If you've discovered you enjoy baking, a mixer is a must-have purchase. But which should you get?
What to look out for
A hand mixer can be yours for a tenner, while stand mixers start at about £100. So, that's one point in favour of a hand mixer. But it's not as simple as it sounds.
First off, we wouldn't recommend buying a £10 hand mixer. If you spend too little, you'll end up replacing it quickly and spending more as time goes on. However, you can get a great hand mixer for £30-£60.
Look for a hand mixer:
- with a flat base. It's extremely annoying if you can't rest your mixer on the counter while working without it toppling over.
- that's not too heavy. It's a (literal) pain to use it for too long otherwise. Some of the more expensive hand mixers are uncomfortable to use because of their weight.
- with a reasonable wattage. More watts don't necessarily mean a better output but a very low wattage isn't great either. Look for something between 300-500 watts as a rough guide.
- with the accessories you want. All with come with beaters, but some come with whisks and dough hooks as well.
- a range of speed settings. It's important to be able to mix slowly, as well as whizz things.
When to buy a hand mixer
- If you're just getting started as a home chef.
- If you live alone or in a smaller household.
- If kitchen counter space is an issue.
- If you’ve already got a couple of impulse-bought appliances that more commonly function as dust catchers instead of cooking aids.
- If you’re an enthusiastic novice baker who may not be enthusiastic for all that long.
- If you like to be able to put together great desserts and sauces on occasion, but are not a daily baker.
What does a hand mixer do well?
A hand mixer is best for smaller volumes. If you just want to whip a little cream for a dessert topping, or beat a couple of eggs, a stand mixer will be more trouble than it’s worth. Because the bowl is so large, you’ll spend far too much time with a silicone scraper returning the mixture to the middle of the bowl to get an even texture. It’s quicker to use a smaller bowl and a hand mixer.
It’s also a winner for quick jobs around the kitchen. Whip up omelettes, cupcakes and loaf cakes. When you’re finished, just remove the beaters and put them in your cutlery rack in the dishwasher and your clean-up is almost done.
In general, it’s easier to use and to clean than a stand mixer. It’s also much more budget-friendly and takes up less space.
Although it’ll save you time and effort compared to mixing by hand, larger volumes of ingredients are a chore (or, if you’re a glass half full type of person, they’re an excellent arm workout). Making dough is also much easier with a stand mixer, and not all hand mixers come with dough hooks, in any case.
Depending on the quality of the motor, you may have to take breaks when working with large volumes of ingredients or very thick mixtures to protect your mixer.
If your baking sessions leave you with aching arms and sore hands, it’s time to invest in a stand mixer.
A stand mixer is far more powerful than a hand mixer and what’s more, you can add the ingredients and set it going while you get on with something else.
What to look out for
A stand mixer should be a considered purchase. You really need to enjoy using it as it's an expensive item and you only want to buy it once.
Stand mixers start at about £100 for a good one, but can go up to £500.
Look for a stand mixer:
- that's not too heavy. Most stand mixers have a hinged mixing arm that lifts up so you can free the bowl. If you keep it under your kitchen cabinets, you'll need to drag it out to the middle of your countertop whenever you use it.
- that uses a spiral rotating pattern. This will give your food a much more even mixture. A slight drawback in a stand mixer is the amount of time you need to spend scraping mixture from the sides of the bowl to ensure it's properly blended. This will help to minimise that chore.
- that has a smooth locking mechanism. As we said, most mixers have a hinged arm you have to lift. If this is stiff and difficult to work, it'll make using it a misery. Similarly, are accessories easy to fit and remove?
- that's compatible with other accessories. Most stand mixers come with a flat or paddle beater, a balloon whisk and a dough hook. If you want to use your stand mixer for more than just baking, compatibility with other tools is really important. Some stand mixers have compatible pasta makers, meat grinders, shredders, graters and grain mills that can be fitted to give the appliance more functionality.
- that's easy to clean. Which components are dishwasher-safe?
What does a stand mixer do well?
- High volume cooking
- It's invaluable for daily or very regular baking
- Hands-free kneading and dough preparation (that'll save you time and a lot of labour)
- More complicated recipes – some buttercreams and meringues require much more labour
- Aerating whipped mixtures (the size of the balloon whisk means that it’ll make meringues, eggs and cream lighter and fluffier than if you were working by hand or even with a hand mixer)
- Stand mixers are heavy, expensive and take up a huge amount of counter space.
- Sometimes it just seems easier to grab your hand mixer than drag out your stand mixer.
- If you buy before you know what you want, you could be lumbered with a huge, expensive unloved bit of kitchen kit.
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