but do not bake commercially, you don’t need the commercial brands.
There are strong and powerful home stand mixers that would work just fine for you. Just ensure that you consider the frequency and type of use your stand mixer is intended for.
Style and Design
When considering the frequency and type of use the mixer would be put to, you have to understand how each style and design works.
Stand mixers come in various styles and designs. There are two basic styles and they are the bowl lift and the tilt head design. This refers to how the bowl is fitted into the head of the mixer.
The tilt head stand mixer design entails that you tilt the head of the mixer back before you can insert the bowl. With the lift bowl design, there is a lever that lowers or raises the bowl. When you want to insert the bowl in a bowl lift design, you insert the bowl into the hands of the mixer and lock into place.
There are a lot of arguments for and against both designs. There really isn’t any right or wrong design. It is the power/torque and the capacity of the unit that determines its worth.
The bowl lift stand mixer design have been noted to be more powerful than the tilt head designs. This means that the tilt head is more suited for homemakers who don’t bake frequently or in large volumes. Whereas the bowl lift design is for those who bake commercially or in large volumes and frequently.
The type of recipes made is also essential to the choice of which design you should buy. Bowl lift designs are built to handle heavier consistency than the tilt head designs.
Capacity and Power Performance of the Mixer
From the foregoing, you may be tempted to think that a higher wattage provides more kneading and mixing power. However it has been noted that this is not often the case. Some brands or models of mixers may operate at a high wattage but with lower power than indicated.
For the above reasons, it is wiser to look out for the capacity of the mixer than to depend on the wattage advertised. Every mixer comes with the capacity stated; this shows you how many kg of batter it can make. This capacity is denoted in different measures e.g. cups, liters or kg. They all help the user to know the capacity of the unit.
The units also come with user manuals or guidelines that advice on what you can expect from the unit. Some of these guidelines while helpful might not always be accurate. You may have to scale down the capacity indicated or use with caution.
Quality of Construction
Before you make a purchase, you have to be sure that the mixer is made with top quality materials and craftsmanship.
The quality of the materials and the thought put into manufacturing would determine how long the unit would last and also how well it would perform.
Manufacturers who value quality would always test run their products to ensure that the quality is top notch. They would also test the safety features to ensure that the products are safe for users of all ages. This is especially true for home appliances such as stand mixers.
Bear in mind that quality comes as a price so be prepared to pay more for top quality products.
Important Features to Consider
There are several features to look out for when shopping for a stand mixer. Some of these features include the following:
Power and Torque
Some manufacturers would want you to believe that the higher the wattage, the higher the output. But remember that we had earlier explained that this isn’t always the case.
What you should be looking out for is how well the unit performs in continuous use. The essence of a stand mixer is to be able to add your ingredients and have it mixer continuously for some time without monitoring it.
Torque is the force of rotation that a motor applies. The torque of a mixer allows the attachment to rotate dough around the bowl, kneading it from all sides. If a mixer doesn’t have adequate torque it won’t be able to mix and knead dough properly.
Type of Gearing
An all metal gearing is one of the best options available because it lasts longer than other types of gearing. However it is also nosier than some other types of gears such as the nylon gear.
The lower priced brands are made with pot metal gears while the higher quality brands are made with steel or brass gears. This type of gear has tighter tolerance than the others.
Models that come equipped with all metal gears are usually outfitted with electronic sensors.
These help to shut of the machine in the event of an overload. This is to ensure that the motor is not damaged. This feature is known as the overload protection feature or the fail safe feature.
Planetary Mixing Feature
This term is derived from the way the earth rotates around the earth. This involves only one beater that rotates round the bowl in one direction while the whole mixer head spins on its axis in the opposite direction. This enables the beater or whatever attachment is used to reach all the contents of the bowl.
The planetary mixing action allows maximum reach to all the ingredients and mixes them evenly. The beater scrapes the sides of the bowls as it rotates. This further reduces the mixing time because you wouldn’t have to keep scraping the ingredients on the side of the bowl.
This mixing action is in contrast with the center mixing that involves two fixed beaters. These beaters only rotate on their axis. This type of action doesn’t reach all the ingredients in the bowl. This means that you would have to scrape the sides of the bowl by hand.
With this in mind we believe you would choose a mixer with planetary mixing action.
Attachments Included in Purchase
The average number of attachment that stand mixers come with is three and they include a beater, a whisk and a dough hook. Some models have two of one or two of each of these attachments.
Mixer blade or Flat beater – This is the most common attachment that’s included in a stand mixer. It is used to combine mixtures that have normal to heavy consistency. Flat beaters are used to make cakes, pastry, biscuits, icings and mashed potatoes.
