You may be asking yourself, what is a stand mixer? What do you do with it? Why would I need one? How do I choose one? Are they a waste of money or an essential kitchen tool? Hopefully, we can help you answer these questions.
If you have a picture in your head of what a stand mixer is, chances are very good that it is a KitchenAid stand mixer. This version has become the industry standard descriptor for stand mixers, much to the chagrin of all the other equally wonderful brands on the market. Cuisinart, Breville, Hamilton Beach, and Sunbeam – among others – all offer stand mixers in their product lines.
No matter who makes it, a stand mixer is often considered an essential part of any serious cook’s kitchen. So, how do you know if you need one? Read on.
What is a Stand Mixer?
A stand mixer is a stationary mixer with a motor that is able to handle every mixing task from simple to heavy duty. They generally have a special bowl that is locked into place while the mixer is in use.
Stand mixers combine heavy duty steel construction with a powerful motor to help you complete a multitude of cooking and baking tasks. They offer an extra pair of strong hands to help you in the kitchen.
Useful whenever you could use a helper in the kitchen, cutting down on prep time by allowing you to multitask. Whether it is mixing one component of a recipe while you assemble another or completing tasks that require more strength than you can or will expend, a stand mixer is ready to help.
In addition, a stand mixer is better at evenly blending ingredients than a human could ever hope to be. While this problem can be addressed with a portable mixer (learn more about portable mixers), that solution has its own issues.
The largest of these is the fact that you still only have two hands. To use a portable mixer takes one of those hands. You then have to choose between scrapping the sides of the bowl with a spatula and holding the bowl itself. This kind of juggling can suck all the fun out of baking and it makes the chance of spilling your batter much more likely.
Beyond simply mixing a cake batter, stand mixers also offer an assortment of attachments to help with a wide variety of cooking tasks beyond the realm of baking. The standard stand mixer comes with a beater, a whisk, and a dough hook.
What Can You Do With a Stand Mixer?
While we are sure you will find uses beyond those we list here, these are some of the things you can do with a stand mixer. Some of them will require you to buy additional attachments; it is well worth the price.
The beater that comes standard with all stand mixers can be used for most tasks. These include mixing cake and cookie batter, mixing frosting, mixing meatloaf or meatballs, and blending all kinds of ingredients.
This can also be used to shred meat. Simply add tender and juicy meat and all the seasonings and flavorings to the bowl and use this attachment on medium high for roughly fifteen seconds. You will have perfectly seasoned and separated pulled pork, shredded chicken, or whatever.
The second standard attachment is a whisk. This is useful for anything you would normally use a whisk for but with a stand mixer, you can save your arm. Use it to incorporate air into liquid mixtures such as egg whites and cream, meringues, frosting, and thick sauces.
The last attachment that often comes standard with your basic stand mixer is a dough hook. This is used as you probably guessed – to knead and pull dough. Whether you are making a homemade loaf of whole wheat or biscuits of white bread, the dough hook will take the strain out of kneading.
The rest of these attachments would have to be bought separately. Make sure when you choose your stand mixer that you buy one that accepts attachments if you plan on using it for any of these purposes.
The slicer and shredder attachment can make chopping and (of course) shredding a snap. Need evenly sliced carrots for a stew or potatoes for your own homemade chips? This is the attachment for you. Further, its shredding feature makes sure that your handmade hash browns only have potatoes and not skin from your knuckles.
The citrus juicer attachment does exactly what it says, juices citrus. That means that instead of having to own an entirely separate appliance for making juice you can just grab an attachment for your stand mixer. The pasta maker, roller, cutter attachment also eliminates the need for another kitchen gadget.
There is a meat grinder for making your own hamburger meat, ravioli maker for making ravioli, and a sausage stuffer for – you guessed it – stuffing sausages. What better way to know that only healthy ingredients go into your family’s food than to make it from scratch yourself?
For the ultimate do-it-yourselfer there is even a grain mill attachment. Not content to simply make your own bread, now you can mill the flour needed to make it.
Choosing a Stand Mixer
The first step in choosing which stand mixer is best for you is to determine what you need it to do. Second, you need to consider how much counter space you have available and how much of it you want to dedicate to a stand mixer.
If you are an occasional baker who turns out cookies, cakes, and other common baked goods, then you will likely not need the same stand mixer as somebody who makes does a lot of heavy duty baking. If you’re not an everyday baker, go for a more affordable option.
One of the major design differences between the different stand mixers on the market is how you get the bowl into place. While some have a lifting mechanism that raises the bowl to meet the beaters, others have a rocking head that can be tilted back and forth to give access to the bowl. Thus, if you do not have a lot of counter space … rocking is not for you.
So, while a stand mixer may not be worth the expense for some, for those who use one it is often the most important appliance in their kitchen, second only to the oven itself.