16 March 2015

Picking a Kitchen Mixer: Hand, Stand or Combo?

Different mixers (don't call them blenders in Martha Stewart's presence) are useful for different tasks. Stand mixers, for instance, are great for making dough, for mixing large recipes, and for mixing for long periods of time. Hand mixers are great for small recipes and for use in a variety of different bowls. You might be wondering, however, if you need both. Here is what the professionals have to say.

(Photo credit: bedbathandbeyond.com)

Stand Mixers

For large jobs and the best results when you need to really whip creams, you can't beat a stand mixer. These devices often have twice the power and thus twice the speed that a hand mixer can muster. That means you can get smoother icings and fluffier batters with a stand mixer than you ever will with a hand-held unit.

Most stand mixers come with a variety of different beaters including a whisk, paddle, and hook. The whisk is great for sauces and frosting while the paddle is perfect for cake and cookie batters. For bread dough, the hook can't be beat. You can often get these attachments on a hand mixer, but the hooks, for instance, won't be of much use due to lower power output and less torque from the mixer.

Another benefit to stand mixers is that you can augment them with accessories. Many stand mixers allow you to attach pasta makers or ice cream makers and thus extend the use of the machine. If you want a more versatile option, go with the stand mixer.

The downside to the stand mixer is cost. The cheapest units begin at around two hundred dollars with professional units starting around six hundred. There are a variety of stand mixers on the market, many of which can be compared by visiting sites like Bed Bath and Beyond. Do your homework and pick the unit that has enough power to meet your needs. America's Test Kitchen has a great review of stand mixers.

Hand Mixers

Hand mixers are great if you are short on space or short on time (they are easier to set up and clean). They are useful for making batters, puddings and other thin mixtures, but struggle with thicker substances like bread dough. If you do choose to get a hand mixer, go with a lightweight unit that has at least five speeds. Look for units with additional attachments to extend functionality. You can learn more about hand mixers by reading the review offered by Good Housekeeping.

Combination Mixers

If you can't commit to a hand or stand mixer, then a hybrid unit may be right for you. These have the power of a stand mixer, but the simplicity and light weight of a hand mixer. Keep in mind that though these units are highly versatile, they often aren't quite as light as a hand mixer or quite as powerful as a dedicated stand mixer.

Choosing Wisely

If you can afford it, buy both a hand and a stand mixer. If you have to choose one over the other, and price isn't an option, go with the stand mixer as it will do everything a hand mixer will do and then some. If space is an issue, go with the hand mixer. Whatever route you choose, be sure to review your options to see which models and brands hold up the longest and are the easiest to use.

Christal Haynes loves to cook, shop and write. A retired home economics teacher, she likes to share her insights with others by posting on the web. You can find her informative articles on many of today's top websites and blogs.

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