Help Me Pick a Stand Mixer
November 21, 2012 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I want a crazy overpowered stand mixer that won't burn out whatever I throw in it. Is KitchenAid still the way to go? I've heard that the quality has dropped off in recent years. Do you have a newer model (preferably last five years) that you can recommend or rant about? Is there another brand that I should get?

Specifications: Hopefully under $1k, at least 6 quart bowl, would be ever so nice if it had ice cream attachments available (but not a deal breaker). Ideally, you can recommend me a specific model and not just a blanket endorsement of a specific brand.

posted by stoneweaver to Shopping (26 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I can't link to it because it is subscription-only, but Cooks Illustrated updated its review of high-end mixers in 2009 and liked both the KitchenAid Professional (6 qt.) and the Cuisinart (5.5 qt.); previously they had preferred the Cuisinart but said the KitchenAid had improved. At your price range though, you may want to look at commercial mixers like the ones on this page. There are some 7 qt. models just under $1000.00. A trip to your local restaurant supply store would be worth it if that is the way you want to go.
posted by TedW at 7:21 AM on November 21, 2012

I much prefer the Kenwood Chef (we have the basic 'Classic') to what I've seen of KitchenAids. They're solid, reliable, powerful, and not particularly expensive.
posted by pipeski at 7:22 AM on November 21, 2012

Unless you're looking for some kind of Hobart gajillion quart floor model that comes in on a forklift, "hopefully under $1k" will definitely be no problem.

Cook's Illustrated's picks are the Cuisinart 5.5 (which doesn't meet your 6 quart requirement) and the KitchenAid Professional 600 (which does). KitchenAid did move some manufacturing to China, and they do use some plastic parts, but I have not heard of any en masse revolt to another brand in the last few years.
posted by bcwinters at 7:22 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have two kitchenaids, one pro, one 6 quart consumer. The pro is a bowl lift, the consumer is a tilt head. I use the consumer more often, just because it is better for doing things like three egg white meringues or a couple of cookie batches. If I had to replace one, I would look toward the 600 series, I prefer the tilt head. My big pro is probably 20 years old, I inherited it, my tilt is over 10 years old, and I've never had any trouble, and all attachments work across all lines.
posted by dejah420 at 7:27 AM on November 21, 2012

Check out kitchenaid's refurb website. The refurbs are floor models and or used for photoshoots before factory refurbishment. Got a 6quart pro model for less than the sales on that standard consumer one. Her name is Big Red. Because she is big and red.
posted by atomicstone at 7:32 AM on November 21, 2012

I use the KithenAid 600 bowl lift, and it works and seems to be holding up just as well as my mom's 20+ year-old KithenAid (no idea what her old one is in terms of model number, but I can inspect it if you want; I think it's a little skinnier than my 600.)
posted by SMPA at 7:33 AM on November 21, 2012

My Culinary Institute of America-trained sibling recommended Viking stand mixers when I was on the market for one. They have since been discontinued, but there are plenty still available through various vendors. There is a 7 quart model (VSM 700) which is currently going in the ~$400 range. The Viking stand mixers have all metal parts.
posted by needled at 7:34 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love my Kitchenaid - I have the Pro 600 with the 6qt bowl, and I vastly prefer the bowl lift model - it fits under my kitchen cabinets and I don't have to wiggle it forward to use it. It was a holiday gift 3 years ago and it's running fine. No actual issues with burnout or anything, but this might be relevant: when I make very stiff doughs (my favorite wheat bread, pasta) the arms that hold the bowl wiggle. Once in a great while the bowl pops off the catch in the back but it always fixes itself before I can get to it. I admit to being curious about their 7qt pro series.
posted by hungrybruno at 7:40 AM on November 21, 2012

Hobart makes some smaller stuff for home use. Their mixers are pretty ubiquitous in the restaurant industry.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:45 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The kitchenaid reliability issue had to do with a plastic gearbox they were using for a few years - but they realized it wasn't up to the task and they've moved back to an all metal gearbox a few years ago.
posted by JPD at 7:58 AM on November 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

I have a Kitchenaid mixer, this one I think. It has "professional" in the name, but it isn't. For occasional and light duty use, it's fine. But I've already had to replace most of the gears after it grenaded the gear box kneading a small batch of bread dough; it wasn't a terrible job to fix it (though not cheap, either), but I really resented having to fix what was a comparatively new mixer. The plus side is that it's easy to work on; the negative is that when you open it up you can see where they decided to save money, and there's no way the new gearbox is going to last any longer than the old one.

