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For both at-home and professional bakers, electric stand mixers can have several uses, from whipping up fluffy meringue and airy cakes to kneading bread dough and mixing cookie batter. What makes a stand mixer an essential kitchen appliance is that it takes away a lot of the physical work of baking: While hand mixers need to be held while they whip the ingredients, a stand mixer does everything on its own at the simple flip of a switch. And there are several accessories — with the right attachments, you can try your hand at homemade ice cream, meatballs or shredded chicken and pork, to name a few.
Whether you're looking to buy a stand mixer for yourself or are planning to gift one during the holidays, it’s no secret that the kitchen appliance can be pricey — good quality stand mixers typically cost hundreds and higher-end devices can cost upwards of $1,000. To help you find the right fit for your needs, we consulted baking experts and recipe developers about what to look for when shopping for a stand mixer and rounded up some highly rated ones they recommend.
LEARN MORE How to shop for a stand mixer
5 top-rated electric stand mixers in 2021
If you’ve researched stand mixers in the past, you know KitchenAid is one of the most popular brands on the mixer market, and most of the experts we spoke to agreed that it’s worth the investment. “It’s my go-to stand mixer and KitchenAid has always provided fabulous customer service,” said Katie Stymiest, a recipe developer and founder of Caked by Katie, adding that the mixer is “versatile and strong enough to power through large cookie dough batches and bread kneading,” while the multi-speed control function is “great for whipping together a meringue or buttercream frosting while gentle enough to not pulverize chocolate chips.”
The Artisan mixer features a strong motor with ten speeds ranging from slow stirring to high beating, a 5-quart stainless steel bowl that locks into place and a tilting head to help you easily remove the bowl and beaters. It also comes with multiple accessories — including a flat beater, dough hook, wire whip and pouring shield — and comes in multiple colors. If you live in a smaller space, consider getting the KitchenAid Artisan Mini, which is 20 percent smaller than the original, according to the brand, and features a 3.5-quart bowl. This top-rated mixer has an impressive 4.9-star average rating from more than 27,500 Williams Sonoma shoppers.
An additional KitchenAid option, the Professional Stand Mixer is one of the larger and heavier duty options you can get — it has a 575-watt motor (compared to the 325-watt motor of the KitchenAid Artisan Mixer) and ten speeds, along with a spacious 6-quart bowl. This is a mixer worth considering if you’re baking in large quantities or are making harder-to-mix recipes. However, with more strength comes a heavier machine— this one weighs 29 pounds. The bowl lift configuration makes it convenient to add ingredients and it has three lock points for stability. The lever slowly lowers and raises the bowl for greater contact between the beater and the ingredients while mixing.
Breville’s The Bakery Chef comes with multiple accessories, including a double-sided scraper beater that has a flexible edge to wipe the sides and bottom of the bowl with every turn. It comes with two bowls — one 5-quart glass bowl and one 4-quart stainless steel bowl — along with a light that illuminates the inside of the bowl so you can see what’s going on. The integrated timer also automatically stops mixing when the time is reached, allowing you to focus on other tasks without constantly looking at the clock.
This stand mixer from Cuisinart is powerful enough to do most of what you want in a mixer — its 500-watt motor and 12 speed settings can withstand everything from heavy bread dough to a large quantity of cake batter. The mixer comes with a splash guard to avoid messy countertops, a tilt-back head to add in ingredients and a variety of attachments, including a chef’s whisk, dough hook and flat mixing paddle. You can also purchase multiple accessories for the unit, including a pasta roller and cutter, pasta extruder, meat grinder, frozen dessert maker and spiralizer. It has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 5,400 Amazon shoppers and comes in six different colors.
This quality affordable stand mixer features a 300-watt motor that can mix thicker batters and doughs like breads, pizza and cookies and an upwards tilting head so you can add ingredients to the bowl and change attachments quickly. The mixer includes attachments like a splash guard, dough hook, whisk and flat beater, plus has seven speeds and a mixing guide that lets you know which speed to use for different mixing types. It boasts a 4.5-star average rating from more than 6,600 Amazon reviewers.
