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I remember when I got my first KitchenAid stand mixer. (My mom scored it for me off of Craigslist!) It felt like a milestone. At the time, I still thought of myself as an inexperienced home cook and, there I was, ready for a coveted piece of equipment that only serious home cooks had! And oh, the cookies, cakes, meringues, and numerous bookmarked recipes I could finally make!
For years, I loved that mixer — carting it with me to every summer internship apartment sublet and on more than one cross-country move. Last year, the mixer died and, after contacting KitchenAid’s customer support, I learned it was more than 20 years old So, it lived a long life!
And, really, a great stand mixer should be able to stick around for a while. Because stand mixers can be pricey! Outside of major appliances, a stand mixer is likely the next biggest kitchen investment you’ll make.
So, I set out to find the best of the best — comparing nearly a dozen of the most popular stand mixers and putting them through a slew of tests to determine the top models for your home kitchen (and mine). Before I delve into my findings, here’s a quick rundown of my favorites.
Why You Should Trust Us
I’m the Tools Editor at Kitchn and a professional kitchen equipment tester. I previously worked at America’s Test Kitchen and my reviews on topics like stand mixers, induction burners, toaster ovens, and multicookers have been published in Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and on the America’s Test Kitchen website. My work has also been featured on America’s Test Kitchen’s and Cook’s Country’s television programs.
What to Consider When Buying a Stand Mixer
How Stand Mixers Actually Do the Mixing
There are two ways stand mixers actually do the mixing. There are mixers with stationary beaters (picture a hand mixer, with two beaters, that’s just been turned into a stand mixer) and there are mixers with a single beater that rotates counterclockwise in the mixer’s bowl. The latter is called “planetary action.”
Stationary beaters spin in place and don’t effectively mix all the ingredients throughout the bowl. In my testing, I found that they’re unable to mix food coloring into yogurt. They also weren’t great at whipping cream or performing bigger tasks, like creaming butter and sugar together. For this reason, I don’t recommend mixers with stationary beaters.
Planetary mixers, however, have beaters that circle the bowl, efficiently and evenly incorporating ingredients. And of these planetary mixers, the best ones have attachments that get as close to the bottom and sides of the bowl as possible. (Because you don’t want to have unmixed flour at the bottom of the bowl! And because you want to be able to whip just a little bit of cream!)
How Much Power the Mixer Has
Some mixers are more powerful than others. But don’t get too caught up with the wattage that’s touted on the boxes. Why? A lower-performing mixer that I tried says it has a 500-watt motor, but my overall pick from KitchenAid has just 325 watts. That’s because how powerful a stand mixer is isn’t based on watts, but torque.
Simply put, and according to the dictionary, torque is “a force that produces or tends to produce rotation.” Some stand mixers move really fast, but don’t do much, kinda like pressing the gas while your car’s stuck in the mud. Whereas top-notch stand mixers, like the ones from KitchenAid, move slower, but more effectively, powerfully, and with more torque.
Now, at home, it’s pretty hard to measure torque. So, how can you tell if one mixer has more torque than another? By how efficiently and easily it mixes — whether that’s creaming butter and sugar, mixing chocolate chips into cookie batter, or kneading ciabatta dough. You could also take the mixers apart, which I’ve done in the past but don’t really recommend. If you insist on busting out the screw driver: The best mixers have mostly metal parts, making them more powerful, durable, and capable of producing more torque. And the worst? You’ll find a lot of plastic gears.
Most stand mixers are a bear to lift and store (mine lives on my countertop at all times for that very reason). But, there’s a reason for this heft. Again, these high-end, powerful mixers have mostly metal parts, which makes them heavier.
Lighter mixers (I wouldn’t buy anything less than 16 pounds; the weight of the KitchenAid Artisan Mini Stand Mixer) also walk around a lot (meaning: they skip and jump around on the counter when they’re mixing). Of course, there are situations when even the best stand mixers may walk — like when kneading sticky, tough ciabatta dough — but it’s pretty unacceptable if this happens when you’re just making cookie dough or cake batter, which can happen with lighter models.
The Style of the Stand Mixer
There are two different styles of stand mixers out there. I’ll outline the pros of cons of each below.
