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- Buying Guide: The Best Stand Mixers For You
Buying Guide: The Best Stand Mixers For YouBuying Guide: The Best Stand Mixers For You
How to Choose a Stand Mixer
One semester of school bake sales or a single holiday season filled with cookie swaps is usually enough to convince anyone to buy a stand mixer. This convenient kitchen tool makes mixing batter, kneading dough and whipping egg whites into fluffy meringue almost effortless. If you're not a multitasker now, you will be once you get your new stand mixer. Just put your ingredients into the bowl, flip the switch and go to work on other meal prep chores while the stand mixer does all the hard work.
A stand mixer is an investment that should last you for many years. Understanding how to choose a stand mixer will be easy once you read this stand mixer buying guide, as you will be prepared to choose the one that fits your particular needs.
Which Stand Mixer to Buy?
As you do your stand mixer comparison before you buy one of these handy small kitchen appliances, it is important that you understand the difference between features that are necessary and those that are just nice to have. If you only bake occasionally, you may not need all of the available bells and whistles, but you do want to make sure you choose a mixer that can handle your toughest tasks. The most important features to get right are size, capacity, weight, power, speed controls, type of assembly and whether it's a tilt or lift mechanism.
How Big is Big Enough?
Stand mixers have a rather hefty footprint, but they are well worth the space if you use a mixer at least once each week. If counter space is at a premium and you choose to go with a stand mixer on the smaller size, make sure that its overall weight is at least 25 pounds. Mixers smaller than that have a tendency to "walk" across the counter when faced with a thick batter or heavy dough.
The types of things you use a mixer for should determine the size and capacity of the bowl that you buy and the power behind the mixer--a consideration that's important with most specialty electrics for the kitchen. A mixer with a 4.5-quart bowl and 250 watts of power is best suited for day-to-day use mixing traditional cookie doughs and cake batters. If you need the power to knead pizza or bread dough on an occasional basis, a 5-quart bowl capacity and 325 watts of power should suffice. Choose a larger mixer that holds up to 6 quarts and offers 575 watts if you plan to use it frequently, especially if you make a lot of homemade bread or other yeast doughs.
How Many Speeds Do I Really Need?
As you work through how to choose a stand mixer, remember that they offer a variety of speed options so that you can slowly knead dough or quickly whip egg whites into super-fluffy meringue. While some may offer up to 15 different speeds, most home cooks don't need more than six speeds settings. Make sure that the one you choose either has a slow start setting or a very slow speed option so that your ingredients stay in the bowl where they belong when you start mixing.
Is Tilting Better than Lifting?
Stand mixers give you full access to the work bowl in one of two ways. With a tilting mechanism, the entire head of the mixer raises up away from the bowl. With a lifting mechanism, a lever lifts the bowl up and down while the beaters and mixer head stay stationary. It may seem like a trivial decision, but it's actually very important when deciding which stand mixer to buy if you plan to store it on your countertop underneath your cabinets. A mixer with a tilting feature requires at least 5 to 6 inches of clear space above it in order to be able to operate properly.
Accessories and Features
Once you've made all of the critical decisions and have done a thorough stand mixer comparison, you'll still have lots of other decisions to make regarding accessories and other features. Stand mixers and accessories go hand in hand, and the included and optional accessories available will determine just how much use you get out of yours. Some of the features are more stylistic in nature, like what color you want you mixer to be, but others play a more important role.
Similar to hand mixers, the types of beater attachments you have access to with your mixer determine the versatility it has, and if the beaters are dishwasher safe, you'll enjoy an easy cleanup. At the very least, you should expect your mixer to come with a wire whip for making whipped cream and meringue, a flat beater for mixing cake better and cookie dough and a dough hook for kneading bread or pizza dough. Both metal and nylon utensils will work equally well, but metal beaters tend to last longer. You should also look for a mixer with planetary mixing action, which is where the beaters move around and the bowl remains stationary, for best results.
Hub and Related Accessories
One thing you should consider carefully as you learn how to choose a stand mixer is the usefulness of a built-in hub. This allows you to purchase optional attachments in the future to give you the best return on your investment. With a hub, you can purchase optional accessories that attach to the mixer, such as a pasta maker, grain mill, sausage stuffer, meat grinder or juicer. If you plan to use your stand mixer for more than just baking, purchasing one with a hub and a variety of accessories for it is the way to go.
Unless you're not planning to use it very often or you won't take advantage of a lot of the stand mixer uses, don't shop for one with a limited budget in mind. Unlike most other small kitchen appliances, this is one that will last you a lifetime if you make the right investment. Learning how to choose a stand mixer is the first step in selecting one that has solid bones that will last and the features and accessories you need. After you make your decision and buy a stand mixer, you'll have a companion that will be by your side through countless baking marathons to come.
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