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I've always used the cheapest hand mixers (around 10 Euro). But I damaged a beater of my current one when I tried to make whipped canache - it was obviously too hard. So I plan to get a new one. Strangely, on paper there isn't much difference between 10 Euro models and 50 Euro models. They all come with foam beaters, dough hooks and 5 speeds.

  1. What are important things to look for in a good mixer?
  2. Can I use the watt numbers to make a meaningful comparison between models by different manufacturers? How important are they? I know that the watt numbers are supposed to indicate motor power. But I don't know if they have a meaning in the world of hand mixers, or if they have fallen prey to senseless inflation, the way loudspeaker watt number have. And if they are still meaningful, what is their relative importance as compared to other features?

I don't have a food processor or stand mixer, so the hand held mixer should be capable of doing a lot.

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Do you mean "beaters" rather than "dough hooks", or can you actually knead bread dough with a hand mixer? –  BobMcGee Jul 1 '11 at 5:04
    
@BobMcGee All hand mixers I've seen come with dough hooks. I've never succeeded in making dough with them - even when it is soft enough, it climbs up the spirals and reaches the mixer body. But maybe you can actually do it, I just don't know how. –  rumtscho Jul 1 '11 at 16:47
    
On topic: have you looked at reviews of various models? I don't know what the equivalent is in Germany, but in the US consumer Reports magazine, Amazon.com reviews, and ConsumerSearch do pretty good reviews. Also: it seems optimistic that manufacturers will trust their hand mixer to knead bread dough, when my 325W KitchenAid struggles. –  BobMcGee Jul 1 '11 at 18:47
    
@BobMcGee I don't read such consumers' magazines. Amazon is, as always, hit and miss - different people have different expectations from a gadget and tend to write a highly emotional response based on the extent to which the expectations were met. And your "325W KitchenAid" makes me even more suspicious about point 2, because most hand mixers seem to offer at least 300 W, but the 450 W models are more popular on Amazon. I still doubt that they are really as powerfull as 500 Eur stand mixers. –  rumtscho Jul 1 '11 at 19:04
    
Watt ratings aren't useless, but they're close. The problem is how you measure it; most mixers measure input electrical power, not mechanical output. To further muddle the issue, in some cases they report the peak power draw, which cannot be sustained for long, not the sustained power (the most it can supply for a prolonged period without overheating). The best way to evaluate are reviews from a reputable source that does repeatable lab testing. The second best way is a large site that draws from MANY (100+) user reviews. That minimizes the impact of single nutjobs. –  BobMcGee Jul 2 '11 at 4:23

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

What I look for in a good mixer are:

  • A comfortable grip (I'm sure we've all have painful wrists after whisking up eggs whites or similar)

  • Well made, sturdy parts. (some whisks are strong others are just thin wire.)

  • Variable speed control

  • The Watt rating.

To answer your No.2 question, watts are important. They measure how much power the machine uses. Higher watts will mean the machine does more of the work and your wrist does less of the work. The cheapest machines on the market are only good for whipping light foods like cream and mayonnaise. If you plan on mixing up heavy fruit cakes or bread doughs, you should choose a higher wattage machine.

Paying for a good quality machine, if you can afford it, will save you money in the end. My mother has had the same hand mixer for over 35 years. She paid for a good one and it lasted. I however, like you, opted for a low price machine because I was on a budget, I am now on my third and this time I bought a sturdier model and I am much more satisfied with it. If I'd bought the better machine at first, I'd have saved myself £50 or so over the time.

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Thank you. About the watt number, I already knew that much (see my edited question). The rest of your answer looks like I'll have to go to a brick-and-mortar shop to choose a mixer :( –  rumtscho Jul 1 '11 at 16:51

The one problem I keep having when I buy hand mixers is that, while it has a variable speed control, the lowest setting is far too fast to avoid messes in many applications. You want the speed control to go from rather slowly to rather quickly; mine goes from rather quickly to OMGSOFAST. That's why I'd go with a pricier model (mine was ~5-10USD, my old one broke and it was an emergency replacement).

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Maybe it's silly, but when purchasing a mixer, I pay attention to the amount of speed and power :-) I like powerful devices on my kitchen, that's why I bought Cuisinart HM-70 (7 speed, 220 watt!)
Here good review fo it.

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That's just the point. You can get lots of noname mixers for 10 Euros which claim to have substantially more power (400 Watt or more), but I doubt they are better than your Cuisinart. So I wanted to know if there are criteria besides a brand reputation and watt number. –  rumtscho Nov 29 '11 at 13:37

I can hear my 575W (output power!) Kitchenaid stand mixer fighting dough at times: it takes a lot of power to knead dough (especially low-hydration dough). I'm having a hard time believing that a hand mixer could do so at all, and if it were powerful enough, holding it would be extremely tiring. Cook's Illustrated says that “even the best hand mixers fail miserably at kneading bread dough….” Keep in mind a stand mixer is easily 20 lbs (9kg), much of that the motor. A 3 lb hand mixer would be heavy.

I'm also not sure how you'd expect a hand mixer to do the kinds of things a food processor does.

Ultimately, they're useful for light jobs and small jobs; the better ones can do heavier things too (mashed potatoes).

Unfortunately the best way to chose one is based on its kitchen performance, which is going to mean either testing a bunch or looking at reviews (possibly professional ones). Possibly you can find those review magazines at your local library?

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In addition to the points of the previous answer I would like to add:

  • Volume of the bowl
  • Durability of the clutch

The clutches in many of the ones I have seen are made of plastic and can very easily wear out fast if they slip or aren't engaged properly before power is applied.

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Chopper bowl? You are probably thinking of a blender. I mean a mixer (for whipping cream, making batter, etc.) I also don't know what you call a clutch in a mixer or a blender. –  rumtscho Jul 24 '11 at 19:26
    
@rumtscho Your right I was looking at several questions regarding blenders and so had blenders on the brain! I'll edit now. Still my points hold just as true for mixers. The clutch being the interface where the motor engages the tool. –  barrymac Jul 24 '11 at 19:33

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