Chances are that if you do much cooking, the time will come when you’ll need some version of a hand blender. Whether you’re a professional chef with top-of-the line equipment, or a home cook just learning the ropes, there are a few basic things to look for before you buy. Pronto’s Hand Mixer Buying Guide can help you find the perfect solution for all your needs (see also our Blender Buying Guide).
You’ll want an immersion blender for mixing soft food items, mixing foods while cooking and/or in a variety of containers. Hand mixers with blades are best for heavier applications like mashing potatoes, mixing dough or forming that perfect cake batter.
Revolutions per minute are more important than wattage. Electrical power will only get you so far, so choose a hand mixer or blender with an RPM range of 520-10,000.
Hand blenders with a minimum of three speeds are the best option for versatility. Some models come with up to nine speeds if you’ll be doing a lot of precision mixing.
Stainless steel won’t stain, can be used with heat, and may perform better than plastic with hard substances. Plastic won’t scratch saucepans or bowls. Removable blades make for easy cleaning.
Some hand blenders come with containers for mixing. Choose one that offers deep containers with rounded edges to prevent splashing and ensure you blend or mix evenly.
Also known as a hand blender, this wand-shaped device is best used with soft foods, can be used in a variety of containers and offers flexibility via attachments for all of your basic mixing needs.
Hand mixers will often rate their motors in Wattage. Wattage determines the size of the motors by rating the amount of power that they process.
Revolutions Per Minute. This rating is used to convey the power of the motors, in terms of how quickly they spin. The faster the motor can spin, the more effective it will be in processing food.
There are two primary types of hand mixers: traditional hand mixers with dual blades and immersion or wand blenders. Each type of hand mixer is useful in different scenarios. Immersion blenders are great for use in soft food items or if you need to blend and cook at the same time – you don’t have to remove your mixture from the stove while you use an immersion blender, and you can use it in practically any type of container. However, an immersion blender lacks the power for some heartier tasks. Baking with thick dough, mashing potatoes or crushing ice is best done with a blade mixer. Hand mixers with blades can do more than immersion blenders and many manufacturers offer interchangeable attachments that allow you to use dough hooks, whisks, or liquid blender rods.
You’ll also want to consider how heavy the hand mixer is, and whether you’ll be able to sustain its weight for extended periods of time. Immersion blenders are lighter weight than hand mixers, and for seriously heavy-duty applications, such as extensive baking, you may even want to consider a Stand Mixer. Hand mixers that are too lightweight may not be able to stand up to heavy or frequent use, so it’s best to find a nice middle ground.
Wattage is not the key factor in determining how well a hand mixer will perform. The true measure of performance is the number of revolutions per minute (RPMs) that a hand mixer boasts. A high wattage unit with a low RPM may have enough electrical power to perform tough tasks, but without the motor power to back it up, it won’t be able to follow through. A motor with a high wattage but a low RPM rating won’t process food as effectively as a motor with a medium wattage and higher RPM. Most non-professional hand mixers range from 200-400 watts, but can go as high as 600W. RPMs typically range from 540 at the low end all the way up to 10,000 for professional models.
Look for models that feature at least three clearly delineated speeds which are essential if you plan to use your hand mixer for a variety of tasks. If hand mixer features more than three speeds, consider it a bonus. Some models come with up to nine speeds, which allows for customization based on your use. However most mixing occurs at three speeds: The slow speed should be slow enough to prevent spattering, and the high speed should be fast enough to add the air you’ll need to produce light, creamy mixes like meringues. And of course, the middle speed tackles everything in between.
An important factor to consider when purchasing a hand mixer with blades is whether your blades will be composed of plastic or metal. Stainless steel blades resist staining better than plastic blades, and may perform better when blending some harder materials, but they can also scratch saucepans and bowls. If you do a lot of blending on stove in enameled cast iron (such as le Cruset), stay away from metal as it will impart some scratches or marks from the metal blades themselves. Plastic blades, on the other hand, can melt if used over high heat, so when you’re using plastic blades, you must remove a pot from the heat before blending. Consider how you’ll most often be using your hand mixer, in what sort of substances, and whether you’ll want to use it while cooking, in order to determine whether plastic or metal blades are the right fit for you. Whether you’re shopping for plastic or stainless steel blades, look for removable blades for easy cleaning.
Some hand mixers actually come with bowls or jars to use with the mixer. Your hand mixer should be fully submerged so that you can move the hand mixer up and down while blending. Choose models with containers that are deep with rounded edges. If you’ll mostly be doing shallow mixing or want to mix directly in the pot while cooking, you may be best served by an immersion blender in addition to a hand blender.