Buying That New Mixer

Reader Chana, a reader and prolific baker, has finally worn out her KitchenAid and is in the market for a new machine. I receive requests for mixer recommendations regularly, but haven’t written on the subject for quite some time. It’s time to update!

The machine I own is a Viking Professional 7-quart, which is a powerhouse and I bought it for that reason. It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s incredibly noisy (leaves my ears ringing, actually) and powers through huge masses of dough. But that’s what I needed at the time. I was baking lots of bread but couldn’t rationalize keeping my old Hobart 20-quart in the kitchen anymore. Power was all I was thinking about and I wasn’t disappointed.

However Viking mixers are pretty poor at finesse. Because it’s designed for big jobs, the implements don’t reach all the way to the bottom of the bowl. The loops of the whip can be bent to reach, but that trick won’t work with the beater. I have to actually unlock the bowl from the base and raise it up to the implement, and that’s a drag (plus a little dangerous). So unless you’re going to supplement with a hand mixer (I just got a KitchenAid Artisan for Christmas, which rocks) I don’t recommend it.

My belief is that you can’t go wrong with a KtichenAid Classic. It has a five quart bowl which is plenty for most jobs and the motors were re-engineered a few years ago for greater power. They’re the home version of the Hobart mixer, a mainstay of professional bakeries everywhere, and a top quality machine. When you factor in that you can usually find a KitchenAid on deep discount from one major retailer or another, it’s a natural choice. The Artisans are also very good, though they cost a little more.

Of course there are a lot of other home machines out there. Most of them cost less but don’t perform as well. I have a friend who swears by Cuisinart stand mixers, however there’s only one non-KitchenAid that’s really knocked my socks off lately: the Breville BEM800XL. It’s a lovely precision machine, plus it’s got lots of power without the noise of the Viking. If I were shopping for another mixer right now, I’d take a serious look at it. Hope that helps, Chana!

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35 Responses to Buying That New Mixer

  1. Bronwyn says:

    Do you have Kenwood Chef over there? They’re comparable to Kitchen Aids, just have a less retro look about them – although there is a retro looking version they brought out a while ago. I have one and I love it, my mother had one too. Like Kitchen Aids though, the older ones seem to be better quality than the newer ones.
    When I got mine I did a comparison check of power etc between Kitchen Aid and Kenwood Chef. I think the innards must run quite differently as the Kenwood on paper is way more powerful. I doubt that it is in practice though. The prices are similar, and so are the available attachments.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Bronwyn!

      We do have Kenwoods (just plain “Kenwood mixers” as they call them) here, but they come in and out of production, at least for U.S. markets. At the moment there are some around. For how long I don’t know!

      By I agree with you about old models. My grandmother’s KitchenAid, which my cousin owns, is still running after about fifty years. But they were really and truly made by Hobart then, and were practically indestructible.

      - Joe

      • Mary Lou says:

        My KitchenAid was purchased for my Mom in 1962 and is still in daily use after all these years. My stepdad bought it because of its strong motor and it has run without repair. I am sure it will run forever.

  2. Katie says:

    I heard some not so great things about the newer KitchenAid mixers, and decided to go with the Breville BEM800XL about a year ago – I love it! I haven’t tried it using heavy duty dough like bread yet but I really like that there are so many mixing speeds, the timer to keep track how long things are mixing at a given speed, and the “planetary” motion of the whip to mix more efficiently. The only thing I don’t like about it is that you can raise the top part while the mixer is still spinning – this seems like a potential safety issue.

  3. Zoë @rumandreason says:

    I just researched and bought a new mixer which I’ll use primarily for wet, enriched yeasted doughs like brioche – kneading butter in my Bahamian kitchen is… messy. For cakey stuff I use the Dualit hand mixer which is awesome and sounds like a power tool ;0)

    Obviously I got totally into the freshloaf and chow forums where the Breville mixer was highly recommended. But, for bread, people rave about the Bosch mixers for their apparently more efficient design and their toughness at kneading even stiff bagel dough. I got the smaller Compact model as there’s just two of us at home. Admittedly it’s not a thing of beauty but maybe one to consider, especially at the $200 price. And it’s light too (it’s in my suitcase at the mo). We’ll see how it works out!

