If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ve got a kitchen packed with gadgets and have never used one of them. Or if you have used one, it was more likely for unblocking the sink than the purpose for which it was originally intended. So why, short of spending money for spending’s sake, would you buy another? Obviously, it depends on the gadget itself, but if we’re talking about a stand mixer, there’s pretty much every reason in the book.
Things to Consider
When we say there’s every reason in the book to buy a stand mixer, we mean it… but with a caveat. If you never cook, rarely cook for anyone other than yourself, or have an idea of cooking that revolves around piercing a few holes in a plastic top and zapping in the microwave for a few minutes, a stand mixer probably won’t do you much good. If, on the other hand, you regularly bake for your family, like to spend your weekends cooking up endless batches of cookies for your kid’s sports days, or are a voracious consumer of home-made bread, you’ll find it a god-send.
Stand Mixer, You Say?
If you’ve got this far, it’d be fair to assume you already have a good inkling of what a stand mixer is. If that assumption turns out to be wrong, then a thousand apologies and an explanation are on their way. Simply put, a stand mixer is a large, tabletop blender that runs independently (well, independently to the extent that it’ll mix away without any activity on your part save turning the power on and off). Something akin to having a pair of very large, very powerful helping hands, it makes light work of a variety of tasks. Best of all, it’ll let you get on with another part of the recipe (or whatever else you choose to do) while it gets busy combining whatever ingredients you throw its way. Thanks to its heavy-duty construction and powerful motor, it tackles the task of blending, mixing, and kneading far more quickly, efficiently, and evenly than either human hand or hand blender can manage.
Best in Class
So, now we’re hopefully all on the same page in terms of knowing what a stand mixer is, we come to the next crucial question. What can a stand mixer do? While it may be tempting to say “anything” and leave it at that, it wouldn’t be quite true (although as we’ll see, for hard-core bakers it comes as close a darn it). Although accouterments vary according to model, most stand mixers come with three basic blade attachments: a beater, a dough hook, and a whisk. To get the most of the device, you’ll need to understand where, and how, each blade comes into play.
- The Good All-Rounder: most ingredients will benefit from a few moments with the flat beater. Whether its mixing cookie or cake dough, beating up frosting, or mashing up potatoes, the flat beater will make light work of almost any task you’d otherwise need to sweat over by hand.
- Whisk it Up: when it comes to beating egg whites into a fluffy meringue, you have one of two options. Spend half an hour hand-beating them through with a fork, or let the whisk attachment of your mixer get it over with in less time than it takes to say “voila”. If you’ve ever fancied making your own homemade butter, the whisk will let you do just that.
- Bread of Heaven: it doesn’t take a genius to work out what the dough hook is for. If you love homemade bread but hate the hard work that goes into making it, say hello to your new best friend. It also makes a very good buddy to those who like making pizza dough from scratch.
While the beater, dough hook and whisk are all very well and good, where a stand mixer really comes into a league of its own is in all the extra little attachments that come along with it. As Today notes, investing in a few added attachments will maximize the mixer’s value exponentially. A second beater blade with a silicon scraper, for example, will make creaming butter and folding dry ingredients into a batter a dream. If you’re moving from the amateur to the pro leagues, you might even want to invest in the kind of attachments that can spiralize veg, dice, slice and shred anything you care to, grind meat (yes, really), roll and cut fresh pasta shapes, and even make ice-cream.
Questions, Questions, Questions
So, we’ve established that a stand mixer is a “good thing”. Whether or not it’s a good enough thing to warrant the investment (because make no mistake, stand mixers are exactly that, with even the cheapest models still costing a fair whack), is really down to how much use you’ll get from it. Before you get carried away with all the different options and accompaniments, ask yourself a few questions: Do I have the space? Stand mixers are not the kind of device you can tuck away in a kitchen drawer. These are powerful beasts, with the size to go with it. As theKitchn.com notes, count on needing at least a square foot of countertop to dedicate to it.
How often will I use it? If you make cakes once a year, bread once in a blue moon, and meringues never, you need to consider whether investing in a device to save time on tasks you don’t actually do is wise. Unless you have cash to burn, the answer’s probably going to be a no. What model do I need? While most of us are probably aware of the KitchenAid version, stand mixers actually come in a variety of types, brands, powers, and price points. Before you commit to a purchase, be sure that the model you choose is the best fit for your individual needs.