Stand Mixer Value
January 7, 2010 6:00 PM   Subscribe

What is it that makes stand mixers worth so much more than the hand variety?

Of all the things that seem to get unanimous praise here, stand mixers are the only one that I don't understand. I'm quite willing to plead ignorance here: I've never had one, my parents never had one, no one I know has one.

Is it a US thing (I'm in the UK)?

So...if I don't know what they're good for, do I need one?
posted by muteh to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
They have more powerful motors and since it's all one unit you can use things like dough hooks that would wrest a hand mixer from your grasp. If you're just making whipped cream and cookies, it's not going to be as big a difference. Stand mixers do allow you to walk away if you want to, though.
posted by rhizome at 6:04 PM on January 7, 2010

With a stand mixer, you can walk away from it and it'll keep going safely and securely.

Also, some stand mixers have attachments. For example, my KitchenAid has attachments for grinding meat and making sausage.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:05 PM on January 7, 2010

Horsepower, and in the case of Kitchen Aid, many attachments. Meat grinder, juicer, etc.
posted by fixedgear at 6:05 PM on January 7, 2010

You probably don't need one. I got one thinking it would be easier/better than a hand mixer and I'm really disappointed. They're more of a pain in the ass, really; I have a Kitchen Aid and scraping the sides of the bowl is difficult, I have to use a spoon to coax things like butter back through the beaters instead of just moving the beaters around in the butter, etc. Plus mine is set up so that the stand the bowl is on turns in a circle; I'm not sure what they were trying to accomplish with that, but in practice is means everything gets flung to the sides and stays there, away from the beaters. It's awful. I try jamming the turning thing with the corner of a towel (the turning mechanism doesn't operate on a motor or anything) but it doesn't work very well.

I wish I had a hand mixer, really, just every time I think to buy one I feel like it's wasteful since I already have a stand mixer. There are very few things you need a stand mixer for. I don't need one and I cook a LOT, and a lot of varied things.
posted by Nattie at 6:09 PM on January 7, 2010

If you bake a lot they're probably worth it, it just lets you do more things. I still have a hand mixer I use for whipping cream or whipping on the stovetop, but for most things I use my stand mixer, especially kneading bread dough!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:11 PM on January 7, 2010

Also I couldn't find a hand mixer with decent sized beaters. They were all narrow and short and just generally useless for anything more than two eggs worth of beating. The shortness was the main problem, cake batter doesn't really beat if it's completely covering the beaters. Whereas the stand mixers I looked at often (not always) had taller, wider blades that could handle a larger volume. Add in the better engine and the ability to beat without standing there holding the darn thing and the user experience is definitely better. Possibly not several hundred dollars better, but that's why we bought a second hand, old school sunbeam mixmaster for not much money. Something I highly recommend.
posted by shelleycat at 6:12 PM on January 7, 2010

Don't know what model of stand mixer Nattie has, but my Kitchen Aid makes cooking and baking enjoyable. I do not enjoy hand mixers. I don't enjoy being tethered to them, or how tired my arms get using one. When all I had was a hand mixer, I really dreaded trying to do anything that would take any amount of time; with my stand mixer, I can turn out batches of cookies, cakes, biscuits, whatever, and I don't have to kill myself to do it. Or even annoy myself.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:13 PM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My mom had one when I was growing up, so I learned how to cook using a stand mixer, so I'm pretty biased. :) When I moved out, I realized that I couldn't really cook effectively without one.

Stand mixers are many, many times more powerful than hand mixers. You can knead big batches of bread dough in them without adding extra flour (that then makes the bread tough) in any humidity, it makes time consuming tasks like whipping cream or creaming butter (for cakes) very easy because you're not having to stand over them babysitting. They leave both hands free so it's much easier to slowly add things like flour or simple syrup to something already mixing.

