Need a stand mixer - what do I choose?
November 14, 2008 9:22 PM   Subscribe

I am treating myself to a stand mixer for Christmas. Do I go with the trusty Kenwood Chef or should I consider one of those KitchenAide jobs that seem to be so popular right now? Or is there another brand entirely that I should look at?

My main requirements are; sturdy, repairable, takes dough-hook, takes balloon whisk, parts are easily available (bowls etc). I don't care if it comes in pretty colours. I'd prefer one where the mixer arm swings down into the bowl.

I do a LOT of cooking and I need something with grunt. Please advise me, HiveMind!
posted by ninazer0 to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't give you any comparison advice, but I have the kitchenaid artisan and absolutely love it. It comes with everything you mentioned - swing arm, dough hook, balloon whisk, beater, tons of parts available on amazon (no idea on repairability, mine hasn't broken!). I bought the artisan because its cheaper than the professional, and mixes up everything I throw it at with ease. However, I don't make bread, and if I did make bread regularly, I might want to spring for the professional version, as I gather it has steel gears.
posted by Joh at 9:36 PM on November 14, 2008

I cook a lot and I bake a lot. I use a KitchenAid mixer and absolutely love it. I have only had mine for a year, but my mother uses a similar KitchenAid model and cooks MUCH more than I, and has been using her mixer for over 15 years. The difference between our models is that mine is the hinged mixer top, while hers has the crank mixer top that lifts up with a lever rather than tilting backwards. Hers may also be slightly larger than mine.

My mixer came with a steel bowl, balloon whisk, dough hook, and palm mixer (thats what I have always called it...I don't know the official name, but the flat thing that is divided into three triangles and which I use when making cookies after I have added some, but not all of the dry ingredients).

I have looked into buying the pasta attachment, but keep resisting because I just really don't have time to make my own pasta. That attachment is easy to find...I just haven't committed yet. My mom has the meat grinder attachment (works great) and the juicer attachment (she never uses it...bought it during the juice fad of the late nineties...).

I've never used the Kenwood, so I can't speak for that model, but I will say the KitchenAid has been incredibly reliable, not to mention that it looks great on the counter, so I don't feel like I have to hide it away. And it comes in tons of colors. I have pistacchio, my mom has white, my sister has lime green. All are great looking.
posted by junipero at 9:37 PM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

KitchenAid Artisan (on Amazon). We've had one for 6 years, no problems at all. It's the middle level mixer, more or less, so it has enough power to mix a good bit of dough. The big difference between it and the professional series is how they do the bowl; that is, does the motor part swing up, or do you move the bowl up and down (they vary some in terms of total power, but I'm not sure what we'd have to do to notice).

We haven't had to repair ours so I can't speak to how repairable it is, but my very vague sense is that it's possible to get service with KitchenAid mixers.

It's also more or less the mixer Alton Brown endorsed awhile ago. America's Test Kitchen did a test last season, I think, and found the Artisan was pretty good, but their favorite was a Hobart. But it was a few hundred more. Although Test Kitchen seems to exclusively use KitchenAid mixers (mostly the professional model).
posted by skynxnex at 9:37 PM on November 14, 2008

Hobart was the original manufacturer of KitchenAid. Now if you collect mixers the old Hobarts are tanks and if you are a professional baker the Hobart is it. The present line of KitchenAId is reliable and parts are readily available. It is a bit underpowered (unless industrial Hobart) for real stiff breads like Struan which still ends up needing hand kneading to finish properly.

Alternatives include the DLX Magic Mill which is kind of spendy but can do most things that are required. It is simply a matter preference between the Kenwood and the KitchenAid. I would call an appliance repair store and ask, what are the most common repairs for mixers of this category and how often they are repaired. You could go to one of them fancy stores and ask for a demo of both models to see which one you like. I would never buy a knife without testing and a mixer is the same. Heck, try one at a friend's house before taking the plunge.
posted by jadepearl at 9:50 PM on November 14, 2008

We have had our KitchenAid mixer for about 8 years now. Never an issue, never a problem (unlike our KithenAid gas range... but that is another story)
posted by jkaczor at 9:54 PM on November 14, 2008

A KitchenAide Mixer will perform admirably and then some. It is the Cadillac of Stand Mixers. It's the only gift that even comes close to an "heirloom appliance."
posted by ktrey at 9:57 PM on November 14, 2008

It's the only gift that even comes close to an "heirloom appliance."

