Introduction to Mixers
There are two basic kinds of mixers: stand mixers and electric hand mixers. People who bake frequently may own both, because they are useful for different tasks and offer their own convenience.
Stand mixers have several parts: a stand, a bowl that may be plastic, metal, or glass, and the mixing attachments. Depending on the design, one or two attachments are inserted into an overhanging arm of the stand which you can lift and lower over a base that holds the bowl. When lowered, the arm can be locked in place to prevent the stand from jumping during operation.
You can attach your choice of several mixing devices. Some models, for example, include a flat beater, a whip, and a dough hook. Others have the rounded beaters that are familiar from hand mixers, sometimes referred to as “traditional beaters.” You flip a switch to control the speed, and in most cases, have a choice of at least five settings. You can walk away while it is operating, and leave it to mix on its own.
Sizes of the bowl vary and may be important, depending on the size batches you prefer to make. Standard bowl sizes include: 7 quart (6.6 liters), 6 quart (5.7 liters), 5 quart (4.7 liters), 4.5 quart (4.3 liters), 4 quart (3.8 liters), and 3 quart (2.8 liters).
Electric Hand Mixers
In general, electric hand mixers are less powerful than stand mixers. With an electric hand mixer, you hold the mixer and control its movements in a freestanding container of your choice (bowl, cooking pot, etc.). The beater inserts are dishwasher safe, and the mixer is topped by a handle. Generally, the speed control is within reach as you mix, and some models have a button to enhance the speed setting, useful when whipping egg whites, for example, when you may wish to momentarily increase the speed.
An electric hand mixer is different from a newer small appliance referred to as an immersion blender, even though you may see an immersion blender with a whisk similar to a standard hand mixer beater. With only one beater on a slim stem, the immersion blender is not up to mixing any really thick material, and may even have problems with cake batter, let alone cookie dough, though this will likely vary by model and the power of the motor. Immersion blenders are typically used to blend soups in the pot, or make individual ice cream shakes.
While stand and electric hand mixers differ in the space they take up, there are two other important differences that may bear consideration.
• Multifunction Mixers
Some stand mixers are quite a bit more than a mixer: manufacturers like KitchenAid™ make a stand that is designed to hold not only a mixer, but also a large variety of attachments to perform other common and uncommon kitchen tasks. Attachments include: an ice crusher, a citrus juicer, an ice cream maker, a sausage stuffer, a slicer, a shredder, a food grinder, a pasta maker, a fruit and vegetable strainer, a can opener, a grain mill, a food processor, a regular blender, a liquid blender, and/or a water jacket.
• Light and Heavy Duty Mixers
Some lightweight stand mixers are more like hand mixers in their capabilities than they are like the heavy duty stand mixers that can capably knead two loaves of bread dough. Some lightweight stand mixers are simply electric hand mixers that fit into a stand attachment for unattended mixing. So, it’s not just the design that makes a difference: it’s the models capabilities in terms of kitchen preparation tasks that should be considered.
Written by Mary Elizabeth