Most stand mixers look at least fairly similar, so it’s not always really clear just how many differences there can be between them. If you’ve never had one, you might not know what to look for, and you might not be bothered by the things you don’t know are possible. However, there are some features that someone like me absolutely must have because I’m used to them being there and I’ve used them. There are, of course, some options that just don’t seem to be particularly helpful to much of anyone. I’ll go through some of them here so you have a better idea of what you really need and what you can really do without.
If You Only Pay Attention To One Thing…
Pay attention to this. When choosing a stand mixer, the way you get the bowl in and out of the appliance is very important, and it makes a difference for the experience. Less expensive mixers tend to have tilt heads which move up with the mixing tool attached so there is enough room to slide the bowl out. The KitchenAid 4.5 Qt. Classic Plus I reviewed here is an example of one with this moveable head. Professional style mixers, on the other hand, have bowls which slide onto a lever mechanism which lifts the bowl so the mixing tool attached to the fixed head goes into the ingredients. See the KitchenAid 6 Qt. Professional 600 Series for an example of a machine like this.
My preference is very much for the bowel lift mixer because I have seen a catastrophe or two from lift heads not staying place and crashing down on a hand or finger. If you can afford a more expensive mixer, I think you should go with a bowl lift model every time and reduce the amount of personal damage you can do. Having said that, I also have to say there are a lot of good tilt heads out there which are equipped with a lock to make sure that they don’t crash, and that over the years thousands upon thousands of cooks and bakers have had machines with tilt heads and been very happy with them. If you choose a mixer with a tilt head, just please make sure it has a lock for safety.
Locking Power Head
As I mentioned, this should be a must if you choose a tilt head mixer. You can make sure the head latches into place when you’re using it so it does not come crashing down on your hand or your heart. Sometimes I think I have stand mixer PTSD from seeing my mother-in-law’s KitchenAid go boom while she was using it. I know the problem isn’t be as bad as I make it out to be, but it’s what I think of when I consider buying a tilt head. Make sure it locks, and you’ll be good.
Auto Shut Off
One of the nicer (but less important) options your mixer may come with is the ability to set a timer to automatically shut off. Even though stand mixers are pretty hands free, that doesn’t mean that you should just abandon it altogether when it’s on. If you can set a kitchen timer and get the mixer turned off within 15-30 seconds of the timer going off, it really isn’t going to make much of a difference with whatever you’re making. I wouldn’t lose out on any other perks just to have an auto shut off, but it’s a nice thing to have if it’s available. It’s certainly not a game changer, by any means.
Nooks And Crannies
Take a good look at the mixer you think you want. Does it have a ton of little fissures between the plastic or metal or other small crevices? All of those are going to get filled with flour, sugar, goop, and every other kind of thing that goes in or can come out of your mixer. If there are a lot of them, your clean up time could be considerable. You might want to really think about that before you hand a salesperson your credit card. If you’re like me, the more spaces, the bigger the nightmare.
Easy On The Eyes
Look at where the controls are and make sure they are easy to find and are going to be easy to use the first few times you put them to work. Once you’ve used a mixer enough, you’re not going to pay attention to the markings, and you’ll know you’re on the right speed just by experience. Easy to read controls are good in general, but they are not going to be a game changer on your mixer.
I didn’t even know this was a “thing” until I started hunting for my perfect mixer, but did you know you can get covers to go over the bowl of your mixer which make it so your ingredients don’t go everywhere and let you avoid the POOF of flour that can be oh-so-fun? This thing is amazing. It’s removable, so you only have to use it when you want it, but it also won’t hinder the movement of your mixing head while it’s doing its business. It may also be called a splatter guard, depending on the manufacturer or model. You can see what they’re like by checking out the Hamilton Beach Eclectrics stand mixer.
Some mixers actually come with multiple power outlets which let you plug in a whole bunch of different attachments that need all sorts of varied power. Most stand mixers come with a single place where things can connect, but the Cuisinart SM-55 has three different outlets for a blender, a juicer, a mixer, a smoothie maker and more. Figure out all the things you want to do with your mixer (or as many things as you can think of, anyway), and then do a little research to make sure you get it all in one mixer.
Bells, Whistles, And Mixers
Stand mixers are so much more than just a whisk that spins. It can be mind boggling when you do some checking around and figure out just how many different things these appliances can do. The gadgets and gizmos pretty much make the functionality of the devices, and it’s a pretty good deal when you can get everything in just one appliance.