Do the benefits of a stand mixer outweigh the expense (and hassle)?
First time posting, but I have enjoyed reading this forum for several years. I often make pastries and other dishes that involve various doughs, beaten egg whites, whipped cream, etc., but I have never used a stand mixer (I do use a food processor for certain things). I understand mixers are quite expensive and many describe them as less than simple to operate. I also don't like the idea of having a large bowl to clean each time I use the machine. Speaking of size, how does one choose how big a mixer to get? Most of the other threads I could find on the subject of these appliances focus on choosing the best model; I am curious to hear your opinions on their general usefulness. For which tasks do you find them time-saving? Are they indispensable for certain techniques in your repertoire?
I don't bake a lot but my Kitchen Aid is fantastic for kneading dough and for whipping cream or egg whites. Also I use the grinder and sausage stuffer attachment a couple of times a year to make homemade sausag and it works great.
My 5-quart (Litre?) stand mixer from KitchenAid is very simple to operate. I've had it for several years, so no longer remember the price.
I've also used a "Sunbeam MixMaster" stand mixer for many years. The capacity of that mixer was 2 or 3 quarts, IIRC.
Tasks for which I use the stand mixer: pastry, if more than 5 cups flour; cookie batter if more than 2cups flour; mixing meatloaf or meatball meat if more than 1/2 lb; beating more than 2 egg whites or more than 100 ml (1/2 cup) of heavy cream.
To me, as an "older adult", the stand mixer is worth every penny, because it saves the joints in my arm.
A stand mixer really shines making doughs and batters that are really stiff or thick, where making them by hand would be difficult or fatiguing. They are also terrific for kneading yeast doughs: having the machine knead dough in place of ten minutes of hand kneading is a godsend for a baker. (Ten minutes seems like a really looooong time when I'm kneading a difficult dough!) A stand mixer allows you to multi-task, leaving your hands free to do something else while the butter and sugar are creaming , like for a cake or cookies, or the dough is kneading. Creaming butter and sugar with a stand mixer, while easily done by hand or with a hand mixer, gives better results IMO. So if you bake a lot a stand mixer is almost a necessity. And it does a lot of tasks faster than mixing by hand would.
While a stand mixer can certainly be used to make whipped cream, if whipping cream is needed just for a dessert topping, a stand mixer is overkill. A hand mixer or even a whisk takes so little time, and it's so easy to overbeat cream into butter that I never use the stand mixer for that task.
Works great for whipping egg whites, but I often end up using a hand mixer for the egg whites because my Kitchen Aid bowl is being used for the main components of the recipe I'm making.
A final advantage of stand mixers, at least my kitchen aid, is the variable speeds. It can run from very slow to very fast, while my hand mixer seems to run from very fast to extremely fast, no slow in its speed repetoire!
If you bake a lot and cook often for a family larger than two people, you probably want a larger pro model. Cooking for just the two of us, I have never had an occasion to wish for something larger than my 4.5-quart Artisan mixer.
It seems like a pain to clean the stand mixer, but you have to clean a big bowl regardless of the appliance used to cook with, right?
If you have the space buy a stand mixer. Washing the bowl is not a big deal. Put the bowl in the sink, rinse it out, fill with hot soapy water and use it to wash the other things you had used. The give it a scrub and there you have every thing clean and ready. Keep in mind what ever you use stand or hand held there is going to be a bowl to clean. When I have to buy a new one I plan to get the Cuisinart stand mixer because of several features one of which is a timer.
That said, I do have a 5 qt. KA. I also have a Cuisinart hand held. It is a powerful hand held mixer. It comes with 2 dough hooks, a whisk and regular beaters. http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-HM-90... it has a powerful 220 W motor.
I am happy with my KA stand and I have never made anything that made me wish I had a larger size.
Menaicas, I've been debating the same question for ages and ages, and I've yet to buy a stand mixer. I've used either elbow grease (for kneading) for a hand mixer for over 30 years, so it's hard to convince me that I need to spend another couple of hundred dollars (or more) for a stand mixer. That said, if I was young, it might be worth it, i.e., amortized over a lifetime of use.