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Zoe! I’ve seen those Bosch mixers and heard some similar things. They look very much like mini versions of professional spiral mixers, so I’m not surprised they’d do so well on bread dough. As with so many devices, it’s all about what you want to do with it!

      Thanks for the great comment!

      - Joe

  4. Linda says:

    Didn’t KitchenAid just come out with a larger model? A 7 or 7 1/2 qt one? I wondered how it stacked up. I saw the Breville discussed and reviewed and thought it looked pretty sweet. For now my 6 qt. does the job so I probably won’t spend the $$ but it is slick.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Linda!

      The KitchenAids are really excellent across the board. The 7 quart models are very noisy but excellent. I’ve used them for light duty jobs in a couple of different bakery environments and I can tell you that they can withstand years of sustained abuse. They’re definitely superior to, if not quite as powerful as, the Viking seven quart. I say this because I love the raise/lower bar that allows for easy access and/or removal of the bowl. Vikings are terrible for access. The bowls are tall and narrow which makes it difficult to add ingredients on the fly. The KitchenAid professionals mimic the actual Hobart design, and there’s none that’s better. I’d say they’re well worth the investment should you decide to buy a new one.

      - Joe

  5. Tora says:

    I own a Kenwood (quite new, just two years now) and it’s fantastic. It’s one of the lower tier models too, but it has never failed me. It’s powerful and versatile, and kneads dough like a champ.

    Both my mum and mum in law own Kenwoods, both have had their for 25 and 40 years respectively. Still run like clockwork, it’s almost frightening. Mum did purchase a KitchenAid for the cabin, it’s quite good too, but I’m partial to the Kenwood, way too nostalgic by now, can’t turn me around!

    Your Viking certainly sounds like a viking, a little impressive, scary, but also endearing in some way. Thanks for your magnificent blog, Joe!

    • joepastry says:

      Wonderful review and endorsement, Tora. Very astute also, those Vikings really are well named, aren’t they? Big and muscular but loud, unrefined and hard to control. Pretty much all their products are that way. Indeed most people don’t realize when they buy “pro” kitchen gear that it usually has nowhere near the versatility of the home gear they’re accustomed to. Viking stoves, for example, are great at pumping out huge heat. But try making a dainty dish of scrambled eggs with one and you soon see their limitations. It’s the same with professional refrigerators, mixers and whatnot. It’s all big and loud and tough and mostly bad at the little things. Contrary to popular opinion, home kitchen equipment isn’t wimpy, it’s just designed for a different environment and a different type of user.

      Thanks for your very kind words also!

      - Joe

      • Sandra says:

        Is that true of the KitchenAids as well? I’d heard that the more recent versions of the lower-end models (Classic, Artisan, etc.) have some plastic gears, while the higher-end (500 and 600 Pro) have all metal gears. I suspect part of the reason the 50-year-old machines are all metal, which is why they’ve lasted so long. I can buy a refurbished high-end machine for little more than an off-the-shelf low-end one, but don’t want to lose finesse and versatility.

        • joepastry says:

          Hey Sandra!

          Indeed KitchenAids — including some of the pro models — had some plastic gears once upon a time. Hobart spun the KitchenAid company off to Whirlpool in the late 80′s, at which point some tinkering evidently began in order to reduce weight and drive down some production costs.

          The problem with those gears wasn’t so much breakage, but when you ran them for a long time the heat would cause the plastic gears to warp and slip. That problem’s been fixed for at least six or seven years now, though older models could still be breaking down as a result of that problem. I still don’t think you can go wrong with them.

          And personally I really like refurbished machines, probably as a result of my time working in professional bake shops where you never buy anything new if you can possibly help it. I once came close to buying a 40-quart Hobart from the 30′s that looked like a torpedo tube on a stand. It ran like a top, but I would have had to have any replacement parts custom-machined. I passed.

          The nice thing about refurbishing is that you know someone has gone through it and replaced worn or defective parts. It’s a good deal in my opinion.

