Stand Mixers

by Elizabeth Skipper | July 10th, 2012 | Ask the Chef

I just bought my first home and am starting to add small appliances to my kitchen. I have a hand mixer, but I have seen so many TV chefs use stand mixers instead of hand mixers. With a several hundred dollar price tag, I am trying to decide if it is worth the investment. I know that they’re useful for baking, and I bake a couple times a month. Are there other uses that would make it worth the expense, or should I stick with a hand mixer for now?

Some of the questions you need to ask yourself are: What kind of baker and cook are you? How large is your family, and how big is your kitchen? Do you entertain often?

TV chefs don’t do much actual cooking on the set; they just have to make it look as if they are. The chef is freer to talk if an appliance is doing the work. It’s also easier to get a close-up of what’s in the bowl if the chef’s hands aren’t in the way. For these reasons, I suspect a lot of tasks that could easily be done with a hand mixer are being demonstrated with a stand mixer. Does this mean that a stand mixer will free up your hands for other tasks while you’re mixing something? Yes, so that’s a consideration if you do a lot of cooking and are short of time.

Stand mixers, with their greater power, are the ticket for bread dough, heavy cake batter and stiff cookie doughs. They’re great for processing large quantities of food. There are attachments you can invest in that will allow you to slice and shred vegetables, strain fruits and vegetables, grind meats and make sausage, mill flour, and make pasta. Are you the kind of cook who’d be excited to add those possibilities to your repertoire? Do you have room to store the attachments so it would be worthwhile to invest in them?

Stand mixers take up a lot of room. If you’re only baking a couple of times a month, you may regret giving up that counter space the other 90+% of the time. There are storage systems either on the counter or below where you can keep an appliance the size of a stand mixer and still have ready access to it, but they can be tricky to adapt to an existing kitchen without some remodeling. Another consideration is whether or not a tilt-head model works with your cabinets. Cabinets with low clearance mean you’ll have to pull out the mixer to insert and remove the bowl.

If you don’t have convenient storage and easy access to it, you’ll find it a chore to drag it out from its lair those two days a month. Then the temptation is to avoid using it, and you’ll really resent having spent the money.

A good quality, powerful hand mixer works well for tasks like making mayonnaise, most cookie doughs, cakes, frosting, and whipping cream or egg whites. For anything that needs to be beaten over heat or in an ice bath, a hand mixer is easier; water jackets for stand mixers are a nuisance, as well as an expensive accessory. A hand mixer is portable – you can take it to the food; you don’t have to bring the food to it.

Bottom line, if you’re getting everything done now that suits you, your family, your cooking and your lifestyle, why spend the money? You don’t need what the TV chefs have (although one of their kitchens complete with minions would be nice!) If, on the other hand, you’re feeling limited and frustrated in your cooking, go for it. Just be sure to shop around to get a good deal – you don’t have to pay list price.

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