The authors of The New Cooks' Catalogue certainly know what to look for when choosing cooking equipment. These leading culinary experts have been evaluating cooking equipment for over 25 years. The following information is what they consider important when selecting a stand mixer.
The best stand mixers operate with planetary action. They should offer at least five speed variations between “stop” and the fastest setting.
A machine's power is measured by the number of cups of flour it can handle. 6 cups is the minimum but at least 10-20 cups are necessary to knead bread dough.
Machines should come equipped with a beater or paddle for mixing, a dough hook for kneading, and a wire whip for beating air into egg whites or cream.
The mixing bowl should have at least a 4 1/2-quart capacity.
Some manufacturers offer attachments for rolling pasta dough, grinding meat or juicing oranges.
The heft of a heavy-duty mixer prevents it from creeping along the countertop as it runs. But a typical machine weighs 20 pounds--if that's too heavy to lift, a hand mixer might be a better choice.
Stand mixers are heavy-duty machines that can whip egg whites for a chocolate soufflé, mix butter and sugar for shortbread cookies, beat together the ingredients for banana bread, or knead dough for a garlic-and-rosemary focaccia. Whipping, mixing, beating, and kneading are the primary functions of the stand mixer as well as the primary techniques of the devoted baker.
The best stand mixers operate with "planetary action": the beater rotates around its own axis (in the way the earth spins) while the beater also orbits the bowl just as the earth revolves around the sun. Planetary action produces greater contact between the beater and the ingredients; it also results in greater contact between the beater and the inner surface of the bowl, which reduces the need to scrape ingredients down. It will speed up most tasks.
In the more conventional type of stand mixer there are two beaters spinning in a fixed position. Some are designed so the bowl will rotate. Scraping the side of the bowl is essential with this design.
The machine should be heavy enough to prevent it from creeping along the countertop as it runs. Heavy-duty stand mixers often need to be left out on the counter because they are heavy.
Bowl capacity should be at least 4 1/2 quarts, or large enough to handle a batch of bread dough or the batter for a three-tiered layer cake. The beaters should reach the bottom of the bowl and adjust to the bowl’s clearance if necessary. You should be able to beat two eggs as well as a double recipe of chocolate-chip cookie dough. It should be easy to secure and detach the bowl. A bowl with a handle is convenient to hold when pouring out your mixture.
A higher wattage doesn’t necessarily mean that the stand mixer is more powerful and thus a better choice. The overall design, including the shape of the bowl and how the attachments move, contributes more to performance. An indication of a model’s power is the maximum number of cups of flour or pounds of dough it can handle.
A slow speed is essential for adding dry ingredients without sending clouds across the kitchen. A fast or high speed is necessary for quickly incorporating air into egg whites or whipping cream. There should be at least five variations between “stop” and the fastest setting.
The best machines come equipped with a flat beater or paddle for the most basic tasks like mixing cake batters, a dough hook for mixing and kneading yeast bread dough, and a wire whip for beating air into egg whites or cream. Some machines only have a pair of modified whisk beaters. Having different shapes that are tailored for various functions guarantees better performance.