You don’t have to be a contestant on a reality baking show to appreciate the power of a sturdy stand mixer. With one, you can plow through thick cookie dough and whip heavy cream into a frothy dessert. And even if your cooking leans toward the savory, you can use the stand mixer attachment to make sausage or pasta or spiralize vegetables. All you need is counter space.
But if you’re short on space and only need a mixer from time to time for light jobs, like making frosting for a birthday cake or scrambling several eggs for a frittata, you can get by with a hand mixer, which isn’t. Heavy to store yet still efficient in cream and other baking tasks.
And, heck, if you cook a lot or have a big family, you can do one of each. Whipping two egg whites with a hand mixer is easier than getting out the heavy machinery. Save it for a batch of bread dough or cookies.
How we test mixers
We test mixers on different tasks. We make chocolate chip cookies to test mixing performance because they have a dense dough that can really challenge a mixer. To test the dough, we add blue and yellow coloring to the bread dough and see how long it takes the mixer to turn the dough even green. We top our performance tests by determining how long it takes to pour a half-pint of heavy cream to an aerobic peak.
We also judge the sound when the mixer is running at maximum speed. To score mixers for convenience, we evaluate how easy it is to attach and remove the beater and bowl, and how easy it is to adjust the mixer’s speed.
In the mix: What to consider
Another consideration when buying a mixer is how much you want to spend. CR’s tested hand mixers range in price from $25 to $150, and you don’t have to spend top dollar to get a good one.
The stand mixers we test range in price from $40 to $1,000, and most of the mixers in our best stand mixers review hit a sweet spot in the middle. Spend a little more and you can add attachments that transform your stand mixer into a meat grinder, spiralizer, fresh pasta maker and more.
If you are buying a hand mixer, look for one with an extra attachment. A separate whisk makes whipping easier. Wire beaters are easier to clean than traditional center-post beaters. And remember that hand mixers with slow-start options are less likely to spill.
Considering a stand mixer? In addition to taking stock of your counter and storage space, make sure you have enough clearance between the top of your counter and the bottom of your cabinets (if you’re going to use the mixer there). Most models have a head that tilts up when you add or remove the beater and bowl. So you want to make sure your overhead cabinets aren’t too low to accommodate the extra height. Some stand mixers have a lever that raises and lowers the bowl—the head stays still—and may be a better fit.
Regardless of which type of mixer you choose, our mixer tests show substantial differences in performance between different models. And while manufacturers emphasize wattage and speed numbers, neither figure necessarily translates into better performance.
Hand or stand
Which food-preparation equipment best suits your lifestyle? The machine matches the foods you prepare most often and how you want to prepare them. (And remember that you may need more than one.) Hand mixers can handle most light tasks, while powerful stand mixers are ideal for heavy doughs, batters, and more.
A stand mixer can do everything a hand mixer can do, and is more capable of mixing thick cookie batters and bread doughs. But they are heavy and take up counter space.
Some use two beaters, which rotate against each other. Others use a beater, which rotates in one direction and moves in the opposite direction around the bowl. Most of the mixers in our rating have a beater. Light-duty models usually have a fixed beater and a bowl that sits on a rotating turntable.
For full details on each mixer, including height and weight, as well as which attachments are included, see our full ratings view and move the Ratings & Specs slider to find that information.
They’re best for light-duty tasks like whipping cream or egg whites, mixing cake batter, and mashing potatoes. But they are not as good as stand mixers when it comes to mixing dough.
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Most top-performing hand mixers have wire beaters without the thick center post found in traditional-style beaters. Wire beaters work well and are easy to clean. Some come with additional attachments; Check out our full view of ratings and move the Ratings & Specs slider to find that information
A definite plus is that hand mixers are easy to store and require no counter space.
Black+Decker, Hamilton Beach, and Sunbeam are dominant brands in hand mixers. KitchenAid owns about half the stand-mixer market; Hamilton Beach and Sunbeam are the next-best-selling brands. Use these profiles to compare mixers by brand.