No kidding. I inherited my Kitchen Aid. It's at least 25 years old, and works wonderfully. My mother has one that's at least 40 years old, has seen very heavy use, and probably works as well today as it did when it was new.
posted by toxic at 10:34 PM on November 14, 2008

Ooooh if you wait until next year you can get the 90th Anniversary KitchenAid mixer with glass bowl. Pretty.
posted by wherever, whatever at 11:06 PM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing Kitchen Aid. I've had mine for 10 years and it's still going strong (and it was actually a refurbished model, not brand new!)
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:17 PM on November 14, 2008

Having burned out 3 hand mixers and 1 stand mixer, I finally bought a Kitchen Aid. It's head and shoulders above any other mixer I've owned.

Here is why you see a lot of Kitchen Aids - it seems that nearly every one of them ever made is still in service in someone's kitchen.
posted by 26.2 at 11:23 PM on November 14, 2008

Like toxic, I inherited my KitchenAid stand mixer (from my great-aunt), and it was also about 25 years old when I got it five years ago. It is awesome.
posted by k8lin at 11:54 PM on November 14, 2008

I have the Kenwood. No problems at all after about 3 years, except a bit of confusion over which model I have, and which attachments fit it, now that I've moved to another country (bought it in South Africa). I do bread and cakes with it, both work just fine. I've managed to avoid buying attachments that look cool and fun, but I would seldom bother to use. I want the icecream attachment though.
posted by Goofyy at 12:02 AM on November 15, 2008

Another vote for the KitchenAid artisan. Just like you I treated myself to a christmas present last year and it's been the best $299 i ever spent on myself! Note: You'll gain 10lbs the first month you get it because you'll just NOT stop mixing and baking!!!
posted by ramix at 12:06 AM on November 15, 2008

I have a smaller KitchenAid than the Artisan model, over 10 years old and used heavily with minimal trouble. I've had two problems with it, but am still a happy customer.

The wire whisk attachment failed long after the warranty ran out. I discovered a manufacturing defect in it that caused the failure, but there was nothing to do but buy a replacement.

Also, I used mine to prepare two batches of very stiff bagel dough each Wednesday for over a year, for a local coffee shop. 2000 bagels worth of dough was a bit much for it. The gears driving these machines are almost all steel, but there is one sacrificial nylon gear that lets go before anything else breaks. Not long after I got out of the bagel business, that gear failed and the mixer stopped working completely. I found the replacement part for a few bucks on ebay, installed it myself, and the machine has been fine ever since.
posted by jon1270 at 12:46 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

KitchenAid, KitchenAid, KitchenAid! The ones in my family and in the kitchens at our stores are as old as I am, and not a one of them has broken in any way after years of use and abuse. If you have a choice, I recommend the bowls that tilt and latch into place, rather than the ones that screw in. The former seem to do a better job of mixing the odds and ends at the bottom of the bowl, which is the annoyance of any mixer.

The only bit I've ever known to have broken is one that had a gear stripped after it gave up on a bowl full of frozen butter. Sounds like the same gear jon1270 had problems with.
posted by whatzit at 1:29 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

The general conclusion seems to be KitchenAid, and America's Test Kitchen agrees.

(Link goes to the Results page. Go to overview and methodology tabs for complete discussion of features and performance.)
posted by nax at 1:49 AM on November 15, 2008

Throwing one more in for the KitchenAid. I love mine - I have the Heavy Duty Classic in white, and it's stood up to everything I throw at it. Plus, the Ice Cream attachment ROCKS. My family has fallen in love with my ice cream and it's always highly in demand around here.
posted by twiki at 5:31 AM on November 15, 2008

KitchenAid - hands down! All attachments will fit your model regardless of it's age and the company has been around forever! People even leave them in their wills to their favorite relative. The company with the most colors and models is QVC. Check it out!
posted by pamspanda at 5:45 AM on November 15, 2008

It looks like the tilt-head versions of the KitchenAid are lower wattage than the bowl-lift models. I have the latter (Professional 600, 575 watts) and would worry about something weaker when making bread doughs or sticky batters, but then the Heavy Duty is 325 watts and appears to be approved for commercial use, so maybe I just have a grossly overpowered mixer.

