A mixer is a crucial tool to have in the kitchen, especially if you do a lot of baking. They are so efficient at whipping egg whites and mixing dough that the it’s almost crazy to try to do everything strictly by hand (or with a whisk) all the time. A hand mixer is a great tool – not too expensive and it gets the job done. But just as the hand mixer is an improvement over mixing by hand, a stand mixer can really be an improvement over a hand mixer. Good stand mixers can be expensive, however, with lots of models costing well in excess of $200 or $300 dollars. Fortunately, there are also quite a few in the under $200 range and recently Cook’s Illustrated put these less expensive mixers to the test to see which could compete with the top models and save at-home cooks some money.
The average home cook doesn’t need a massive professional stand mixer, even assuming that he or she has room in the kitchen for one on the counter, because most home cooking doesn’t happen in restaurant quantities. CI chose the following criteria to rate the mixers on: 3.5 to 4.6 quart bowl size, user-friendliness, and the ability to successfully mix/knead pizza dough without struggling, as well as the abilities to whip cream, cream butter and mix a batch of thick, chunky cookie dough. The mixer brands in the test included KitchenAid, Sunbeam, Hamilton Beach and EuroPro.
It turned out that the dough kneading ability of the mixers is what set the top models apart from the rest. All of the mixers could handle cream and cookie dough easily. Machines with one beating arm, as opposed to two (the style that has a hand mixer mounted on the side of a bowl), kneaded bread as well as the pro models, though not in as-big batches. The two arm mixers, like the Sunbeams, never got up enough kneading power to being the dough together into a smooth, elastic mass.
The top rated mixer was the Kitchenaid Classic Plus Stand Mixer, which was powerful enough for just about all kitchen tasks (as compared to the pro models) and easy to use, and the Bosch Compact Kitchen Machine and Hamilton Beach Eclectrics Stand Mixer came in a close second. All three can be found for under $200, and if you keep your eyes out for sales and aren’t too picky about the color of the model you want, you can find an even better deal than that.