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Test Drive: Hand Mixers

These two models mixed, whipped, and beat their way to the front of the pack.

Fine Cooking Issue 116
Photos: Scott Phillips
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When it comes to beating egg whites, whipping heavy cream, or creaming butter with sugar, it’s hard to top a hand mixer. Sturdy and powerful, they’re a mere fraction of the price of a stand mixer, not to mention easy to clean and stash in a cabinet or drawer. To find the best of the best, I put 12 models to the test. These two delivered near flawless performances.

Best Investment

KitchenAid 9-speed digital hand mixer
$89.95 at cooking.com

Although this mixer lacks the bells and whistles of many other models, its superb performance and simple, satisfying design made it my favorite. Compact, well-balanced, and light (it weighs 2 pounds versus the average 2-1/2), this mixer excelled in all of the tests: It whipped cream and beat egg whites in just 80 to 90 seconds, mixed cake batter with ease, and worked its way through heavy, dense cookie dough without a single sputter.

As for its design, some of its most subtle features are its smartest. For example, you don’t have to push the “up” button nine times to hit top speed—just hold it down and the mixer works up through the speeds itself. Its handle feels comfortable in both small and large hands and has a slightly tacky grip that stays firmly in your grasp. It also has “on” and“off” buttons, a nice  safety measure (see What to Consider, at right). The real prize, though, is its incredibly quiet motor; even when it’s set to high speed, you can hold a normal conversation. Attachments include beaters (which are rounded, so quieter), dough hooks, a whisk, and a blender rod (for making blended drinks). This model comes with a one-year limited warranty.

Best Bargain Buy

Waring Pro 10-speed hand mixer
$39.95 at cutleryandmore.com

Although half the price, this model was nearly on par with the KitchenAid in terms of performance. It whipped cream and beat egg whites in 90 to 100 seconds, and it mixed cake batter to perfection. But it was during the toughest test, making cookie dough, that it really stood out: This mixer plowed through the dense mixture without slowing or straining—an uncommon feat for a mixer at this price.

Where the Waring Pro loses a point or two is in its design: It feels somewhat bulky in the hand, is of average weight (2-1/2 pounds), and is about as loud as a typical hand mixer (its squared-off beaters don’t help, making a racket in some bowls). That said, I love the large, easy-to-read LCD timer display; it starts counting up as soon as the mixer’s turned on, which makes it easy to keep track of time, should you need to. It also has “start” and “stop” buttons to prevent the mixer from turning on when you don’t want it to and comes with basic beater attachments only—a good thing, actually, as it spares you from having to store other rarely used attachments. It has a one-year limited appliance and five-year limited motor warranty.

What to Consider

Speeds The difference between a 5-speed and a 16-speed mixer? Eleven extra steps to the highest setting, which I use most often. Generally, three to five speeds will cover all of your mixing needs, although most mixers (even our winners) have more.

Attachments Beaters are a must, extra attachments are not. I prefer rounded beaters to more square ones, as they tend to be quieter. Blender rods, whisks, or silicone-coated beaters are mostly superfluous, since you can use your basic beaters for nearly every task.

On/off buttons These ensure that your mixer starts only when you’re ready. Mixers without on/off buttons can be inadvertently switched on. It’s scary—and dangerous—to plug in a mixer and have its beaters suddenly start spinning away.

Wattage It’s not that important. Although wattage is a measure of the energy going into a hand mixer, it’s a poor indicator of how effectively the beaters will perform in the bowl.

Design The simplest mixers are often the best. Bowl rests, “quick burst” turbo options, and even cord storage mechanisms add little to performance (in fact, the latter makes most mixers tail-heavy and awkward to use). One detail I do find handy is a built-in timer, but it’s certainly not a must

Testing Methods

I tested 12 hand mixers from 11 manufacturers. Using the basic beater attachment for each model, I beat egg whites to medium peaks and heavy cream to soft peaks, and mixed cake batter and cookie dough. I noted the time it took each model to complete the tasks and evaluated each on ease of use and comfort. I also took into account weight, beater style, range of speeds, and any extra features.


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