What We Look for in a Stand Mixer
I judged all of the stand mixers on the following criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best):
Best Overall: KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer
KitchenAid is synonymous with home stand mixers and for good reason: They make the best ones. Hands-down. The one that’s best for most home cooks: the KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer. The tilt-head design is easy to operate and it’s a cinch to change or remove attachments. The mixer’s bowl has a helpful handle and easily twists to lock onto the mixer’s base. The machine is powerful, too, easily able to tackle small and large quantities of ingredients, be it whipped cream or cookie dough. This mixer does walk a little when kneading ciabatta, but still produces beautiful, shiny, well-kneaded dough. And unless you’re regularly making tough breads like this, I don’t see it being an issue.
Note: I also liked the Smeg Stand Mixer. It wasn’t as consistent or easy to use as the KitchenAid, but if you like the look of Smeg products, you’ll likely be happy with their stand mixer, too.
Who it’s best for: Most home cooks and bakers.
Good to know: This mixer comes in 11 colors and you can buy different mixing bowls with fun patterns and prints to use instead of the stainless steel one. KitchenAid also sells many attachments that are all compatible with this stand mixer, including a pasta roller and meat grinder.
Best for Bread Bakers: KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer
This incredibly powerful mixer is larger than the Artisan and can power through double batches, small amounts of ingredients, and tough bread doughs with ease. (It was the only mixer that didn’t walk — in fact, it didn’t move a single inch! — when kneading ciabatta.) Its bowl-lift design is easy to operate and makes it easy to add ingredients. The mixing bowl has a tendency to click and rock slightly when the mixer first starts getting going, but this eventually stops. If you bake a lot of bread (or just bake a lot in general), I’d say the ultra-powerful mixer is well worth the investment.
Who it’s best for: Avid bread bakers and those looking for a more powerful stand mixer.
Good to know: It’s available in 10 colors, although not all of them are available at the moment. KitchenAid also sells many attachments that are all compatible with this stand mixer, like a pasta roller and meat grinder.
Best for Small Spaces: KitchenAid Artisan Mini Stand Mixer
The KitchenAid Artisan Mini Stand Mixer is small, but mighty. It has an easy-to-operate, tilt-head design and a work bowl that has a helpful handle and securely locks onto the base. It can handle all standard baking tasks with ease — cookies, cakes, meringues, you name it. It does have a larger gap between the attachments and bottom of the bowl than other KitchenAid mixers, so unmixed ingredients sometimes get stuck there. And while it can handle ciabatta, it wouldn’t be my go-to mixer for tough breads on a regular basis. (See above!) That said, it’s a fantastic stand mixer that packs a whole lot into a little package and is truly great for those looking for a compact model — or who can’t lift a larger stand mixer, as this one weighs in at about 25 percent less than other full-size, tilt-head KitchenAid mixers.
Who it’s best for: Those with small kitchens or who live in apartments.
Good to know: This mixer comes in five colors. KitchenAid also sells many attachments that are compatible with this stand mixer, like a pasta roller and meat grinder. The ice cream maker attachment is not compatible with this mixer.
Best Lower-Priced Model: KitchenAid Classic Plus Stand Mixer
No, $300 isn’t inexpensive, but the KitchenAid Classic Plus Stand Mixer is priced lower than other models and still delivers fantastic performance. (Yes, there are $40 stand mixers on Amazon, but I would not recommend them. They won’t perform and will likely burn out quickly, which means you’ll have to spend more money down the road on a new machine.) The easy-to-use tilt head design makes it a cinch to add and remove attachments and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Although the bowl does lack a handle, its capacity is smaller than the Artisan’s, and it isn’t best-suited to regularly kneading sticky bread dough, it can handle most other baking tasks with ease. Unlike other KitchenAid stand mixers, the Classic Plus is only available in white and black.
Note: If you’re looking for a stand mixer under $200, check out this model from Hamilton Beach. It walked around while making ciabatta and isn’t as powerful or easy to use as a KitchenAid, but it did well in my other tests and is a solid mixer at its price point.
The Kitchn’s Best List Promise
We will do our homework, going wildly in depth with our testing. But we condense the info into easy, breezy summaries so that you can see what we picked and why, then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!
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