You've probably seen TV chefs using their fancy stand mixers for everything from creaming butter to kneading bread dough, but are they really necessary for the home cook? More often than not, the answer is no.
While stand mixers do make many tasks easier, they are not essential. Just about any job you would use a stand mixer for can be done with a hand mixer, or a whisk and a little elbow grease.
This list of stand mixer pros and cons can help you decide if you want to make the investment:
They save time. Since they are more powerful than either a hand mixer or the human arm, they accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently.
They are multitaskers. Since they come with numerous attachments, such as a whisk and bread hook, they are great for many jobs. Many of them also come with other add-ons, like pasta rollers and meat grinders.
They free the cook's time. Instead of standing there and whipping egg whites or kneading bread, the cook is free to take care of other household tasks or prepare other elements of the recipe while the mixer is in the kitchen doing all the work.
They are hard to clean. The bowls are oftentimes too large to fit in a dishwasher, or they simply occupy all the available space inside. The foods being mixed have the tendency to jump from the bowl and lodge themselves in various cracks and crevices that are difficult to clean.
They take up space. These bulky appliances can crowd out anything else on a counter or cabinet. If you live in a small house or apartment, this could be an issue.
They are expensive. This is by far the biggest con. These machines can easily run upwards of 200 bucks, making them one of the most expensive kitchen toys around.
The only person who can decide if buying a stand mixer is right for you is you. If you do a lot of baking, as in multiple times a week, and you know you can maintain it properly, then maybe it is a worthwhile purchase. Provided you care for it well, a stand mixer can last you years, giving you a large return on your investment. If you do not bake often, however, but are simply drawn to the big shiny parts, your money might be better spent elsewhere.
A stand mixer may be the home cook's best friend. Whether you bake for pleasure, or feel like you need a team of elves to keep up with the endless school bake sales and holiday madness, a stand mixer's appeal is simple: It does most of the work for you, and does it much faster than you could by hand, or even with a portable mixer.