Sometime over the past two years, like most people, I've developed a real interest in baked goods. It started off innocently enough with chocolate chip cookies and then spiraled into breads and doughs of all kinds. Instead of doing any research about what kind of stand mixer would be best for my needs, I dove straight in and bought a KitchenAid. While it worked out in my favor, I probably should have done a bit more research before dropping all that cash.
Whether you're like me and have developed a knack for homemade desserts and confections or you're looking to get into baking the first time, we spoke to a few experts to know what exactly you should be looking for when it comes to finding the right mixer.
How to shop for a stand mixer
While most stand mixers perform the same job, what varies is how well they do it. The chefs we interviewed shared a few things to keep in mind while shopping for a quality stand mixer.
The number one thing each chef recommends keeping in mind while shopping for a stand mixer is what exactly you’ll be using it for. If you plan on making copious amounts of breads, cookies and other pastries, for example, you’ll want to look for a sturdier mixer that can handle a lot of dough and will likely cost a little more.
Frank Costantino, dean for the School of Hospitality and Management at The Culinary Institute at Monroe College, said there are two categories of mixers:
- Higher-end models with the ability to use attachments in the traditional space and on top for things like grinding flour, meat or rolling pasta; and
- Simpler models that only accommodate the basic attachments you’ll need for muffins, cakes and smaller pastries.
As simple as it may sound, weight is an important factor to take into account when shopping for a stand mixer.
“That sounds funny but if it doesn’t weigh a lot, it’s not going to be stable on your counter,” says chef Susan Lagalle, department chair at Johnson and Wales University’s International Baking and Pastry program. “If you have a really stiff bread dough and you’re trying to mix it and the mixer is not sturdy enough, it’s gonna topple over or it’s just not gonna feel good; it’s gonna make the table shake.”
Similar to looking at the weight of a machine to determine how sturdy it’ll be, you’ll also want to look for features that are designed to last a long time. Lagalle, for example, likes mixers with a stainless steel bowl because they’re heavy-duty, versatile and won’t break or crack. “They might dent if you drop it really hard but not generally,” she said.
More than just looking out for stainless steel bowls, Kierin Baldwin, chef-instructor of Pastry and Baking Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, recommends steering clear of plastic parts in general. If you’re working with a sturdier dough, you can potentially break the attachment if it’s made out of plastic, she said. “You want to make sure you’re getting a machine that’s strong enough to hold up to what you are trying to do with it.”
Even motor power plays an important role in how useful a mixer is for your needs. For tougher doughs like bread or pizza dough, you’ll need a stand mixer with enough power in the motor to handle it, Costantino advised.
Better quality stand mixers are likely to cost a pretty penny. While each chef mentioned price as something to think about when shopping, Baldwin says that a quality stand mixer that will last a long time is “probably going to be at least a few hundred dollars."
This might seem silly, but finding the right colorway is an important factor in decision making! When taken care of properly, mixers can last for decades. So instead of picking the hot color of the moment, pick a timeless color that will grow with you and your home. Lagalle stressed the importance of choosing a color that you really love. “It’s going to be on your counter forever,” she laughed.
Best stand mixers, according to professional chefs
KitchenAid was a standout brand amongst each of the chefs we spoke to. They admitted to having their own KitchenAid mixers for anywhere from 20 to 32 years and they're all still working. The professional series has a bowl-lift style (which is typically designed with a side lever and two arms connecting to the stand mixer bowl to raise and lower it), which Lagalle says is easy to use, convenient and sturdy.
"KitchenAid is the one we’ve been using in schools and for my own business and home. They’re really durable," added Rob Lukasik, a chef-instructor at SUNY Erie Community College.
Lagalle mentioned the Artisan series from KitchenAid as an example of a tilt-top style stand mixer. She said this model is likely most familiar to home bakers and therefore would probably be most comfortable for them, especially if they don't bake often. Baldwin also says a tilt-top mixer is great for bakers who are just starting out.
Even though she uses a KitchenAid mixer, Baldwin recommends Ankarsarum if you plan on making more bread because it can handle larger batches of stiffer bread doughs. It has a large 7.5-quart bowl and features like a timer for automatic shut-off.
"The Ankarsarum...is a machine that you will pass on to your children, is my understanding. It just lasts and lasts and lasts," she said.
Regarded as a brand worth checking out by Lagalle, this stand mixer has a large stainless steel 7-quart bowl and features 11 mixing speeds for all of your cooking needs. It weighs in at a hefty 41.5 pounds so if you're looking at this one, you'll want to be sure you have a permanent home for it.
