Welcome back to Once and For All, where we figure out whether the stuff people rave about, cherish, and form their entire identities around is actually worth the investment. We've looked at cast iron pans, linen sheets, and more, and today, we're investigating the cult of KitchenAid stand mixers.
If you self-identify as a baker or “good cook,” you’re likely churning out baked goods and other culinary treats several times a month, at the least. That's a lot of mixing, kneading, and beating, and there's nothing that does it all quite like a KitchenAid stand mixer, the iconic kitchen counter appliance that feels like the final boss of reaching your full Martha Stewart potential.
But KitchenAid mixers are pricey, and take up quite a bit of space, so the frequently asked question is: Is a KitchenAid stand mixer worth it?
Of course, it all depends on your budget and your zeal for cooking and baking. But if you are regularly whipping up bread, cookies, or anything else that needs a lot of beating, mixing, and whisking, a KitchenAid will make your life way easier—the word aid is in the name, so let yourself be helped, for god's sake.
A brief history lesson: the KitchenAid orbital stand mixer was designed in 1919 by Hobart Manufacturing Company, the leading manufacturer of commercial mixers for bakeries and restaurants, and was redesigned to suit the home cook with the same mechanical power, just in a smaller format. An orbital mixer has a whisk or other attachment that spins on an axis, as that axis then travels around the inside of the bowl. This is an incredibly efficient and energy-saving design compared to that of the dual eggbeater, and is a staple of KitchenAid horsepower. In 1937, celebrated industrial artist Egmont Arens designed the Model K, best known as the beloved and instantly recognizable curved instrument you’re imagining now—one that has remained virtually unaltered for the last 80 some odd years. This design, both aesthetically and in its engineering, hasn’t been made better by any competitor since, only duplicated. Why have anything other than the tried and true original?
The stand mixer is an ideal tool for those who are already putting in work, but need a proper assist. It is for the perennial bread maker or meringue lover, someone with big dreams for an ever-growing repertoire of homemade delicacies, but dreads the part about it being laborious as hell. (This is coming from the person who, prior to buying a KitchenAid, spent 45 minutes hand-beating egg whites to satisfy a late night pavlova craving, and ended up with a muscle spasm and no pavlova.) There is absolutely no reason to be kneading doughs or aerating egg whites by hand if you are a kitchen frequentist.
Kenny Hoshino, head pastry chef for Gray’s Hall in Boston, MA strongly advocates for the mixer, stating, “it’s a really reliable and proven machine that can help the home baker/cook up their game significantly. The mixer is in constant use at my restaurant.” He goes on to advise that when you do purchase this mixer, you’ve got to be mindful of counter space for the mixer to live. “It’s bulky and heavy enough that it can start to feel like a pain in the ass if half the work is getting it set up.” Hoshino is right; the KitchenAid has some girth to it, and can weigh upwards of 25 pounds. It’s not an appliance you’ll likely want to dig out of a cabinet each time you use it, and frankly, it is the kind of thing you want on full display, anyway.
The KitchenAid stand mixer is the classic car of kitchen appliances; do not stow away this chromed-out hot rod in some proverbial garage, but rather, let your mixer seduce you from the counter top. Heck, if you’re a lover of kitsch (which I’ve found most bakers to be), you can match your mixer to your kitchen decor, as they come in a multitude of colors (68, including the 2021 color of the year, honey) to choose from, and they’ll even engrave it for you. A friend of mine [former MUNCHIES social media editor Sydney Kramer] gave her standing mixer a makeover recently, and had a professional tattoo artist paint it’s bodice—and it looks amazing!
That said, if you’re the type who’s just whipping up an occasional Sunday morning pancake mix or annual birthday cake, you can get away with just a hand mixer, or even the good old-fashioned whisk. But getting a KitchenAid might actually inspire you to bake more.
Beyond its beauty, grace, and full throttle power, the KitchenAid is loved for its versatility, too. The dough hook, whisk, and paddle are the standard attachments, but it accommodates up to 12 different tool accessories, including a pasta roller, spiralizer, and meat grinder, to name just a few.
Ria Dolly Barbosa, chef/owner of Petite Peso in Los Angeles, says she is enthusiastically “on team worth it when it comes to KitchenAids!" She adds: "It’s not a one trick pony, and I love that I can go from making ensaymadas and pan de sal, to stuffing longanisa into links and grinding pork for embutido. It’s been an essential part of the beginning stages of [my restaurant.]” By dropping the coin required to own a KitchenAid, you may actually end up saving yourself from purchasing an altogether separate meat grinder or pasta roller. It’s a one-stop shop, and this is a big deal for both professional cooks and at-home culinary adventurers alike.
These machines can range from about $300 to $550, which is undoubtedly a steep price. KitchenAid has had skin in the game since 1919 with few changes to their original design, so this machine should last you at least a lifetime… essentially, you’re investing in a family heirloom. With easily obtainable parts and replacements, the classic car analogy holds up. The motors are heavy-duty, and won’t wear down the way cheaper brands will. Some things are truly built to last, and this standing mixer has stood the test of time. Callista Mei-Miller, host of her own baking franchise Six Sweet Under and freelance food stylist who has worked with The Food Network, Coffee Bean, Target, and The Kelly Clarkson Show, will shout it from the rooftops: “Yes! Hell yes. It will last longer than most of your relationships. I always say work smarter not harder, and a KitchenAid stand mixer encompasses that. It’s the most used appliance in my kitchen, hands down.”
That said, if you are a part of the proletariat, the brand also offers a kind of KitchenAid mutual aid with refurbished options under warranty for closer to $250, and, since we know they’re lauded for their longevity, you can feel confident in going that route, too.
And so, in summary, the culinary experts and I support the notion that the KitchenAid mixer is in fact—worth it. [Slams gavel.] You’ll be doing yourself a disservice by purchasing anything else; the imitators simply can't compare.