          - Joe

  6. Linda says:

    I still have my original KA 4 1/2 quart mixer and other than some big batches it really was great. I finally talked myself into the 6 qt. and really haven’t used the 4 1/2 since except when needing a lot of mixing at the same time. My biggest complaint with the 4 1/2 qt vs. the 6 is that the 6 was done after they started governing the speeds so it didn’t start out full speed but edged into it more slowly. The 4 1/2 has a tendency even on the slowest speeds to toss dry ingredients. Yes, there is a pouring shield but a bit of a nuisance when working with getting things mixed and stirred to mix it well. And I think you mentioned the KA hand mixer. I got one of those for “little jobs” that are easier with the hand-mixer or just faster when all that power isn’t needed. I was quite impressed with the muscle for a hand-mixer. I’d say most people could manage with that alone unless they need the muscle. I see Bed, Bath and Beyond carries the 5-qt. Breville mixer. I might have to go look at that one day. Thanks for a great blog and dialogue about mixers!

    • joepastry says:

      Thanks for joining the dialogue, Linda! Now that I have a hand mixer (first time ever) I’m amazed at how useful they are.

      Regarding mixing speeds, that is something I like about the Viking. It has a rheostat control so no mate what speed you turn it to, it starts up slowly and builds to speed. I do remember how my old KitchenAid classic threw ingredients around. But as you say, things are different now.

      Thanks again!

      - Joe

  7. Linda n says:

    A Viking 5 quart has the power and is better at scraping the bottom of the bowl. Having a Kitchenaid 600 pro bite the dust after one year-plastic gear box- they wouldn’t fix it- I went with the Viking. I can do a good batch of dough, no issues and there’s more clearance than the seven quart on the sides. You can still find them online but Viking has discontinued their small appliances. I also have their toaster and coffee pot. Best coffee pot ever!

  8. Rachel says:

    Just wanted to add that I have a Kitchen Aid Artisan which I have loved, but it isn’t great at a double batch of bread. I actually burned out the worm gear but was able to replace it myself which is something to keep in mind for the Kitchen Aid. A lot of the parts are meant to be replaced, so instead of buying a new machine, see what the cost is for repair. I spent about $10 for the replacement part and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to fix thanks to google.:)

  9. Heather says:

    Oh good a chance to indulge…Heather and the 2 Cake Mixers.

    In 1980 at the time of my marriage I purchased a Kenwood Mixer (made in England), wonderful, faithful, hard working, reliable (just like the man I married) – jump 30 years , a few minor repairs along the way (the Kenwood), standing in the kitchen in 2010 the Kenwood had a minor explosion and stopped ! It was able to be repaired all but the locking mechanism to keep the beater down in the bowl – which meant I had to stand and rest my hand on the top to stop the beater rearing up out of the bowl – very frustrating after a while – so began the big decision, another Kenwood or a Kitchen Aid – now available in New Zealand.
    After thorough research, watching of the celebrity cooks, reading blogs and reviews I decided on a Kitchen Aid Artisan and I feel like a lone voice here but I have been really disappointed :(

    In fairness to the mixer I have no problem with the power/speed, aesthetics, whipping or dough mixing – but the scraping down drives me nuts ! I have purchased a KA beater that is meant to scrape the sides more efficiently and therefore reduce the amount of scraping down but it is only marginally better.
    I think one of the issues for me is that a lot of my home baking is of cookies, cakes and slices that all require the creaming of butter and sugar and I find the Kitchen Aid just doesn’t do it that evenly and I’m forever scraping down the bowl to achieve even mixing of batters, have had some poor results in cakes where small unmixed spots of butter have melted through the batter, also I’m not that tall at 5’3″ and feel I have to get right up over the machine to scrap down.

    I will say for frostings and eggwhites (for Pavlovas) it’s great.

