Stand Mixer Guide

Of all the kitchen countertop appliances, a stand mixer is one of the most adored, especially by cooks who love to bake. If you spend a lot of time making bread, cookies, or desserts, it may be worth investing in a tool that can speed up prep time.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

The rumors are true!

Not only can a stand mixer deliver professional results, but it can also do so in less time and with less mess. Recipes can be created more efficiently than slaving away in the kitchen with a bowl and a hand whisk. In my opinion, there’s no better investment than a kitchen stand mixer if you love to cook.

The electric power of a mixer generates more air bubbles into batters and doughs, which gives a higher quality texture to baked goods. Some mixers are extraordinarily versatile, allowing for various attachments that work overtime to slice vegetables, grind meat, make pasta, even make ice cream!

mixing butter inside the bowl of a stand mixer

Stand mixer vs hand mixer

Besides the fact that you have to hold one while you’re using it, the biggest differences between a stand mixer vs. handheld mixer are motor size and price. While a handheld electric mixer is a useful appliance for smaller jobs like mousse or pudding, it requires you to be present, holding it while it runs. A stand mixer allows you some freedom of movement in the kitchen.

A hand mixer is more compact and fits better for small kitchens and tight budgets alike. A stand mixer is definitely a larger investment for the home kitchen. It takes up significantly more room, is heavier, but has the power to easily tackle heavy-duty batter, bread doughs, and baking projects. Typically it’ll provide quicker results with less mess.

popular mixer attachments

What are the best mixer attachments?

  • Paddle: Otherwise known as a flat beater. This is a good multi-purpose tool and should be used for heavier mixtures such as cake batter, frostings, cookies, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf.
  • Wire whip: Like a handheld whisk, the wire whip has stainless steel wires attached to a hub. The whisking motion of the whip incorporates air into eggs, egg whites, whipping cream, candies, angel food cake, and mayonnaise. Not to be used with dough and heavier mixtures.
  • Dough hook: The dough hook can resemble a big “C” or a spiral and it is used for kneading yeast doughs like breads, coffee cakes, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, and even pasta.
  • Scraper: A beater with a flexible rubber or silicone fitting on one or both edges that scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as it turns. The silicone edge on the blade can do what your rubber spatula does, so you don’t have to stop the mixer mid-way through and do it yourself. Perfect for sticky foods like cream cheese and nut butter.

Multi-function

Another great feature of a standing mixer is a built-in port, or power hub, for attachments. Buying a mixer with the potential for adding attachments is a wise investment, especially if you’re an ambitious home cook and you like your appliances to be super-functional.

Attachments can be pricey, but they can often do the work of a food processor and more. Some examples of attachments include pasta roller, juicer, root slicer, shredder, vegetable spiralizer, food grinder, sausage stuffer, grain mill, strainer, and ice cream maker. (KitchenAid is the only mixer with an ice cream maker attachment.)

Close up view of the KitchenAid port for additional attachments

Stand mixer size

If you’ll be cooking for a large family, making a lot of bread, or entertaining frequently, you might do better to select a larger capacity mixer with a powerful motor—at least a 6-quart bowl. If you’re staying small, a 4.5-quart size is ideal. Depending on the brand, some mixers require higher wattage to operate but don’t make your decision based on that. A higher wattage doesn’t always mean a more powerful motor.

To tilt or not to tilt?

Some mixers come with a locking, tilted head that rocks back for easy bowl placement, while others stay in place and use a lifting mechanism that raises the bowl into place with a lever. If you’ve got lower kitchen cabinets and short on clearance, you may want a bowl-lift mixer that has less range of motion.

Speed settings

Most models will feature 3 to 12-speed settings, but all good stand mixers should have a “slow start” setting, for adding ingredients to the mixture without a big mess. Most bakers can make do with 3-speed settings, but the more options there are, the more accurate your work will be.

  • Slow speed for starting the machine or combining dry ingredients.
  • Speed 2 (low) for slow mixing heavy batter or cutting in butter.
  • Speed 4 (medium-low) for mixing cookie doughs or beating egg whites.
  • Speed 6 (medium) for creaming butter and beating frostings.
  • Speed 8 (medium-high) for fast beating or whipping to make meringues and whipped cream.
  • Speed 10 (high) for fast whipping a small amount of egg whites or cream.

Side view of a stand mixer showing the different speed settings

What are the top brands?

  • Hamilton Beach: A solid choice for budget-conscious cooks, without the durability of some of the more expensive models that feature all-metal construction.
  • Sunbeam: A lighter-duty brand that isn’t as useful for bread dough, but very popular for everyday cookie dough and meringues.
  • Cuisinart: Known for their food processors, Cuisinart is a good choice for both hand and stand mixers with two different sizes available.
  • KitchenAid: Sets the standard for mixers and the models in their Artisan series top the lists of best mixers year after year. They’re heavy-duty, all-metal construction ensures decades of use without fail.

How to minimize a mess

Some machines have a splash guard with pouring shield that can help prevent a catastrophe if you accidentally shift speeds while mixing. It’ll keep the liquid inside the bowl as you add it. You can also drape a clean kitchen towel over the head of the mixer to cut down on splatter from ingredients.