How to shop for a stand mixer
Stand mixers are larger kitchen devices that typically come with a mixing bowl and several attachments used for different types of mixing, whipping and kneading. Unlike a hand mixer, a stand mixer doesn’t need to move from the counter or be monitored to do its job, so you can leave it running while doing other activities in the kitchen.
As for using a stand mixer for the first time, Stymiest suggested starting out with “a few basic recipes” and not “attempt[ing to make a] French pastry or an immaculate five-tiered wedding cake on your first go.” Starting simple and small will help you get to a more advanced level later on.
When shopping for a stand mixer, experts say to consider features, price and size before investing in one.
“Figure out what is most important in a mixer and then look at as many brands as possible,” advised Helen Fletcher, a pastry chef and author of “The new pastry cook: Modern methods for making your own classic and contemporary pastries” who runs the blog Pastries Like a Pro. “If you are considering moving from a hand mixer to a stand mixer, you will be amazed at the difference when baking with one.”
The size and weight of a stand mixer are important factors to consider for a few reasons: They are directly related to how much space you have in your kitchen to store it, how often you’ll be moving it around and how large your batches will be, either due to a big family or otherwise. “If you don't anticipate making large batches of things, there is no reason to spring for a large mixer,” said Michelle Lettrich, a food blogger and creator of Brown Eyed Baker.
The capacity of a stand mixer can vary from 4.5 quarts to over 7 quarts. Lettrich said you should “absolutely consider” a stand mixer with a higher capacity if you’re making multiple loaves of bread at a time or if you usually double or triple your favorite cookie recipe. But Naomi Robinson, founder of the food blog Bakers Royale, noted “there’s no need” for a professional 7-quart capacity stand mixer “if the main use will be for everyday baking to turn a batch of cookie or even a 3-layer cake.”
Features and attachments
Attachments make a mixer multifunctional — with them, “you can turn your mixer into anything from an ice cream maker to a pasta maker,” according to Robinson. There are three standard attachments that typically come with a stand mixer:
- Dough hook: This is a C-shaped (and sometimes spiral-shaped) attachment used to develop gluten and it’s great for kneading bread and pizza dough.
- Whisk: This attachment is used to whip and mix ingredients such as eggs, frosting and butter.
- Flat beater: Also called a paddle attachment, this versatile tool can be used for creaming sugar and butter or gently folding and mixing cake batter, mashed potatoes and cookie dough.
Experts told us they use other popular accessories, including an ice cream maker, which typically features a freeze bowl and rotating dasher, and a pasta maker, which cuts pasta sheets into noodles of varying thickness.
Stand mixers can include either a glass or a stainless steel mixing bowl. While both have a similar function, Jessica Hylton, a photographer and home chef who runs the food blog Jessica in the Kitchen, suggested considering that “the glass bowl can be easily shattered if dropped by accident,” but added that “if you’re getting the mixer for display purposes in videos or photos, you may prefer to get [the glass] one.” For people who bake a lot, Fletcher suggested purchasing a second bowl along with a separate beater and whisk “so you don’t have to wash them in between tasks.”
A higher wattage means a more powerful motor, which can come in handy if you have large quantities of food or heavier dough. Most good quality stand mixers have wattages ranging from 250 watts to upwards of 1000 watts. If you’re planning on using a stand mixer for more heavy-duty baking projects, 500 watts or more is a powerful option for most professional bakers.
Speed settings can also be a feature worth considering: Most stand mixers come with anywhere between five and 12 settings. Different foods require varying speeds to adequately mix them, from a slow start and low mixing speed to a medium-high and high speed for faster beating or whipping.
A stand mixer can be an investment — experts told us the typical home baker should stick with those in the $200 to $700 range, as commercial models costing upwards of $1,000 are typically only used for large batches in heavy-duty, professional settings. “There’s no need to grab a commercial size stand mixer if you are a home-baker who only bakes cookies,” Stymiest noted.
“If you’re on a budget, you don’t need to purchase the newest model — the older versions are still a great option,” Hylton added. Robinson also mentioned looking for sales since “nearly every holiday will offer some sort of discount off the full retail price."