There's no denying that a stand mixer is so much nicer to use than a hand model, but you do pay for this convenience. On the other hand, a stand model is much more functional, especially if optional accessories are available. Buying a stand mixer can require a small investment and with different wattage, features, and capacities, it can seem downright confusing to shop for one. And this is one appliance you don't want to have to replace anytime soon.
These tips can help you make the right purchase decision.
Stand Mixer Use is the Ultimate Consideration
How you intend to use the mixer is really your first consideration. If you bake for a large family or for social events or make several loaves of bread a week, you need a powerful motor and a large capacity bowl - a minimum of 600 watts of power and a 6 qt bowl or larger. Basing your decision on capacity is important. If your needs are smaller and you buy a large mixer, you'll find it cumbersome to use for small batches. On the other hand, if your needs are great and you buy an undersized unit, you'll need to split your recipes and process them in batches.
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A Caution Regarding Power Performance and Capacity
It may seem that the higher the wattage, the more power for mixing and kneading. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Some mixers may use more wattage to operate than other models and power output may be less than denoted. This is why it is wiser to base your buying decision on capacity, rather than solely on advertised wattage. Manufacturers will often provide capacity (so many cups of flour, etc) guidelines which can be very helpful, but since these usually tend to be a little on the high side and may not be the best for optimum mixing, base your decision on a reduced capacity level.
Best Stand Mixer Features
Overload protection is a nice feature, as is a locking tilt head. An all-metal construction offers more durability. 10 - 12 speeds are average and most stand mixers come with 3 standard attachments (whisk, dough hook, and beater). Some models have a convenient timer onboard to remove the guesswork and a splash guard to prevent spills. A motor that ramps up to the speeds will help protect the unit. Models with hubs to connect optional accessories are the most functional. Warranties tend to vary between brands, but some do offer longer periods.
A Stand Mixer Has its Limitations
While you would expect a high-wattage mixer to easily handle any dough, they do have limitations. Even the best mixers have trouble handling very stiff dough. When dough causes the motor to become sluggish and stall, your mixer is not designed to handle that capacity or denseness of dough. It's not unusual to finish kneading bread dough by hand, even with a powerful mixer.
To prevent motor burnout, follow the manufacturer's guidelines as to how long to operate the mixer during a session. Keep in mind that not all mixers have built-in overload protection and they are not meant to run continually for long periods.
Optional Stand Mixer Accessories
Many models come with a hub to connect optional accessories including vegetable/meat grinder, pasta or sausage maker. Although these accessories add to the cost of a mixer, they do make it more functional and reduce the amount of appliances you need. However, they need sufficient power to operate these and you may want to consider the power level when purchasing your mixer.
Where Quality Speaks - What Influences Price
Since there's a wide price range for stand mixers, you should consider what influences price. A base model may only have one mixing action (middle), whereas a higher-priced unit will have a spiral or rotating action that covers a wide mixing area and gets closer to the side of the bowl. This action mixes better and pulls in the contents so there's less scraping needed. Generally, the more power, the more you can do with the mixer. More expensive units will also have more durable parts and all-metal construction.
Depending on the cost of your mixer, you may want to consider an extended warranty.
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Should you consider a pink ribbon stand mixer? What if there is something wrong with your purchase? The manufacturer does need to know when the product does not perform as intended. There are options when you need to dispose of old kitchen appliances.