Baldwin mentioned Smeg as another brand with stand mixers that are a good option for shoppers. It has a retro look for those looking to achieve their dream retro-style kitchen. It's a tilt-top mixer that comes in up to seven different colors, has 10 speeds and comes with four attachments.
Other top-rated stand mixers
This Cuisinart tilt-back mixer is perfect for beginners who don't want to spend too much but still get a high-quality piece of machinery. It comes in up to 10 different colors and has features like 12 speeds, a splash guard, a paddle hook and a dough hook.
This affordable mixer has six speeds and a powerful 660-watt motor so you can make bread doughs without breaking a sweat. It comes with the three standard attachments each chef mentioned: a beater, a whisk and a dough hook. It even comes in 10 colors.
For less than $130, this is a great starter mixer for someone who doesn't want to spend much on a potential new hobby. It weighs in at a very light 10 pounds so you can store it somewhere else and then move it back onto the counter easily. The motor operates with just 350 watts so, while you might not want to make any bread doughs, it's ideal for cookies, cupcakes and other lightweight pastry doughs.
A 4-quart bowl like this one is ideal for smaller batches of your favorite pastries. It weighs a little over 12 pounds so it can be stored in out of sight and pulled onto the counter when needed. It has seven speeds and an accompanying guide on top so you can ensure you're always using the right setting.
This aesthetically-pleasing pastel mixer from Drew Barrymore's houseware line Beautiful has almost a perfect five-star rating. It has 12 speed settings and, according to the brand, can mix up to nine dozen cookies with its 300-watt motor. It comes with standard mixer accessories, including a splash guard, dough hook, flat beater and balloon whisk.
Stand mixer FAQs
Uses for a stand mixer
A seemingly straightforward question that has a seemingly straightforward answer: a mixer can be used for anything that needs to be mixed! Lagalle said mixers can be used for making things as simple as mashed potatoes to whipping up eggs for a merengue.
The interchangeable attachments are what make a stand mixer such a versatile kitchen tool. “The attachments dictate the possibility,” said Costantino.
For example, a paddle attachment can be used for making cookies, cream puffs and other batters, according to Lukasik.
While you can use a no-knead method or even a bread maker to make a fresh loaf, you can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. “For things like a brioche — [or] a lot of breads that are meant to be kneaded — a stand mixer is really gonna save you a lot of sweat,” said Baldwin.
Tips for using a stand mixer
Get familiar with your machine and its attachments. When you’ve finally chosen your stand mixer, take a beat before you dive right in to get familiar with the user manual and all of its attachments. Baldwin said most mixers come with three standard attachments: a beater for doughs or stiffer batters; a whisk for more liquid ingredients; and a dough hook. If a mixer doesn’t come with at least the first two attachments, she suggests taking another look at what exactly you’re buying.
Once you’ve got all your pieces in front of you, Lagalle recommends ensuring that you’re handling them properly to make the mixer last as long as possible. For example, smaller KitchenAid mixers tend to have nylon-coated attachments, which makes them dishwasher-friendly. But, she says, the attachments for more professional-style mixers should be washed by hand since they tend to lack nylon coating.
Finally, do research on what each attachment does, Lukasik said. “As long as you have a basic knowledge of what each attachment does, you should have much success,” he says.
Don’t turn it on and off too quickly. When you start to use your stand mixer, be sure not to turn it on and off too quickly because, according to Lukasik, it can “ruin the inside.” He’s well-versed in the proper steps to keep a stand mixer lasting as long as possible, and even told us that he’s had his current mixer for 20 years!
Don’t use cold butter (unnecessarily). If the recipe doesn’t call for it, don’t default to cold butter. Lukasik says it can make the gears work harder to mix, causing the teeth inside the gears to break off, leading to a decline in quality. (Which, in turn, means you’ll have to spend more money to replace it sooner than necessary.)
Keep it clean. Lagalle says wiping down her mixer after every use is the reason it’s been with her for 20 years. “I’m always really diligent about cleaning it,” she says. If you're not sure where to start, there's a guide for that, too.
Buy extra bowls. If you plan on baking often or baking large batches, Lagalle said having two bowls is “really great and super key.” She also admitted to having two of each attachment so she doesn’t have to worry about cleaning each piece in between making different parts of the same meal, but she uses the bowls the most.
Have fun! Once all of the decision making is done, Costantino encourages everyone to just have fun! “Even our mistakes in the kitchen are pretty good to eat, with some exceptions,” he laughed. “ I think it’s really a great time for the novice cook to explore and create and also for the professional to learn and see different techniques that they may not have seen when they went to culinary school or through their work in the industry.”