The best things in life are mixed by hand. Or are they? Let’s help you determine if you need a stand mixer or not.
A stand mixer can be a real boon to the family cook who frequently finds themselves beating cake and cookie batters; mixing and kneading doughs for loaves of bread, pizza pies, puff pastry, and pie crusts; and whipping creams for cake frostings, frozen desserts, and other whatnots.
It can also be very expensive, especially for the budget buyer. The price of a new entry-level stand mixer from a reputable brand starts at $250-300. And it can increase considerably as you add wattage to the motor, mixing speeds to the control lever, quarts to the bowl, and accessories like a pouring shield.
Having said all of that, how do you know if you really need a stand mixer in your kitchen? For starters, read on. Because we are about to give you a checklist to help you come to the answer.
If you bake daily or weekly, and you want to delegate the tasks of beating batters, whipping creams, and mixing and kneading doughs, you can probably make great use of a stand mixer.
Some stand mixers have attachments that allow you to extend their functionality to grinding meat, stuffing sausage, milling wheat, making pasta, and slicing fruits and vegetables into thin, elongated, hors d’oeuvres-worthy slices.
All in all, a stand mixer is a useful appliance in the kitchen—provided you really need it and learn how to use it to its full potential. Below, we’ve listed six questions you should ask yourself to determine that.
How Often Do You Mix, Knead, Beat, and Whip?
When it comes to the home kitchen, a stand mixer is a high-end appliance. And if there’s one thing that marketers of high-end appliances are particularly good at, it’s getting you to want to buy them.
If you are an avid baker and your oven rarely stays cold, by all means, buy a stand mixer. You will be reborn when you see the number of tasks that you can delegate to this dutiful and dependable of a kitchen helper.
If you only mix and knead doughs by hand every so often—and you pull out your hand mixer a few times a year—ask yourself if you truly need to upgrade to a stand mixer. Nine times out of ten, chances are high that you don’t.
What Other Uses Do You Have for It?
Some stand mixers, such as all KitchenAid and Smeg models and some Cuisinart models, feature attachments that connect to a hub on the front of the appliance or on the bowl.
These attachments allow you to elevate your stand mixer’s utility to new heights by turning it into a meat grinder, a grain mill, a flour sifter, a pasta machine, an ice cream maker… the possibilities are nearly endless and limited only by the offering of the brand (and the ingenuity of the user).
When you weigh the cost of one appliance that can do all of these tasks—in most cases, remarkably well—against the cost of buying, owning, and caring for a separate appliance for each, it doesn’t take much to tilt the scales toward buying a stand mixer.
Have Circumstances Started to Change?
Take a good look at your circumstances, especially if they recently started to change for you, and consider how much you need to take care of yourself.
For example, are you getting to an age where activities like beating batter, whipping cream, and kneading dough are becoming more of a burden than a pleasure? Have you recently suffered an injury that no longer allows you to perform these tasks as well and with as much energy as you once did?
A stand mixer can be a good investment if you’re in a situation where you want to keep on making your favorite foods but, for one reason or another, you need to free yourself from the laborious and manual tasks of everyday cooking.
With one, you no longer have to stand over the mixing bowl, one hand holding the bowl and the other moving the mixer, for 15 minutes to make sponge cake.
Can You Afford It?
My grandparents never bought anything on credit. They saved up for every single thing they bought. And yet, somehow, they managed to buy a spacious country house, a modest truck, and every appliance they needed for themselves.
I don’t have their discipline, and times have undoubtedly changed. Nevertheless, I think each of us should ask ourselves when making an expensive purchase like a stand mixer: Can we afford it? And, even if the answer to this question is “yes,” is now the best time to buy it?
While I am sure you could finance the purchase of a stand mixer, carefully weigh the time of year and the pros and cons of doing it now instead of saving up and buying it on a Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The discounts at this time of year can be worth the wait.
Are You Willing to Pay Up for a Good One?
A stand mixer is one of those small kitchen appliances you either buy nice—or have to buy twice. Don’t ask me how I know this or how much money I’ve had to waste over the years to learn my lesson.
The best stand mixers are heavy and sturdy enough to stand still on the countertop and not wobble or shake. They have powerful, reliable motors that won’t go up in smoke even when mixing sticky and dough doughs for long periods of time.
Their stainless steel bowls are spacious enough to handle a big batch of cookies all at once, and yet compact enough to fit snugly in the dishwasher. The beater, hook, and whip reach all the way down thanks to a well-engineered planetary motion so that they don’t leave flour and other ingredients unmixed.
The thing about all these qualities is that they come with a hefty price tag. If you’re not willing to pay up for a good stand mixer, you might as well be better off with a hand mixer or food processor until you’re ready to upgrade.
Otherwise, you can end up wasting your money on a mixer that doesn’t mix.
Do You Have the Space for It?
A stand mixer is one of those kitchen appliances that takes up a lot of countertop space. When it’s stowed away, it hogs your cabinet just as much. Either you have the space for it, or you need to create it; there ain’t no middle ground.
Before buying a stand mixer, no matter the make and model, take a tape measure and determine how much space you have available on the countertop, between the countertop and the wall cabinets where you plan to place the mixer, and inside the cabinet where you plan to store it.
Compare this space to the dimensions of the stand mixers in your budget, and you will find that your choices are more—or less—limited than you originally thought.
This is largely determined by your living conditions. It’s one thing to get a stand mixer for a rural house, and another for a NYC flat, an RV, or an off-grid cabin (in the case of the latter, energy consumption can also be an issue).
To determine if you really need a stand mixer, answer the questions below with a clear-cut “yay” or “nay:”
- Do you beat, whip, mix, or knead daily or weekly?
- Do you grind meat, stuff sausages, mill wheat, or make pasta?
- Do you, for one reason or another, need to delegate laborious cooking tasks to a machine?
- Can you afford the purchase?
- Are you ready to pay up for a good stand mixer?
- Do you have the countertop (and, potentially, cabinet) space for it?
Those of you who got to “yes” will appreciate our roundup of the best stand mixers for beginner bakers.