When you get into Attachment Land (a wonderful place indeed), you can quickly and easily shred cheese, potatoes, etc; grind your own meat for hamburgers or homemade sausages; and roll homemade pasta (I like having both hands to deal with the dough, so pre-attachment my husband had to crank the machine for me). There are other counties in Attachment Land, but those are the ones I am personally familiar with.

I never used a box grater until I was in my early 20's, and haven't used one since I bought my own stand mixer. I do own a hand mixer, but it spends most of its time in the cabinet, as I only ever break it out when the batch of whatever I am making is so absolutely miniscule that the stand mixer wouldn't work.
posted by Concolora at 6:17 PM on January 7, 2010

Nattie my mixmaster has a lever for moving the beater head to the side to prevent the flinging to the side problem you're having. Then the turning aspect is really helpful, the mixture folds in on itself from the side into the beaters and there's no scraping or messing about. Also using an appropriately sized bowl for the amount you're mixing solves the problem you're describing with the butter. Big beaters in a small bowl make whipping up butter or a small amount of cream a breeze. So I think overall good design is important regardless of the type of mixer you buy.
posted by shelleycat at 6:17 PM on January 7, 2010

I'm actually trying to figure out what model I have -- it's nearly 10 years old and not on their website -- because I have never been able to walk away from mine. I'm constantly scraping and trying to keep things in actual contact with the beaters, so it's always been much more of a struggle than a handheld mixer. Looking at the Kitchen Aid site though, it seems they mostly sell varieties that are one large beater on a stationary stand, which makes a hell of a lot more sense to me. I could definitely see why one of those would be worthwhile, but the one I have is designed like a handheld one that you can't move. Aside from the motor being very good, it seems like I got the nearly worst of all worlds.
posted by Nattie at 6:21 PM on January 7, 2010

I felt the same way about stand mixers for a long, long time. I always used a hand mixer, and finally got a KitchenAid for Christmas. I was so disappointed, as it didn't really seem to work well for me. Stopping to scrape down the sides was irritating and time-consuming. Then I found this. My whole experience changed and I've never used my hand mixer since.
posted by raisingsand at 6:22 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

When you have early-onset (like age 29) arthritis, stand mixers are a godsend.

Plus, agreeing with everything Medieval Maven said.
posted by cooker girl at 6:23 PM on January 7, 2010

Ahhh, my bad, just got it down and it's a Kenmore: this piece of crap. Whatever you do, don't get it.
posted by Nattie at 6:23 PM on January 7, 2010

Mine looks like a slightly more beaten up version of this. Plus we have the glass blender attachment which is totally stylish and retro.
posted by shelleycat at 6:26 PM on January 7, 2010

The difference between the big Kitchen Aid and the baby Kitchen Aid is night and day. It seems that a lot of people who don't see what all the fuss is about have the smaller model. Buy a used big one, they are built like tanks.
posted by fixedgear at 6:26 PM on January 7, 2010

Curse you guys; now I want a Kitchen Aid and I will stop at nothing to get one.
posted by Nattie at 6:29 PM on January 7, 2010

Side note for the stand mixer owners who are complaining about the sides of the bowl... most of the ones i've worked with, and I know that the one i own (A KitchenAid), there are a few adjustment screws hidden all around the mixer body. You do have to pay attention to those - they determine exactly how the bowl and beater meet each other. Improperly adjusted set screws? A stand mixer is not worth it. Once the screws are adjusted right? I'd never go back to hand.
posted by frwagon at 6:36 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

My mum, in Scotland, got a Kenwood Chef as a wedding present. This was getting on for half a century ago now. It's only once needed a minor repair to the motor. For four and a half decades this thing has helped my mum bash out cakes, merangues, bread, peel potatoes, and mince meat. It just keeps going.

It's big, it's heavy, takes up a bunch of self-space - but it looks like it'll keep going until it's at least a hundred.
posted by scruss at 6:41 PM on January 7, 2010

I'm considering getting one of these blades for my new KitchenAid. Are they worth it?
posted by barnone at 6:42 PM on January 7, 2010

Raisingsand - looks like your link is broken. But now I'm curious!
posted by barnone at 6:54 PM on January 7, 2010

raisingsand, I'm also really curious as to what link you were going to post.

