Where next in terms of Kitchen processor/mixer/blender ?
October 11, 2015 1:07 PM   Subscribe

This sounds like such a first world question. Sorry. I am cringing a bit writing this if it helps. Basically we've been watching "The Great British Bake Off" and have been branching out a bit in our baking and cooking and feeling more adventurous. Simultaneously we lack quite a few 'essential' bits of kitchen equipment recipes frequently call for, and other bits of equipment we do have are ailing and in need of replacing. Basically, this askmefi question concerns what one bit of kit could I buy for my wife's birthday which will answer as many of these needs as possible?

So in our kitchen we have an ancient, orange 1970s Kenwood chef. This is used for mixing dough. Which it manages, noisily. Anything else it can't really cope with. It can't cream butter and sugar because the whisk and the bowl make contact too imprecisely.

We don't have a Magimix/Food processor.

We no longer have a blender because the last one we had was a cheapie stick blender which has broken. Even when the stick blender was still rendering its services it was useless for a lot of the tasks recipe books suggested it might be useful for. It never had a matching container which it could be "docked" with.

So my wife's birthday is coming up and I'd like to fill one or more gaps in our equipment repertoire to enable us to continue enjoying ourselves in the kitchen. Any tips/recommendations? Ideally the new piece of equipment should NOT be a one trick pony and it should be a solid piece of kit built to last (ideally it should be built to be repairable 10 years down the line!). Am I right in thinking the new Kenwood kitchen machines which feature a hotplate are gimmicky? Some of them seem to feature weighing scales? That *does* sound useful...

Anyway. Any help much appreciated! Thank you!!
posted by dance to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent knives first. Then the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer is imo the key baking equipment. Followed by a blender (for us it's Vitamix all the way), then Cuisinart Food Processor, then slowcooker, then immersion blender/stick blender, then bread maker if you make a lot of dough.
posted by saradarlin at 1:21 PM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'd try to adjust the Chef before you replace it. Older machines like that are generally fairly well built. You likely just need to adjust the clearance between the bowl and the whisk, possibly bending the whisk back into shape if it is in really rough shape.

If that doesn't work, I'd replace it with a KitchenAid. I think the larger, more expensive bowl lift models are superior to the tilt-head versions. For baking, the mixer is really the only appliance you need, other than perhaps a food processor for grinding nuts.

Otherwise, good, large sheet pans, many spatulas, many steel mixing bowls in various sizes, hand whisks, parchment paper, and a bench scraper.

What do you like to bake or cook?
posted by ssg at 1:27 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is not a place for a single "too many functions, none of them excellent" piece of equipment. If you want to know what the future of home kitchens is, look to the present of commercial kitchens. They are still using separate mixers, food processors, stick blenders, and blenders (which are mostly not for food, only drinks).

A good name-brand mixer like Kitchenaid should last a couple decades minimum. Don't cheap out on horsepower, this is where you get your long life and maximum applications from. With interchangeable implements, you'll be able to dough-hook, whisk, beat, and cream, plus the higher-end attachments for grinding meat, juicing, and making ice cream. Bakers need this piece of equipment the most.

A large-capacity reliable-name food processor, on the other hand, may not be useful enough to be worth the cost, depending on what you cook. A small processor or chopper that's going to need replacing (with next-generation equipment, probably) every 2-3 years may actually be more useful to you, especially if you get one of the kits that includes the chopper and the stick blender. I have an 11-cup Cuisinart processor from 1990 or so, I only had to replace the bowl 2 years ago, I have no regrets about having it when I need it, but I can't say I'd run out and replace it right away if it blew up right now. I use knives for most of my processing needs, or a stick blender in a jar or straight in the pan for most blending and emulsifying.

Buy a scale expecting it to last 18-24 months. Do not saddle yourself with an expensive piece of equipment on which the scale (or hotplate?) is going to break right away. Scales take a tremendous beating, get wet, hot, covered in food. I've bought more expensive ones and had them go on me in the same amount of time, so now I stick to ~$20 with seamless buttons (like this not that, which I know from experience won't survive having soup spilled on it).

Right now the cutting edge of kitchen technology is sous vide, but that's not really for baking.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:31 PM on October 11, 2015

I have a new Kenwood Chef and there's an adjustable bit on the top of every attachment (including the whisk) that allows you to change how close to the bowl they get. Try that first. My mother still had her Kenwood from the 1970s and it's much better than my modern one.

Having said that, I do like my Kenwood Chef Titanium Major (or words like that in some order). I used the food processor, blender, spice grinder etc that attach to it. The only other kitchen kit I feel I need is a stick blender for making soup. I could do that in the blender but I'm lazy.

(Also, I wouldn't use the whisk for creaming butter and sugar - the K beater I have works much better).

I'm not sure any kit available will be a solid bet 10 years from now, especially with heavy use. I did have a previous Kenwood food processor which was very good but after 10 years everything had broken.

posted by kadia_a at 1:34 PM on October 11, 2015

Kitchen Aid Mixer--I've had mine for about 15 years and I absolutely love it. For me, the key is to have enough counter space to keep equipment out and ready to use. If I have to go to a lot of trouble to get things out and set them up, I just don't use them as often. My Kitchen Aid is right on my counter and makes it so easy to whip up something delicious!
posted by bookmammal at 1:42 PM on October 11, 2015

nthing KitchenAid, and spot on with the tilt-head vs bowl-lift models; the latter are far superior. There are also plenty of attachments for KA mixers--pasta rollers, sausage grinders/stuffers, ice cream churns, etc. So it becomes very multitasky.

