When you’re mixing a batter for baking cakes or preparing dough for cookies, how do you decide between a hand mixer vs. a stand mixer? There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but there are definitely some food and cooking jobs that are better suited to one or the other.
Here’s an exploration of the advantages and disadvantages of both stand mixers and hand mixers, as well as information on when it’s best to simply mix by hand. Let’s mix it up!
What it is:
A handheld mixing device. There are two primary types.
- Eggbeater: Also called a rotary hand beater, this is a handheld device with a crank on the side that’s connected to beaters (usually two). It is operated using two hands — one to hold a handle on the top to keep the beater steady, and the other hand to operate the crank, creating the beating.
- Electric hand mixer: Basically, this is the more modern version of an eggbeater type mixer, but with a motor. A motor is encased in a top section, which has a handle (not unlike an iron). It’s the motor that moves the beaters, rather than cranking a handle.
Advantages to using a hand mixer:
- Less expensive than a stand mixer.
- Quick and easy cleanup.
- It takes up minimal space in your kitchen.
- Well suited to quick tasks, such as whipping cream or egg whites.
- Because the beaters are not fitted to a particular mixing bowl, you can use a hand mixer in any type of bowl.
Disadvantages to using a hand mixer:
- With a smaller motor, its mixing capability isn’t as strong as a stand mixer.
- Because the bowl will not be in a fixed position, it can be easy to splash what you’re mixing out of the bowl if you don’t have a steady hand.
- If a batter is very thick, it can be difficult to maneuver the smaller mixer through it in a mixing bowl.
What it is:
The Cadillac of mixers. Stand mixers have a frame that acts as the housing for a heavier-duty motor than a hand mixer, as well as the mounting base for a bowl, which is designed to fit the mixer and lock in place during mixing. The bowls on home models will generally hold 4 quarts of liquid, where commercial stand mixers can hold upwards of 100 quarts. Typically, home models will be suitable to be kept on a countertop, whereas commercial models are mounted on the floor.
Usually, stand mixers will have various mixing attachments, including a flat beater (or paddle), which is ideal for creaming and mixing, a whisk attachment, which can be used for whipping cream or egg whites, and a dough hook for kneading heavier dough, such as bread dough.
Advantages to using a stand mixer:
- The large mixing bowl helps avoid splashing batter out of the bowl.
- The stable bowl allows you to walk away from the bowl, so if you are mixing something for 6 minutes, you don’t have to be holding the bowl or mixer the whole time.
- Mixing is much quicker, even with a thick batter or dough.
- Stand mixers are more likely to comes with bells and whistles, such as timers, automatic stop and other programmable settings.
Disadvantages to using a stand mixer:
- Cleaning the various parts can be cumbersome.
- Stand mixers are significantly more expensive than hand mixers.
- They are heavy and large, and take up a big chunk of kitchen “real estate”.
What about mixing by hand?
Let us not forget that before there were any mixers, we beat things by hand. And even today, if you don’t have a stand or hand mixer, you can technically perform any of the jobs they do by hand. So if you don’t own or have access to a hand or stand mixer, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a recipe.
Why “technically”? Well, if you’ve ever whisked egg whites to firm peaks by hand, you’ll easily understand why it’s nice to have at least an egg beater on hand. Mixing by hand does take significantly longer, and will give you a good cardio workout.
When it’s best to mix by hand:
Sometimes, mixing by hand is the best course of action. Here are some examples:
- If a recipe calls for eggs “lightly beaten” — simply do this in a bowl using a fork or a wire whisk.
- If a recipe calls to “fold in” an ingredient, it’s often best to do this by hand. For instance: Stirring chocolate chips into cookie batter, or folding egg whites into a cake batter.
- If the mixing is done over heat. For instance, if you’re melting chocolate and the recipe calls for you to “stir frequently”. Please don’t do this with a hand mixer.
If you’re new to baking, learn the trick to baking perfect cakes every time in The Wilton Method: Baking Basics with Beth Somers.