For anyone who bakes, whether you are a curious novice, or Martha Stewart in disguise, your most treasured appliance is very likely a mixer. While in a pinch (say, when you are camping!), the use of a metal or wooden spoon can get the job done, the use of an electric mixer whether hand-held or stand-up, makes a baker’s job easier and faster. Hands down.
In this article we hope to share the reasons and benefits to using one kind of mixer over another, and to also share a little bit of history to make your mixing magic a bit more meaningful.
It was, in fact, upon seeing a baker using a metal spoon to mix some bread dough that in 1908 Herbert Johnson, an engineer for Hobart Manufacturing Company, put his mechanical abilities to good use and invented an electric stand-up mixer.
Sure enough, the appliance proved to be quite useful and reliable, and by 1915, Johnson had started selling 80-quart stand-up mixers for use on Navy vessels and in commercial baking kitchens. Who knew? But the curious thing is that, over the next several decades to follow, much effort and ingenuity went into inventing all varieties of stand-up/counter-top mixers (which is the origin of what we all know as today’s “KitchenAid” mixer) though the at-home baker was still using a spoon or a whisk to create after-school treats, and after-dinner desserts. We call that hard labor!
Finally in 1964, a French kitchen company by the name of Dynamic introduced an electric hand-held mixer and it very quickly took homemaker-bakers by storm. Similar models of this new “dream appliance” were manufactured and sold across the world, and since then, baking has never been the same.
But even the best of bakers often need to determine which kind of mixing appliance is best for the job they have at hand, and we’re going to provide you with tips to help you make that decision:
5 Reasons to Use an Electric Hand-Held Mixer
- The job is small. The best feature of a hand-held mixer is that it’s convenient. Fairly light in weight, can be plugged in anywhere, and still quite versatile, a hand-held mixer is perfect for whipping up a small batch of frosting for brownies, or beating some eggs for Yorkshire pudding, or even for mixing up some spur-of-the-moment chocolate-chip cookie dough. Basically, if whatever you are making can fit inside of a small or medium sized mixing bowl, use the hand-held mixer.
- You are in a hurry. Again, this is a matter of convenience, but if you’ve got company for dinner and at the last minute you decide to throw a pound cake in the oven for a strawberry-shortcake-kind-of-dessert, then by all means use your hand-held mixer. Usually this mixer is easy to get to, easy to clean, and easy to put away…all before your company arrives!
- The ease of “clean.” What’s really nice about hand-held mixers is their simple and straight-forward design. You have the electric base (the hand-held part) and then you have the attachments (typically either beater blades or a whisk) which literally “pop in” or “pop out” with very little effort. The attachments are usually quite easy to clean in the sink (wash, rinse, dry), and the base, with the swift wipe down of a wash rag, is pretty much back to as good as new.
- You are multi-tasking. If you happen to be a more experienced baker, it could be that you are making something like a large batch of frosted brownies. For a job like this, you very likely have the brownie batter mixing in a stand mixer on your counter, so for the frosting, in order to save time, you whip out your hand-held mixer and a bowl to get the frosting part of the treat finished, and ready to go.
- Less power is more. For certain things, like blending a delicate béarnaise sauce, or mixing a salad dressing, a hand-held mixer will have enough power to sufficiently achieve your desired result without overdoing anything. There’s nothing worse than a sauce or a dressing that separates, and to avoid such a disaster, it’s better to err on the side of caution use a hand-held, not-too-powerful mixer.
5 Reasons to Use a Stand-Up Mixer
- You’re making a double or triple batch. In general, the bowl on a stand-up mixer is at least 5 quarts, and can therefore hold a fairly good-sized batch of batter, or dough. Let’s face it, science has proven that it’s more cost effective (labor wise, time wise, and utility wise) to make one double-batch of cookies, than it is to make two separate single batches. Here’s where a good sized bowl and a powerful motor really become handy.
- You need to walk away. These days, it’s almost blasphemous to not be doing two or three or even four things at once, and if you use a stand-up mixer to do your mixing for you, then you can maintain your super-human status! Since the stand-up mixer is heavier, and stationary (where it usually holds a permanent spot of real-estate on your counter) it can keep mixing while you are doing other things, like marinating the steak, setting the table, calling your mother, or dancing to your favorite tune when no one is watching!
- It’s truly multi-functional. In general, your stand-up mixer will come equipped with a number of attachments that include but are not limited to a whisk, paddle beaters, a dough hook, and if you’re lucky a meat grinder. And because of the horsepower that a stand-up mixer has, each attachment does a fine and quick job of getting the task done. With a dough hook, making bread dough is such a snap that you might never go back to hand kneading again.
- You always know where it’s at. While you might be super organized and always know where your tools and utensils are, we’ve found that getting straight to business when it comes to mixing or baking is kinda neat. No more trying to remember which cabinet or drawer you put the hand-held mixer in. And no more hunting for the beaters that go into the mixer. It’s all right where you left it, on the counter, ready to go.
- Hot foods can be easily processed. These days, mixers (especially stand-up mixers) are not just for baking and dessert making. How about using your stand-up mixer to make the fluffiest, most luscious mashed potatoes you’ve ever had in your life? Or, if you’re craving Mexican food, did you know that you can use the paddle attachment for your stand-up mixer to easily shred your cooked chicken breast for authentic tasting enchiladas? Not only does the mixer have the power to mash (beat), or shred, savory food items, but it also keeps you from having to handle the hot food, or a hot bowl. It’s called “letting the mixer do the work for you!”
Whether we’re talking about hand-held mixers or stand-up mixers, there’s no question that using either one of them, or both, is a whole lot easier than using a spoon. Of course, there are a few down-sides to both, such as with the hand-held mixer your arm can get tired very quickly, and in using the stand-up mixer the clean-up process is a little more involved. While most people find it hard to justify spending north of $300 for a mixer, it is possible to find decent stand mixers under $100.
But really, the most important questions to ask are what am I trying to accomplish, and how much time do I have? Based on your answers to these two key questions, you should now be able to make a truly educated decision about which mixer to use!