    In New Zealand a Kitchen Aid costs on average $NZ1000 – about $US840 and rarely discounted – so it was quite a significant investment. I’m actually considering selling the Kitchen Aid and replacing it with either a Breville or Kenwood.
    Happy to report no breakdown, replacement or selling of husband – we’re still mixing along after 32 years. Thanks for the opportunity to rant about my cake mixer :)

    • joepastry says:

      Thanks Heather! Always goof to have another perspective. Like most other bakers I don’t really enjoy scraping exactly, but I do it, do it, do it. I also really dislike those beaters with the rubber blades that are supposed to scrape for you. I don’t think they work all that well and only encourage bad habits…i.e. of just dumping everything into the bowl and not investigating the contents as they mix. There’s a lot to be learned in there! That’s MY rant.

      I’ll be curious to know if the Breville is better for you, should you go in that direction. I’m curious now as to what it might be about the Kenwood that minimizes scraping. Very interesting!

      Thanks for the great comment, Heather!

      - Joe

  10. Matthew says:

    I’m pretty sure the Classic series is only available in 4.5 qt. The Artisans are 5, which is why I ended up with one. And love it! It’s a solid recommendation.

  11. Faith says:

    I think it’s too late for Heather to read this, but it’s worth noting anyway. On the KA Artisans you can adjust the positioning of the attachments. Directions for it are in the manual that comes with the mixer. When I adjusted mine it was super easy, required only a screwdriver, and completely eliminated the need for scraping!

  12. Thanks for this post. I got a small mixer as a Christmas gift. I am looking forward to using it this month.

    • joepastry says:

      Congratulations Corve! I do love my mixer. I’m sure you’ll put yours to good use!

      - Joe

  13. MaMichelle says:

    I’m a long time lurker, but never felt the need to post before.
    I think it really does depend on what you want to do with the machine. I like my Kitchen Aid 6-qt. pro machine for many things, but if I had to choose between it and my Bosch Universal I’d pick the Bosch every time. I bake a big batch of 100% whole wheat bread every day and there’s no way my Kitchen Aid’s motor could stand up to that kind of workload. The Bosch is the best for muscle, hands down. Whipping egg whites or cream or something like that, the KA has a more user-friendly design. But in the end the pure workaholism (is that a word? I think it should be…) of the Bosch is unbeatable.

    Of course the kitchen in our house feels like it stands with one foot in the “pro” world and one in the “home.” Seven kids, including 4 teen boys, plus all their friends for every meal is something more akin to feeding a military company than a typical family dinner. I don’t know that many people would need or want the industrial behemoths at home that work so well for me. :)

    • joepastry says:

      Nice to finally hear from you, Michelle! Sounds like you have a hung production kitchen all your own!

      Thanks very much for the very useful comment!

      - Joe

  14. Bev says:

    Hi All. I have only just found Joepastry and this interesting discussion! I live in Australia and was very excited about 18 months ago to finally buy a beautiful Kitchen Aid. I had wanted one for many years and loved how it looked in my kitchen. Unfortunately I had trouble with it immediately. I make all our own bread so I use a mixer almost daily. The motor did not cope at all. The service centre for Kitchen Aid listened to the noise the motor was making over the phone! They said they knew what had happened and that the mixer would be replaced. The next mixer did exactly the same thing. They offered to replace it again but would not give me a straight answer regarding the suitability of the mixer for bread dough so I very sadly turned down their offer.I now own a Kenwood. It doesn’t have the good looks of the Kitchen Aid but it copes very well with all I ask it to do. Good looks aren’t everything I suppose

    • joepastry says:

      What a shame, Bev! But thanks for the very helpful comment. Yes it seems that for regular bread makers a KitchenAid really isn’t the thing. Bosch and Viking seem to be the power mixers for bread heads, with KitchenAid being the most versatile for pastry makers. At least that seems to be the rule based on this discussion. Thanks for contributing to this…and welcome!

      - Joe

  15. Linda says:

    Not trying to generate business for anyone but I’ve never heard of this mixer before and saw it in a Groupon Goods list. Pretty funky looking and a combo mixer.

    http://tinyurl.com/acz6vy5

  16. Melanie C. says:

    For me kitchenaid always has been the best. I love it. The colors, designs and power. The artisans is my favourite.

    • joepastry says:

      I think that’ll be my next machine, Melanie! I like the Viking but it’s not engineered as well as the KitchenAid.

      Thanks for checking in!

      - Joe

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