Baking is a breeze when you leave the tough tasks to a stand mixer. It does all the work in less time and rewards you with lighter cakes, fluffier whipped cream, and taller loaves of bread than you can get by hand or with a handheld electric mixer. We recommend mixers designated as heavy-weight (they handle 8 or more cups of flour and cost the most*) or middleweight (most mix 3 to 4 cups of flour). The lightweight models (they’re the ones you can detach from their stands to use as hand mixers) are the least expensive, but they aren’t durable enough for the rigors of frequent use and large quantities of ingredients.
Here, our 6 picks:
Large and powerful enough to knead dough for 2 loaves of bread in 2 minutes, the outstanding performances of KitchenAid mixers have earned them their reputation as the premium brand. Each model offers 10 speeds, varying from slow enough to stir dry ingredients to fast enough to whip egg whites in under 3 minutes. They all come with a single flat beater for cookie and pie dough and mashed potatoes, a wire whip for whipped cream and delicate cakes, a dough hook for kneading, and a stainless-steel bowl. The bowl remains stationary while the attachments (shown left) both spin and move around the bowl. There’s a large selection of optional accessories, including a food grinder, pasta extruder, and grain mill. KitchenAid is also the only company to offer a 1-year total replacement warranty; it will even pick up a problem mixer and deliver a new one.
This basic model comes with a 4 1/2-quart bowl and enough power to knead bread dough quickly and easily. Like the other KitchenAids, it whips up tender yellow cakes, crisp oatmeal cookies loaded with raisins and nuts, and lofty whipped, cream and meringues. Most home bakers will find this more than adequate for their needs.
MODEL: K45SS ;WEIGHT: 23 pounds CM HANDLE: 8 cups of flour OTHER COLOR: almond
KITCHENAID ULTRA POWER
Identical in size and design to the Classic, but has a little more oomph so it finishes tasks quicker. Its 4 1/2-quart bowl has a handle, making it easier to remove and pour out the contents. Also comes with a plastic shield that wraps around the bowl’s rim to prevent spattering when adding ingredients while the mixer is running.
MODEL: KSM90 ;WEIGHT: 23 pounds CAN HANDLE: 8 cups of flour OTHER COLORS: green, black, gray, red, yellow, teal, white, almond, metallic chrome, and black chrome
KITCHENAID HEAVY DUTY
With its 5-quart bowl and ability to knead up to 10 cups of flour (enough for 3 loaves), this is for serious bakers who want maximum power. Like professional mixers, the head doesn’t lift up. Instead, the bowl hooks onto side arms and is raised (when mixing) and lowered (when removing) by turning a crank. Also comes with a pouring shield. Note: This model is 17 inches high, while others are 12 to 14.
MODEL: KSM5 WEIGHT: 26 pounds CAN HANDLE: 10 cups of flour OTHER COLORS: blue, gray, black, white, and almond
These should easily meet the needs of those who make mostly cakes and cookies — and they’re a lot less expensive. With whisklike beaters, they produce smoother, less lumpy mashed potatoes than their heavier cousins. And though they take almost as long to knead dough as it would by hand, they still save you from breaking a sweat. At under 10 pounds, these mixers are also light enough to tuck away in a cabinet when not in use.
The models below come with all-purpose beaters, dough hooks (shown right), and small and large bowls (handy for recipes that call for two-part mixing). Minor inconveniences: The beaters can trap ingredients during mixing, so you have to stop occasionally to scrape them down. And depending on the amount of ingredients (to light or heavy), the bowls, which spin, may need to he turned by hand.