Dough Hook – This is ideal for kneading all types of dough and pastry with heavier consistency.
Balloon whisk – The large metal balloon whisk is ideal for whisking egg whites, creaming ingredients or making light cake batters and mixtures. This attachment helps to incorporate more air into a mix but note that it’s not meant for heavy mixtures. It is too delicate for heavy duty tasks.
Some brands may throw in additional attachments with your purchase. Some of these extras include the following:
This is a plastic lid that has an opening or a hinged cover affixed on top of the mixing bowl. The hole is to allow you add ingredients without having to shut down the mixer. The splash guard prevents the ingredients from splashing around as they mix or as you add them.
For some models, you have to attach the splash guard before using the mixer. This is a very great feature for those who bake and decorate cakes a lot. it comes in handy for protecting your work area from messy splashes and spills.
This is an updated version of the original flat beater. It performs the same function but with a little extra. It comes with a rubber or silicone spatula with edging that rests on the outside edge of the beater.
This addition helps to scrape ingredients from the side of the mixing bowl as it rotates. It ensures the maximum incorporation of all the ingredients so that nothing is stuck to the side of the bowl.
Some models of stand mixers include attachment for jug blender in their design. The attachment is usually on top of the mixer. This is a welcome addition because it means you have one less appliance to buy. You can use it to blend or puree food items.
There are some other optional attachments that can be purchased separately. You can always start out with the basics and then move on to more specialized attachments.
In considering the attachments that a stand mixer comes with, find out how well the attachments fits with the bowl. Also consider whether they are dishwasher safe; this would definitely make life easier for you.
It is a well known fact that the more speed option an appliance has the better for the user. This means that the user has more options for performing different tasks. You can choose to whip at low speed or a higher speed; whatever speed your recipes call for are readily available.
With the speed control options you can also maximize the torque of the unit; the stiffer the ingredient, the more torque is maximized.
From experiments and researches, it has been proven that stand mixers with six to seven speed options would be extra amazing. However, there are powerfully built models that have only three speed options and still gets the job done.
The weight of a stand mixer is very important because it plays a big part in how steady the unit would be. Lightweight stand mixers would generally not be stable especially when you use them for heavy mixtures.
They would slip and slide around your countertop when in operation. This would defeat the purpose of hands free operation because it may need someone to monitor it while in use.
There is a consensus that the least weight a stand mixer should have should be twenty pound; anything lighter than this is not ideal. This is especially for those who bake a lot of bread or recipes that have heavy or dough-like consistency.
The Limitation of the Mixer
No matter how wonderful a product is, it must still have its limitations. Before you buy a stand mixer, check and be sure that you understand its pros and cons.
A hand mixer has its limitations but comes in handy when preparing some small recipes that a stand mixer won’t handle.
The tilt head design is wonderful for mixtures with light to heavy consistency but won’t handle some kind of heavy dough mixtures.
Bowl lift designs have been touted to be heavy weight designs that handle all types of heavy dough.
The truth of the matter is that different brands of these styles and models have varying degrees of the pros and cons of its design.
It is very important that you know the limitations of the mixer you are thinking of buying or the one you have already bought. This would help you know how to use it, maximize its strength and help it to last for long.
These are features that are not found across board but come in handy. Some of these features include:
(i) The Slow Start Feature – This feature ensures that your unit starts off slowly in the first few seconds. This prevents ingredients from splattering all over your kitchen floor and walls.
(ii) Timer – The timer allows you to preset the mixer and let it mix without the need to monitor it. This gives you more freedom to multitask.
(iii) Fail Safe Feature – This is a feature that shuts down the unit when there is overload or mixture that is heavier than recommended. It helps to ensure that the motor of the unit is not damaged.
(iv) Extra Attachments Hubs – Stand mixers that have hubs for extra attachments are much more desirable than those that don’t. The provision of hubs for extra attachments means that your stand mixer become much more versatile and useful.
Good quality mixers do not come cheap. This doesn’t mean that it is only the high end mixers that would get the job done. However, the quality would determine how well the job is done and how long the product would last.
Stand mixers are also in grades and categories; some more functional and versatile than others. The amount of money you should be willing to spend should be a reflection of your expectations. It would be fool hardy to expect a top quality unit and not be willing to pay a good sum.
The great thing about paying for a top quality stand mixer with more features than just the base is that you get value for your money.
With a high end stand mixer, you may not need to buy some other kitchen appliances. With extra attachments that can be purchased separately, some stand mixers can even function as food processors.
One last word to professional or commercial bakers; a homemaker may get away with a poor choice in stand mixers but you cannot. Invest good money into a good quality functional and versatile stand mixer to improve your output.