Personally, I'm madly in love with my stand mixer. I got a KitchenAid Classic for Christmas (after missing the Artesian we have at home while I'm at school). It's ridiculously convenient. Because it's so much more powerful, the dough is made in about half the time, and I can clean/do other work at the same time. I made cookies this weekend, and they were done and in the oven in the amount of time it would have taken me to make the dough using a hand mixer. I have a bread machine, but I still end up using the mixer to make dough for rolls because it's so much quicker and easier.
posted by kro at 6:55 PM on January 7, 2010

barnone - yes.
posted by JPD at 7:02 PM on January 7, 2010

Stand mixers are good if you do a lot of baking, specifically large quantities of different times in big sessions, but 100% unnecessary. I make about 15 loaves of bread a month - I much prefer hand kneading, it lets me "hear" what the dough is saying to me directly + it doesn't walk up the goddamn hooks. On many of the bread forums I go to, regular bread bakers have said that newer KitchenAids have shockingly limited lifespans for bread (like, 1 year to 18 months, and it's the gears that go, so very expensive to repair. When you think about the price, woah).

Not trying to sound snarky, but unless you're making +200 cookies per batch, or using a beaters made from an anvil, or over 70, if your arm is getting tired from creaming butter with beaters, you really gotta get some exercise or let your butter soften a bit more.
posted by smoke at 7:04 PM on January 7, 2010

I'm considering getting one of these blades for my new KitchenAid. Are they worth it?

Beater blades are worth every freaking penny and more. I love mine. I haven't had to stop and scrape the bowl once since I got it. Occasionally, if I'm mixing a large batch of something, I have to scrape around the top of the sides, but that's it. I've had mine for about two and a half years now (got it as a freebie at a kitchen show when it was still in prototype mode), and it's holding up brilliantly. My stepmother has the production model and it's just as good.
posted by amelioration at 7:06 PM on January 7, 2010

Horsepower, leverage, ability to work for longer periods on the same task without muscle strain and the ability to tackle larger or more strenuous tasks. It's like the relationship between a power drill and a drill press, with the bonus that most tasks you'd use a drill for require you to take it places, whereas many mixing tasks can be just as easily done with a stand.
posted by mikeh at 7:08 PM on January 7, 2010

It's an interesting question that I've asked myself as well: how has KitchenAid managed to keep their mixers at a price-point of $250 with no real competition quality-wise? That's probably double what anything else in the average kitchen costs. Is it really that hard to make something that is basically just a high torque motor plus a bunch of plastic? Isn't this a solved problem?
posted by smackfu at 7:11 PM on January 7, 2010

My mom had a stand mixer with a self turning bowl. The beaters were a little bit off center. It was great because the batter just kept feeding itself into the beaters. That one was *relatively* light weight and could be used as a hand mixer as well, but was pretty heavy. That was back in the days before dough hooks, of course.

I love our Kitchen aid now, but do find it kind of cramped to scrape down the sides of the bowl. I would never go back to the flimsy hand mixers I had when we were penniless early in our marraige.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:22 PM on January 7, 2010

Stand mixers are good if you do a lot of baking, specifically large quantities of different times in big sessions, but 100% unnecessary.

Not if you're making pavlova where you have to let the eggs beat for literally fifteen long boring minutes. There's nothing to 'feel', nothing to let soften, no way to speed it up or make it easier, you just have to leave it to beat for that long. My NZ$40 (~US$30) sunbeam mixmaster was worth every penny for the time and effort it saves in this instance, one that happens fairly often in my house in summer, to the point I'd say it's probably 95% necessary for the task. Also, while I never use anything electrial for making bread, when really getting that butter and sugar properly creamed so it goes white and holds all the air and whatnot a decent stand beater actually does make it easier and does a better job even if your butter is soft.

