Oct. 2, 2013 at 12:40 PM ET
For many amateur bakers, a classic KitchenAid stand mixer is the gold standard -- or maybe the Empire Red, Cobalt Blue or Silver Metallic standard. Too bad it commands so much green. Unless you bake frequently and seriously (or you’re populating a wedding registry) it may not make sense to choose a mixer that sells for upward of $200. A cheaper hand-held mixer won’t provide as much power, but the best ones can churn through thick batters and even bread dough with the right attachments -- and they come at a fraction of the cost.
Here are three top picks under $30 from Cheapism.com.
The Oster Inspire (starting at $18) includes a full arsenal of attachments: standard beaters, dough hooks, a whisk and a drink rod. If anything, reviewers say, this model is too powerful. They advise other buyers to use a deep bowl and completely submerge attachments before turning on the mixer. The Oster Inspire comes in black or white and features a retractable cord. (Where to buy)
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The Hamilton Beach 62650 (starting at $26) incorporates a snap-on case to wrangle the attachments, which include straight wire beaters and a whisk in addition to the requisite flat beaters. With a 290-watt motor, this mixer doesn’t want for power, and online reviews confirm that it performs well on all manner of recipes. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but many users prefer the heft to the cheap, plasticky build of other low-cost mixers. (Where to buy)
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The Oster 2500 (starting at $23) has won over some consumers with one simple attribute: a low speed that’s actually slow. If that seems like a weak selling point, consider that online reviews of other cheap mixers teem with complaints about volcanic eruptions of ingredients even on the lowest setting. A curvy, ergonomic shape and comfort handle also help this lightweight mixer stand out in the boxy budget ranks. It includes traditional beaters and dough hooks. (Where to buy)
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Each of these recommended mixers has five or six settings so that users can choose a precise speed. This usage guide from Hamilton Beach runs down the optimal settings for a variety of tasks and recipes: low speeds for creaming butter, making cookie dough, and folding dry ingredients into muffins and quick breads; medium speeds for frosting, cake mix, mashed potatoes and bread dough; and high speeds for beating egg whites and whipping heavy cream. Each mixer also features a power burst button. You won’t find a slow start feature like on some expensive models, but it’s easy to replicate the effect manually. Simply start on low and slowly ratchet up to your desired speed to prevent splatters. One final feature of all these mixers: a beater ejection button that’s separate from the speed control. Experts recommend this so you don’t accidentally switch on the mixer when removing an attachment.
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