I thought I wanted a tilt head, but with the bowl lift I can drop the bowl to add things and as long as the beater's not going faster than a 3 or 4 it won't fling stuff all over the kitchen. I also drop the bowl when I'm kneading bread and it's all climbed up high on the hook; with the bowl dropped it'll fall back down in a minute. I don't think you can do that with the tilt model. Pouring of any kind is definitely an issue; it's very hard (even using a flexible cookie sheet as a funnel) to get stuff in without banging something against the beater, and the shield that comes with hangs on so delicately that it's easily knocked sideways.

My vote for your first additional accessory is either a second bowl or a Sideswipe blade.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:55 AM on November 15, 2008

KitchenAid rocks, and the accessories are readily available, but the accessories are also expensive as hell. If you definitely plan to buy some specific things, price them out ahead of time to take that total cost into account in your decision. You can buy the mixers themselves much less expensively than they used to be, but the accessories will still burn.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:59 AM on November 15, 2008

It's the only gift that even comes close to an "heirloom appliance."

In case you aren't noticing the unanimity, here's one more vote for the KitchenAid. In my extended family, there are several that are at least 20 years old, used pretty hard most of that time. (Not commercial use, but bread several times a week, plus the usual mixing tasks.) I know for a fact that one of those has never been repaired or even maintained in that time, and I'm pretty sure that the other two old ones in the family have also never been to a repair shop.

Mine, which is only a few years old, seems to be just as strong and just as solid as the older ones I've used, though I've never taken any of them apart. It's not cheap, but with reasonable expectations it should last for a really long time.

For serious heavy use, like in a commercial or near-commercial situation, there are probably better options. But 99% of us aren't in that category -- if you are making bread for a family, making some homemade pasta once in a while, and things like that, the KitchenAid is more than adequate.
posted by Forktine at 6:13 AM on November 15, 2008

Again, KitchenAid. My mother has been using hers for 30+ years. She has made it her standard wedding gift.
posted by Shebear at 6:14 AM on November 15, 2008

I have a KitchenAid Classic at home and I like it, but I have a KitchenAid Professional at work (where I'm head of the pastry station for a fine-dining restaurant) and I love it. I'm considering an upgrade as soon as I can swing it. I can't recommend a lift-bowl (rather than a tilt-head) enough, and I'd suggest you get the largest capacity bowl you can afford.

I have several attachments that I use on a regular basis, too, and I love that they're so easy to find.
posted by cooker girl at 7:51 AM on November 15, 2008

KitchenAid Artisan absolutely. It is rock solid. A tank. Super dependable.
posted by mmascolino at 9:36 AM on November 15, 2008

Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure how I'd go about killing a KitchenAid mixer. Damned thing will probably mix concrete if you ask it to. Then it would yawn, and go back to its crossword puzzle.
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:53 AM on November 15, 2008

KitchenAid all the way. My family had one at home when I was growing up; used it at a couple times a week for pizza dough and pies and all sorts of things. I requested one as my college graduation present, and have since used it for almost nothing—but that's because I never cook these days. On those occasions that I have used it, it's been great. Oh, and that metal bowl makes a great place to put ice for parties...
posted by limeonaire at 1:04 PM on November 15, 2008

I love my Kenwood and have had it for more than 20 years. I think the key with either KitchenAid or Kenwood is to buy a mixer with at least a 600 watt motor. I also recommend getting a second bowl - I have 3 bowls for my mixer and when you're doing a lot of cooking for something like Thanksgiving it's a huge timesaver.
posted by leslies at 1:40 PM on November 15, 2008

Response by poster: Right. Well, guys, thank you for all the recommendations. I suspect I'm going to end up with a KitchenAid - the pricing here is better than Kenwoods by a long shot although I don't know about the accessories, so thanks for the heads-up, Jacquilynne. I'll let you all know how it goes. Cheers!!
posted by ninazer0 at 2:20 PM on November 15, 2008

Sounds like you've already made up your mind, but let me throw in another vote for KitchenAid, and suggest that you actively seek out older models. My parents' is 30 years old, and is still utterly indestructible. So's my grandmother's. However, my aunt bought one of the big ones a few years back, and had some trouble with the motor handling heavy load... from what I can gather from that and other anecdotes, newer models don't have quite the same aura of immortality about them that models 10+ years ago did. They're still warrantied very nicely, so if you have trouble you won't end up paying for it, but the extra hassle might be a turnoff. My girlfriend just inherited one from her grandmother, and I'm ecstatic about it; that thing should last another 30 years.
posted by Mayor West at 5:44 AM on November 17, 2008

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