I looked into commercial mixers at that time, and as noted above you can get a serious mixer for under $1000. I decided I'd repair it once, but the next time it happens the Kitchenaid will get tossed (or more likely, repaired and then sold, because I'm not stupid) and I'll order a good mixer that same day.

So I'd be honest with yourself about your use of the mixer. Cookies and cakes for the holidays? Perfect, get the Kitchenaid and smile. Lots of heavy bread dough? Go heavy duty, because a modern Kitchenaid is not what you want.
posted by Forktine at 8:02 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The kitchenaid reliability issue had to do with a plastic gearbox they were using for a few years - but they realized it wasn't up to the task and they've moved back to an all metal gearbox a few years ago.

I've read that; mine has the newer design and still died a loud and sudden death. They are simply lighter duty machines, and won't hold up to heavy use like a commercial one will.
posted by Forktine at 8:04 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

DUDE YES GET THAT BIZ REFURBISHED. My refurb 5-qt Pro is still kickin' with no issues* after 5 years.

*well, a faint "burning army doll" smell when I'm really cranking the motor to do something like shred a whole bag of carrots for carrot cake with the shredder attachment; it seems like pretty par for course "engine overworking itself" side effect and it's never happened when I'm just mixing, only with the attachments.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:06 AM on November 21, 2012

Bought my mother a KitchenAid Professional (6 quart, with the bowl lift) a couple of years ago and it handled dough for three loaves of bread at a time easily.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:18 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

re: the plastic Kitchenaid gearbox:

it was used primarily in the Artisan models from the early to mid 2000s. Not only did they have a tendency to burn out, the mixers were terribly loud.
posted by hmo at 8:31 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another frequent bread baker with a KitchenAid professional bowl lift mixer - it works very well and I've yet to have any issues with it. I used to use one of their tilt head mixers which were very definitely not up to regular bread making - the tilt head used to pop up all the time. The bowl lift version hasn't ever popped out for me, at least not yet.
posted by lyra4 at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

What you want is a used or refurbished Hobart N-50. There is one on eBay right now for under $500. This is a small commercial mixer that could turn gravel into a silken dough.
posted by slkinsey at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have a KitchenAide Artisan that I bought about 18 months ago. It's quiet and seems to run well, ever overheats or jumps around or whatever. I've used it to make things that need 15 minutes beating on the highest setting without any overheating. I also use it to make bread fairly regularly in two-loaf sized batches and again, no problems so far. The instructions say when making bread to never use it above speed setting 2 and I've stuck to that, but I don't want to beat my bread really fast anyway.

I think that Artisan is too small for what you want and potentially not heavy duty enough. But I'm definitely happy with the brand overall and never shrink back from throwing whatever in there.
posted by shelleycat at 9:40 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whichever of these you pick, I'd keep a watch for sales in the coming month. I noticed Amazon, at least, has pretty steep sales of KitchenAid and Cuisinart in the five weeks up to Christmas. Probably other retailers do too.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:46 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something of a derail, but I have a comment about the Kitchenaid "plastic gears" notion.

I have a early 2000 Professional model. I've always been happy with it, have used it for all manner of baking, including bread and pizza dough that I expect puts a strain on the mixer. A year or so ago, I was making something involving butter, and I stupidly dropped 8 or 12 ounces of hard-frozen butter direct from the freezer into the mixer. It went BRAAAAAAPPP! and stopped working.

