The size of your stand mixer definitely matters and considering that bigger sizes will cost more money, I wouldn’t recommend buying the larger size unless it’s absolutely necessary. Some brands such as KitchenAid also have miniature machines that have a smaller capacity than their main line of products. These might save us some money but they aren’t always appropriate. So how do you know which size mixer you need?
I know that there isn’t a tremendous amount of options, especially if you’ve already decided which brand you are going to buy. However, choosing the right size stand mixer really makes a difference. If you get the right size, your future cooking will be a lot easier but there are several things that you’ll want to consider.
Tilt Head vs. Bowl Lift
You should also decide whether you want a tilt-lift mixer or a bowl-lift mixer. Each model will be available in different sizes. The type of mixer you want will at least tell you what your size options are but on the flip side, settling on size might tell you which mixer you have to buy.
The difference between the two mixers is how you access the bowl and the attachments. With a tilt-head mixer, the bowl is stationary. A mixing part of the mixer tilts back so that you can remove the bowl and the attachments with ease.
With a bowl-lift mixer, it’s the opposite situation. On this mixer, the mixing part of the mixer is stationary but the bowl is adjustable. You can move it up to the mixer and you’ll be able to secure it in place but once you are done mixing, you have to detach the bowl and drop it so that you can remove it along with the attachments.
If we are looking at KitchenAid, the sizes are:
- Tilt-Head Mixers: 3.4-, 4.5- & 5-quart capacities
- Bowl-Lift Mixers: 4.5- and 8-quart capacities
- Artisan Mini: 3.5-quart capacity
Power Differences Between Sizes
Also, remember that different size stand mixers will have different levels of power. Bigger mixers obviously need the power to handle bigger batches.
I think that you’ll need to consider the types of things that you cook and how much you usually cook at one time. Looking at KitchenAid again, their 4.5-quart mixers give you 275 watts of power but their 5-quart mixers provide 325 watts of mixing power. The latter would be able to tackle thicker batters and doughs. If you were to buy an 8-quart bowl-lift mixer, you’d be getting a lot more power than that.
What’s Your Personal Preference?
A big part of choosing your stand mixer will be personal preference. You may not always need the biggest mixer but you may prefer to have it anyway.
Tilt-head mixers and bowl-lift mixers also divide a lot of people. Some people like the simplicity and convenience of the tilt-head mixer but others enjoy the professional look and stability of the bowl-lift mixers. If you prefer one over the other, that can narrow down your options. Some find it difficult to use the bowl-lift mixers but the tilt-head mixers can also run into problems and if the tilt head fails to work, it can be very frustrating.
Also, if you wanted a specific color or feature, you may not get it with every mixer model. I know that KitchenAid, for example, doesn’t offer all colors in all models so you’d either have to settle for a less-than-perfect color or go with the model that has your color.
Not all models come with dishwasher-safe attachments either. Some models have bowls with handles and others don’t so if you were drawn to a particular feature, you may not get the size that you want. Otherwise, you can sacrifice features for the right model and buy the features separately.
Problems with Buying Mixers That Are Too Big
The size of your stand mixers can actually cause problems so it’s important that you pick the size that’s most appropriate for your cooking habits. Sure, with an oversized mixer, you never have to worry about not having enough space but too much space isn’t always a good thing.
You want your ingredients to mix with ease. When there is too much space in the bowl, I’ve found that the ingredients slosh around, which can increase splashing. But it also increases movement and if the ingredients have too much freedom to move around, they won’t mix as quickly.
Problems with Buying Mixers That Are Too Small
Obviously, if you buy mixers that are too small, you might not be able to cook as much food as quickly. If you often cook multiple batches at a time, a small mixer wouldn’t have a large enough capacity to handle all of the ingredients. Overloading your mixer can cause it to overheat or splash out of the bowl so finding a balance is key.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying
To find out what size mixer you’ll need, you just need to ask yourself a few questions. Once you have the answer to all of these questions, I think you will have a better idea of what size you’ll need for your kitchen.
1. How Much Will I Be Cooking?
The number-one question to ask yourself is how much you’ll be cooking. For example, let’s say that I was an aspiring pastry chef who was prepared to use the heck out of my mixer until I mastered the art of pastry making. In that case, I’d want to buy a 5-quart size stand mixer or bigger so that I’ll be able to mix large batches on a regular basis.
On the other hand, if I were just a casual cook, I might not want to pay for the largest size when I could probably get by with a smaller mixer.
If you do cook a lot and your mixer is too small, it’s going to take longer to cook your meal or your dessert. You may even have to mix the batter in sections, which can really hurt the quality of the batter.
2. Do I Have a Large Family?
If every time you prepare food in your mixer, you are cooking for a large number of people, the contents of the mixer aren’t as important. It wouldn’t matter what you are cooking because you still need to be able to fit all of the ingredients into the bowl. So, if you’ve got a large family, you’ll want to think about how often you’d be using the mixer to feed everybody.
Additionally, are there other people in the family who will be using the mixer? If so, you might want to get something a little more powerful that can handle the extra usage.
3. Do I Make a Lot of Bread?
Some of the bigger mixers come with a spiral dough hook instead of the J-shaped dough hook. Many people who bake a lot of bread prefer the spiral hook but it doesn’t fit every type of mixer. If your mixer isn’t big enough, the spiral can press down into the bowl too hard and potentially damage the machine. Also, bread dough is thick and difficult to work with and if you bake bread frequently, you need something with the power to handle the dough.
This goes for all batters and doughs, though. A 5-quart mixer with a stronger motor can handle thick batters better than a 3.4-quart mixer. So, if you love gooey brownies, you might want to consider a bigger size.
4. Do I Have Counter Space?
I know that people sometimes underestimate the size of their mixers so before you buy one, make sure that you are paying attention to the counter space in your kitchen.
Of course, you want to make sure that there is a spot for your mixer in the first place but also look at the space between the countertop and the bottom of your kitchen cabinets. If you were planning on putting your mixer in that space, you can’t buy one that’s too tall and mixers do get taller as they increase in size. Obviously, this won’t be an issue for everybody.
So What Should You Buy?
In my experience, the typical homeowner doesn’t need anything bigger than a 5-quart mixer. This will handle all of your thick brownie batters, some bread doughs, and virtually anything else that you can mix, such as meat or eggs. It’s big enough to handle batches of varying sizes so even if you have to increase your recipe for a holiday or special event, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Unless you are currently or aspiring to be a professional baker, anything over a 6-quart stand mixer is probably going to be too large. However, if you’re primarily cooking for yourself and one other person, I’d say that you can get by with a smaller mixer. Many couples do just fine with the 3.4- or 3.5-quart mixer, which, for KitchenAid, is the same size as their mini models. Another benefit of having a smaller mixer is that is doesn’t take up as much counter space.