As a home cook with decent chops, I feel pressured to buy one of those giant, cool looking mixers in a bright color. But it ain’t cheap. Can you tell me if it’s really worth the investment and counter space?
Yes, yes, unequivocally yes. My gorgeous tangerine KitchenAid stand mixer was purchased in 2003 as a reward to myself for my first promotion; it was the first time in my professional life that I would no longer be responsible for ordering someone else’s lunch and even on my assistant editor’s salary (actually, still the same salary as when I was an editorial assistant), I felt it was worth the splurge.Six years later, I am still not regretting blowing my small budget on the machine. If you think you’re not a baker, this might be the tool that changes your mind. The standard mixer comes with a flat paddle beater, whisk, and dough hook, with which you can:
- beat egg whites (so now you can make souffles, marshmallow fluff, angel food cake…)
- mix up cookie dough, even the really thick ones like biscotti
- mix up cake batter
- make pizza dough
- make bread dough
- whip fresh whipped cream
- make homemade frosting for your store-bought brownies
- make homemade mayonnaise
I could go on. The overwhelming benefit of having the stand mixer is that it takes care of a lot of tasks that would otherwise kill your arms or take a lot of time to do by hand—for instance, I’ll have it whip my egg whites while I’m simultaneously heating my waffle maker and mixing together waffle batter in a separate bowl, so the whites will be ready to fold in as soon as the green light blinks. (Of course, the mixer doesn’t clean my waffle maker after I’m done with brunch, but that’s a separate problem.)
And let’s say it’s used once a month, on average—$250, the approximate price of the mixer, divided by 12 leaves you with about $20 per use. Amortize that over the amount of time you’ll own the thing (I don’t know anyone who has worn theirs out, even after 20-30 years of use) and it’s a pretty convincing investment.
There are a whole slew of attachments you can purchase separately, but if you don’t want to spring for any extras off the bat, you’ll have more than enough to do with the given beaters. However, if I had to choose just one (like buying a vowel in Wheel of Fortune!), I would go with the pasta roller attachments. These things are incredible—I could not imagine hand-cranking pasta through a roller, but now I have homemade pasta within my reach as long as I have an hour to spare. Only an hour! Hey, I think I feel a homemade pasta post coming on….
And, note to Santa: I also have my eye on the meat grinder attachment so I can finally start making my own hamburgers and be worthy in the eyes of Michael Pollan.
Update: How could I forget that you can make your own butter with a stand mixer? All you need is heavy cream, and it is so cool, it’s like something out of Mr. Wizard.
Ask Casey takes on your food questions, but quotes song lyrics in the posts on a less-frequent basis. Email me at caseyATgoodfoodstoriesDOTcom.