I opened it up, and it turns out that it did have a single plastic gear inside. My understanding, though, is that this was meant to be a "sacrificial" gear, designed to strip instead of damaging the rest of the motor. The rest of the workings were metal. I found a replacement for the plastic gear online for a few bucks, installed it, and I'm good to go. I was extremely pleased.

Maybe other Kitchenaid models used all-plastic gearboxes, but not the Professional that I've got (which, as I say, is well over 10 years old now). Some quick googling suggests that Kitchenaid stopped using the sacrificial gear because some people who stripped the gear attributed it to poor quality, rather than smart engineering, and that new models have all metal gears and some some of thermal or mechanical switch to prevent damage, which may or may not work as well.
posted by lex mercatoria at 10:00 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think it depends on what you want it for. I bake a lot of bread, and certainly the consensus on The Fresh Loaf is that if you're making breads regularly, kitchenaids can be a bit hit and miss.

Suggested replacements, both there and at Pizza Making Forum include but are not limited to:

Bosch Universal Plus (belt-driven, so no gears to strip)
Electrolux DLX
and Hobart.

As a treat to myself when we moved house recently, I bought the Bosch Universal Plus, and I must say that I've been very impressed with it. Gluten development is excellent and the kneading blades are very effective. Additionally there are a gazzillion attachments you can get for it, including but not limited to grain millers, meat grinders, etc etc etc.

Note there are those on the forums that are happy with their KitchenAids, but there are many who are/were not, and also I think it's undeniable that when you buy a KA, a significant proportion of the purchase price is going into the brand name and look, rather than the components. For me in Australia at least, the Bosch was indisputably cheaper, with more bang for buck.
posted by smoke at 1:14 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a KitchenAid professional 6qt. I just tossed 1.5 recipes of NYT soft pretzels into it, and it made some very scary noises & smells. It's already been repaired at least twice (once for a broken lift at their expense; once for fucked gears at mine).

Next time, I'm getting something much much bigger. Not sure what.
posted by novalis_dt at 4:24 PM on November 21, 2012

Nthing a Hobart, searched patiently for relatively cheap. KitchenAid mixers, as Forktine and others described above, are ok for the standard casual cake and cookie maker, but if you are really serious about baking and particularly about bread and stiffer cookie doughs in particular, or huge batches, something more industrial won't let you down the way a KA, even one labeled Pro, might. Bread dough in particular is well known to burn out the gears in KA mixers, even Pros.
posted by ifjuly at 8:47 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Comparing the kitchenaid pro 600 series with a kenwood chef shows some differences. For instance, the KitchenAid is only 575Watts, while the kenwood chef is 800W. Right there that indicates a better gearbox (to deal with the addt'l power) plus the fact that there is more power. We've never stopped the kenwood chef. Frozen butter, bread and pizza dough (bowl full) etc, it just keeps mixing. I've heard good things about the Electrolux DLX as well.
posted by defcom1 at 8:33 AM on November 22, 2012

Seconding the Bosch. It wasn't cheaper for me but I've abused it with giant balls of dough and huge amounts of buttercream and it hasn't batted an eyelash. I've been more than pleased with its performance.
posted by tinamonster at 11:49 AM on November 22, 2012

I want to clarify that while I do make a ton of bread; I don't use my kitchenaid for anything but the initial mix; I do all of my kneading by hand. I'm usually doing batches that are bigger than the KA can manage, and I also tend to add stuff like nuts and fruits, which I've had just get eviscerated if I'm using a machine. But for the initial mix of sticky doughs, I love the KA. But for me, making bread is all about feeling the dough and knowing when it's gotten to the magic point where I should just leave it alone and let it do it's thing.

Ergo; it is possible that I've not put my KA through a serious test of things like multiple batch bread dough; but I do use the meat grinder, and have used the pasta sheeter attachments; and all in all, I think it's a good value for the spend. That said; if you've got the budget for a Hobart; that is the gold standard professionally.
posted by dejah420 at 7:14 AM on November 26, 2012

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