Choosing the best mixer for me (part 1)
There was a time, when I would claim that I can do literally everything in my cooking using my trusty Braun Multiquick hand mixer, can you imagine that? But since I started making breads, and cakes, and cupcakes, and all these delicious things that you need to knead and mix thoroughly, my enthusiasm for hand mixers started wearing down. Not that my old mixer wasn't good, on the contrary! I just couldn't force myself to knead the bread using hooks for 10 minutes, or beat eggs and do anything else simultaneously...
I decided to give it a go, and find a proper, capable standing mixer that will be my little helper in the kitchen adventures. To achieve that, I set out some objective criteria, and a few subjective nice-to-have things, that might be interesting for you, when you decide to get your mixer too.
A 100% mixer should have...
Let's start with some obvious and basic requirements:
- must be sturdy, scratch-proof, resilient toward my sloppy kitchen maneuvering, and stable when placed on the counter,
- must have a whisk, a beater, and kneading hook(s),
- attachments must be metal (more about this one later),
- replacement parts must be widely available, in case something goes horribly wrong,
- must have a strong, powerful motor to handle kneading, or beating more ingredients together.
Let's talk about sturdy
I need my mixer to be a warrior, while I drop stuff into the bowl, the last thing I want to think about is if I will chip the paint, or break something. Obviously, metal constructions are superior.
Must be versatile
Standing mixers are huge, and since my kitchen is rather small, I need to reuse every single square centimeter of the counter space. A mixer that can knead, beat and whisk is a godsend and I perceive it an absolute minimum, although it's always nice to have extra attachments, and that will add greatly to my decision, too.
Go metal or go home
It's more or less must be sturdy argument, although this one goes a bit deeper. Metal is strong, sturdy, and... can be washed easily, getting rid of any bacteria that could spoil or contaminate the food. And trust me when I say, that it's worth caring about that. Plastic attachments will scratch over time, and these little dents and scratches make a perfect hiding place for harmful yeast, bacteria and just dirt and hard-to-remove leftovers. Also, plastic might chip over time, and that means your food might have small bits of your mixer. That's unhealthy, and kinda scary. Thus, go full-metal or go home.
Please don't break on me
Even the best machines break from time to time, it's natural, and painfully obvious. That is why I want to have available replacements at least basic attachments, if not also elements of the engine and gearbox.
Don't fail me
My mixer must be a little busy servant, when I need kneading, it should knead. When I need to beat some ingredients, it should be capable of doing that. Strong engine will guarantee enough power to get me through a the recipe, and I will pay close attention to the engine power.
... and it would be nice to have
Okay, since the basics were tackled, let's talk about things that I perceive nice-to-have:
- great looks, choice of colors, overall impression,
- extra attachments,
- calibration and adjustment capabilities,
- ease of use, and ease of operation under pressure,
- idiot-proofing ;-)
Have you seen these mixers? They. Are. Huge. No wonder why I'd like to have a nice looking mixer that will, well, add to the kitchen landscape, rather than being an ugly, or weird eyesore. It would be nice to have different colors, and positive (although it's subjective for me) impression. Please be aware that my sense of beauty can be completely different from yours and that's all okay :-)
I mentioned holy trinity of mixers already: kneading hook, beater, and whisk. It would nice though, to have some extra attachments to prepare various other recipes, e.g. pasta, vegetable slices, and so on. Since these attachments are smaller than separate devices, they not only do their job and make the mixer more usable, but also take less space, which is a nice feature for me and my tiny kitchen.
Calibration and adjusting
I suppose this factor is not very clear right away, but let me explain: I like tinkering, and since the standing mixer is more or less fixed in space, it should be possible to ensure proper operation: whisking off the sides, beating all ingredients in the bowl, reaching the bottom of the kneaded dough. It's super important, because I am going the mixer to do less work, and also worry less about mixing, scraping and all that kitchen-y stuff ;-) Being able to adjust the beaters, or bowl height is a nice to have feature, and will add greatly to the decision.
Mixing for dummies
In the ideal world, I would just know what to do without reading the instruction of the mixer. So, the ideal one should be easy to operate, intuitive, and just in case have a great, easy to follow instruction. I will check the online manual booklets, since they should be publicly available anyway.
Mixing for idiots
I'm without a doubt a bit clumsy around kitchen equipment. In my short life I managed to drop, burn, or otherwise effectively kill some of my equipment, and I will pay some attention to the idiot-proofing of the mixer. Because I had enough face-splashes of the dough in my life, and once managed to make my white kitchen walls straciatella ;-)
I think this is a good moment to wrap up the first part of the Choosing the best mixer for me series — in the next episode I will present you the candidates, and since I already have my lovely mixer, third part will be the review and real-life verification of the criteria I mentioned in this first part. Stay tuned and have fun in the kitchen! :-)