If you're into baking, you'll also want to look at getting a silpat. A good electronic scale is cheap, make sure it can do increments of .5g or less.

If you decide you need to get a blender, you want a VitaMix. Tons of horsepower, pretty hard to kill. Food processors...meh, I have no personal preferences there as I do most things by hand.

I understand what was said above about knives, and normally I'd say the same thing. For baking, though, unless you're getting into really fiddly work knives are of much less importance than anything else.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:59 PM on October 11, 2015

Regarding a Cuisinart food processor... Please buy another brand. Cuisinart stuff is garbage now. I have a $399 paperweight of a professional food processor from them that worked about 5 times in a year and a half before it refused to shut off without unplugging it. And they wouldn't fix it, just offered me 15% off a new one. My mom had one that is still running nearly 30 years on. The brand isn't what it used to be. I do like my Kitchen Aid mixer, but it's noisy too when mixing dough. Perhaps what you have is still fine?

A few baking tools I love:
- A kitchen scale. Baking with weighted ingredients is so much more accurate than measuring cups
- A silicone Roul'Mat for rolling out dough
- Silpat mats to line baking pans
posted by cecic at 2:46 PM on October 11, 2015

The old Kenwood Chefs are workhorses. It sounds like the one you've got needs a service and some adjustments. But you can get it back to being on top form again. There might still be an engineer local to you who can do this for you (they possibly also service old Hoover's and sewing machines too). If not, there's at least one person on Facebook who does this - search for Kenwood chef restore. They also even offer to powder coat your Kenwood in many dazzling colours if you have kitchenaid envy.

I've heard that the newer Kenwoods are not as well built, with plastic components, but I've never used one to be sure, but honestly, I would restore an old one over buying a new one, because I think they would ultimately last longer.

I revitalised my old blue Kenwood just by replacing the rubber feet, so much quieter and no more twerking across the work surface....

You can still buy replacement parts, like blender jugs, if yours is missing, as well.

I have much love for old Kenwoods, I'm the third generation in my family to own mine :-)
posted by Helga-woo at 3:22 PM on October 11, 2015

Oh, I missed the bit where you said you used the whisk for mixing. Again, if you're missing the k-beater, you can buy new ones. Although it might still need adjusting.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:23 PM on October 11, 2015

I think you are using your mixer incorrectly. It's pretty normal with older style mixers to have to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula while mixing (or creaming) and it's pretty normal to have to pause once or twice to scrape a big chunk of butter out of the center. "Scrape the sides" is written out in most old cookbooks, even though online directions tend to omit it. (I would also use the beaters for creaming, they're sturdier, but that one is your call.)

Once you accept that scraping the sides is a thing... A shiny new Kitchenaid is still amazing and would be a great gift. You could even get some of the crazier attachments, to make it feel extra spicy. (Even with the attachments, it is still kind of a one-thing-really-well machine--it is a big motor which spins things around. You can just get a lot of mileage out of spinning things around, if you're creative.)
posted by anaelith at 6:11 AM on October 12, 2015

I was recently gifted a magnificent KitchenAid stand mixer, and then gave away my ancient Kenwood. At almost the same time, I bought a modern Kenwood for my other home, because it was on sale with a lot of extras, including a blender.

I also gave up my food processor, which was 20+ years old and my most favorite kitchen machine. It was also broken, and needed a tweek to work.

It all depends on what you cook or bake and how. In my view, my situation here in my "second" home is ideal, which fits with the fact that I cook a lot more here. I have the Kenwood, which I use almost every day for baking, but also for mixing other stuff, like meatballs. I also use it as a blender and for processing meat. I have a Phillips stick blender which is my most favorite tool, and which has a host of accessories, including a tiny closed blender.
I have a fifty-year old hand mixer which I still prefer for whipping eggs or cream.
And finally I have a baby-food processor for blending a little soup, slicing vegs, chopping stuff etc. It's small, so it doesn't take up much space. But it does a relevant job.

In my "first" home I have a similar configuration, but instead of a baby food processor and a dedicated stick blender, I have accessories to the stand mixer and to a Bamix stick blender, which is more efficient and less simple to use than a cheaper stick blender.
posted by mumimor at 1:22 PM on October 12, 2015

Find an old KitchenAid mixer at a garage sale, estate sale or thrift store. It is all right if it is about 1990 vintage or older. It will probably work because that vintage of KitchenAid mixer does that. Some of these mixers are reviled because they contain a plastic gear which is a *feature* - it is a mechanical fuse that is sacrificed if your toddler decides to mix rocks.

The story is similar with Cuisinart: my 1988-vintage Pro runs without fail; but the new ones are said to be easily overwhelmed and that is definitely not true of the old ones. My friend took the early Cuisinart models through UL certification, grinding up garnet sand for days and they didn't fail.
posted by jet_silver at 7:28 PM on October 12, 2015

It's ridiculously pricy... but get a thermomix if you don't have any of the appliances it can replace the scale/cook/blend integration is replaceable but it make you save time and use less dishes.
posted by coust at 7:47 PM on November 11, 2015

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