There are plenty of times where standing there holding the beater in place gets old, add in the small beaters I mentioned above and the weaker engine and hand helds are inferior.
posted by shelleycat at 7:32 PM on January 7, 2010

barnone - DEFINITELY! Those silicon-scraping beater heads are a godsend. It makes it so I don't have to scrape while making things. Word to the wise though, unless I lightly oil/butter/otherwise-lubricate the sides of my bowl, it makes horrible chirping sounds from the silicon-on-metal.

As far as Kitchenaid mixers go, my mom still has hers in perfect condition from well before I was born. They make prep so much easier for things like cookies and breads. I also have the pasta maker attachment which makes delicious, delicious pasta. I do a fair amount of baking, so my parents surprised me with a mixer as a graduation present (I was hoping to inherit my mom's if she ever upgraded). I think I prefer the tilt-head to the bowl-lift, but probably just because that's what I grew up with.

I still use a hand mixer or spoon for batters, like cake mixes and pancakes.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:49 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

regular bread bakers have said that newer KitchenAids have shockingly limited lifespans for bread (like, 1 year to 18 months, and it's the gears that go, so very expensive to repair

The downside is that the gears do fail occasionally (how often depends on how hard you are working the machine -- there is a big difference between kneading bread twice a day and making cookies every month). The upside is that KitchenAid sells the parts at reasonable prices, and if you are capable of changing a bicycle tire you are capable of repairing a KitchenAid. (Seriously -- you can take it almost entirely apart with just a screwdriver and a pair of snap-ring pliers.) It's not a question of being tied to specialist repair shops, or of having to throw it away because parts are no longer available.

Basically, it all hinges on how often you bake, and especially if you tend to bake in larger quantities. The attachments are nice, but if you are making large quantities of pasta or sausage, you will probably prefer to have tools made just for that. If you bake a lot, you will love love love your stand mixer. If you just mix up some pancakes or cookies once in a blue moon, it's the last thing you need cluttering your countertop.
posted by Forktine at 8:16 PM on January 7, 2010

Fyi, some reviews about the bread problem here.

Obviously, these are the minority, however I'm reasonably active on several baking forums and it tallies with what people say there, too.
posted by smoke at 8:57 PM on January 7, 2010

What? No one's mentioned the pure genius of the KitchenAid juicer attachment.

Seriously. There's nothing easier or better than a margarita or lemontini made with fresh juice when you've got that juicer attachment. Simplest damn thing ever: juices the fruit and strains the pulp and seeds right out. Try that with your Oster hand-mixer. I don't think so.

A bag of lemons or limes from CostCo, a bottle of vodka or tequila, sugar and salt (the 4 basic food groups). We keep that sucker spinning almost non-stop all summer long out here on the prairie. Stop by sometime.

(These other suggestions re. mixing and stirring ingredients with a KitchenAid? Who knew? I'll have to try that sometime).
posted by webhund at 9:47 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ditto to scruss: my mum is also still on her first Kenwood Chef, and it's older than I am. I always considered it the UK equivalent to the US KitchenAid mixer. (Similar attachments, too.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:39 PM on January 7, 2010

Is it really that hard to make something that is basically just a high torque motor plus a bunch of plastic?

Aside from the power cord, I'm not sure there is any plastic on a KitchenAid. Oh, I guess the knobs at the end of the speed and lock levers.
posted by hades at 12:16 AM on January 8, 2010

Aside from the power cord, I'm not sure there is any plastic on a KitchenAid.

Unfortunately, there's more now then there used to be, and those are the parts that tend to lead to failures. Some models have a plastic worm gear; other models have had plastic gear housings. And to emphasize, these are only an issue if you are using the mixer hard and often, like a serious bread baker. Light and occasional use will never push the mixer near its limits.
posted by Forktine at 12:43 AM on January 8, 2010

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