How to incorporate ingredients, especially for baked goods

Generally speaking, when mixing baked goods you should add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Adding the flour in stages, as most recipes instruct, allows the fat to coat the flour, keeping gluten from developing and ensuring a light and fluffy baked good with a tender crumb. While this order of adding ingredients isn’t crucial for something like pancake batter, it definitely improves the texture of scones, muffins, and cakes.

mixing dry and wet ingredients together in a stand mixer

When to chill the bowl?

If you want to make whipping cream, chill the bowl and the wire whip for at least 15 minutes before making it. The cream will whip much faster with a chilled bowl.

Recipes to make in a mixer

  • Cookies: You’ll be so happy to have a good mixer for holiday cookies and cookie exchanges. Make your own version of a Tollhouse cookie using ginger spice in the dough and dipping the balls in powdered sugar before baking.
  • Cakes: If you ever wondered how hard it would be to make your own wedding cake, a good stand mixer is what most people buy to do it themselves. From layer cakes to tortes, it’s easier with a mixer.
  • Meringue: Leftover egg whites from another kitchen endeavor can be turned into a pavlova for dessert, made of sweetened meringue that’s baked, or a dreamy angel food cake.
  • Frosting: Make your own chocolate frosting using powdered sugar, butter, and cocoa powder.
  • Whipped cream: Stand mixers make uniform and perfect whipped cream in mere moments, so watch your mixer closely.
  • Bread and rolls: Yeast doughs are easy for a heavy-duty stand mixer. Make your own rolls at Thanksgiving, an easy sheet pan focaccia, or try your hand at a seeded rye bread.
  • Aquafaba: The liquid left behind from canned cooked chickpeas, makes an excellent egg white substitute when whipped into semi-soft peaks. Hard to believe, but true!

stand mixer using dough hook to mix ingredients

Maintenance

For the best results, always make sure that the bottom of the attachment is touching the mixing bowl. This may require some adjustment, depending on your machine. Also periodically check your mixer for loose screws, tightening as necessary.

Vibrations in the machine can loosen them over time. Inspect the bottom of the mixing bowls for undue wear and tear, that would prevent them from locking into the base. They may need replacement when they fit loosely or rattle when attached to the base.

Cleaning

Most stand mixers come equipped with a stainless steel mixing bowl, but some brands are revisiting glass, copper, or porcelain in their latest versions. All are fine choices, but some may require a little more care than stainless steel. Most mixer parts, including the bowl, can be washed safely in a dishwasher, or by hand.

After every use, go over the stand mixer itself with a damp cloth to clean any spatter on the undersides of the machine. Make sure your mixer, mixing bowl, and attachments are all free of dust and dirt before starting a new project.

Popular on Amazon

Here are a few of the most popular stand mixer manufacturers on Amazon.com

graphic showing 3 popular stand mixers found on amazon

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you!

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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13 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Shana Moore says

    I have a KitchenAid mixer. Once you have creamed your butter and sugar for cakes do you remain on 6 when adding the rest of your ingredients? My cakes are disappointing and I need help. I thought it was the baking powder but maybe I’m mixing wrong.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Shana- I think it depends on the cake recipe. The creaming adds air pockets into the cake so it can rise. Usually, I mix the dried ingredients together and then gradually add it to the mixer on low to medium-low speed until just incorporated. Are you cakes turning out dense?

  2. Rudin Bonnie says

    This was very interesting. Thank you. Will you tell me please. Can a heavy glass bowl on my Kitchen Aid mixer be changed for a lighter stainless steel bowl?

  3. Carrie says

    Hi Jessica, I thought that maybe you could help me. I have a Cook mixer from JC Penny that works just fine and it has a port for attachments just like the Kitchen Aide, but the connection is smaller than the attachments for a Kitchen Aide.
    Do you know if there is a coupler or any kind of help for attaching Kitchen Aide attachments to a different brand of stand mixer?
    Thanks

  4. Kay says

    Hi- I am confused, you seem to be saying two things, first add wet to dry, second, to slowly add the dry in stages. Most of my cooking has always been the latter, slowly adding the dry flour mix to the wet ingredients, but your first sentence contradicts that. I have posted your reference below. I am new to the mixer so would love some clarity. Thanks!

    Generally speaking, when mixing baked goods you should add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Adding the flour in stages, as most recipes instruct, allows the fat to…

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Sorry for the confusion, I’ve updated the post. You are correct, I mix together the wet ingredients, then add the dry ingredients to the mixture. I hope that helps!

  5. Barb says

    I am confused by some cheese cake recipes. One says use an electric hand mixer as stand mixers add to much air then I looked at another recipe and it said do not use an electric hand mixer because they add too much air only use a stand mixer when making a cheesecake – that is exactly the opposite ? Which is correct.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think it comes down to paying close attention to the batter and not overbeating, otherwise, it could cause the cheesecake to crack. The stand mixer has more settings for better control, and it would probably be best to use the paddle attachment so it mixes completely but doesn’t add too much air. I think a hand mixer could be used, add the thicker attachments (not the whisk) and just keep a close eye on the appearance change.

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