Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stand Mixers: Kitchenaid vs. Cuisinart

It's the question every home baker eventually asks: "Which brand of stand mixer is the best?" Between the brand/model variability and the high price tags, the decision can be intimidating!

Today, I'll compare and contrast two of the trendier brands - KitchenAid and Cuisinart. I purchased my own KitchenAid Artison in the fantastic wake-me-up Empire Red at Bed Bath and Beyond almost 2 years ago. (Hint: If you decide to buy yours from Bed Bath and Beyond, use the 20% off coupon - that's a lot of money saved!) Then, I won the Cuisinart SM-55 in the Let's Eat Cake competition in February 2009. The mixer was white, which matched my appliances perfectly! Here are my babies, facing off:


As a side note, you see those wonderful funny-looking things hanging down underneath my cabinets? They're tap-lights. I thought I was being so clever when I put those under there. That'll eliminate the cabinet shadows, I thought! Hmph. I think there's more light under the cabinets without those wimpy little lights. Whatever, live and learn right?

Anyway, back to the showdown!

Competitor #1 - KitchenAid Artison Series (Base Model KSM150PSER):
It has a 5-quart polished stainless steel bowl that locks into place with a simple twist and works with 325 Watts. On the right-hand side is a lever to lock the arm in the downward position during mixing (recommended, although I always forget). The left-hand side features the slide control for 10 mixing speeds. The silver thing on the front above the bowl is where you can place the many, many, many attachements available (pasta roller, ice cream maker, citrus juicer, ravioli maker, sausage stuffer, etc.) The KitchenAid comes with the 3 standard mixing attachments - wire whip, nylon-coated flat beater, and nylon-coated dough hook. It also comes with a plastic pouring shield that sits on top of the bowl to prevent excessive splattering and a plastic bowl scraper, which I've never used - I just prefer my handy dandy rubber spatulas for scraping.

Ok, enough technical stuff. What's so great about it?

The bowl design is ingenious. First of all, it is simple to lock it in place or lift it off the stand, even when it's full of cake batter. Second, the large handle is very comfortable to use while pouring batter into cake pans or scooping out buttercream. Third, the inside bottom of the bowl has a small peak that the mixing attachments rotate around. The small peak helps keep the batter moving as you mix.

The attachments are high quality and easy to put on the mixer. I always mix my cake batters with the paddle/flat beater because you never want to whip too much air into your cake batter. I use the wire whip for my buttercream. I'll be honest: I was in a hurry one day. I threw some butter that wasn't quite softened into my mixer and began making buttercream. The hard butter threw my wire whip out of alignment and I never could shape it quite right again. I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new one. After all, I use my mixer at least 2 times a week so I should have a whip that works well. I assumed it'd be expensive since it's so high quality...wrong! $19.99! That's nothing compared to the $300+ I spent on the mixer!

What I don't like about it: The splatter shield is a little...jumpy, for lack of a better word. It rests daintily on the bowl while you mix, but I'm just constantly knocking it sideways or crooked! It doesn't bother me much, but there's definitely room for improvement on the splatter shield design.

Competitor #2 - Cuisinart SM-55



This sweetheart has a 5.5-quart stainless steel bowl that locks into the base with a slightly different twisting action and uses a whopping 800 Watts. The head lifts and lowers with the the flip of a small lever on the right-hand side of the base. The 12 mixing speeds are controlled by a rotating dial. Mixing doesn't begin until you push the On/Off button, at which point the mixing speed slowly ramps up to the setting you've chosen. An added feature to this mixer is the timer - set it and walk away! The mixer will stop when the time runs out. Like the KitchenAid, the Cuisinart comes with the 3 basic attachments and a splash shield that attaches directly to the arm of the mixer.

What do I love about it?

The slightly larger bowl capacity means I can make more cake batter at one time! The timer would be fantastic if I used it! I'm not a timer kind of girl - I don't even time my cakes while they're baking (which drives Adam up the wall). But anyway, I love the idea of the timer! I do enjoy the ramping-up of the mixer speed to the setting I chose - it just seems fancy, doesn't it? The attachments are high quality and durable. And, the splatter shield doesn't move all over the place while I'm pouring in my liquid ingredients.

What annoys me?

While the splatter shield is more sturdy, it is attached to the arm. Meaning that when you lift the arm to remove or scrape down the bowl, everything that you spilled on the splatter shield is now pouring onto your mixer and countertop. I don't really consider myself a messy baker - you're bound to get flour on the countertop, but why make a mess when you don't have to? Again, there's room for improvement with the splatter shield. Ideally, it should be securely attached to either the bowl or the arm, but be removable when you're ready to lift the arm. Don't you agree?

Second, the mixer only comes in 3 colors! THREE! White, black, and silver. Yes, I love my white mixer, but I also love color!!! And, I've only found 3 extra accessories: juicer, food processor, and pasta maker.

Third, the bowl design isn't quite as ingenious as the KitchenAid's. The bowl doesn't seem to lock into place quite as well as I'd like, and the handles...well, just look at them! Can you even see them? There are 2 tiny handles on either side of the bowl. I can fit 2 fingers in each. Try pouring batter out of the bowl when you're only holding it by 2 fingers!

Lastly, the attachments aren't held as tightly in the arm as I'd like. I don't mean to exaggerate, but it's annoying when I'm scraping down the attachment and it falls right back into the batter again.

So who wins the battle???


It's obvious isn't it?

I love my first baby, the KitchenAid. While I use both mixers ALL THE TIME, I definitely prefer the KitchenAid. Maybe I was just spoiled because I had the KitchenAid first. What do you think?

If you'd like a MUCH more extensive, scientific comparison of these models, check out this amazingly detailed review on cooking.com.

I'd love to hear your thoughts - what brand do you prefer? Are there things you love or hate that I didn't mention? What color is your baby?

16 comments:

david g said...

This was very useful. I think I am sold on the Kitchen Aid. I went to Bloomingdales to register for our Engagement and the woman selling the mixers loved Cuisinart the, said she was a professional baker and enjoyed the extra power and sturdiness of the shield. But I see the Kitchen Aid is made better in more areas (to make life easier in the kitchen - handle, bowl design and i like the pasta maker as well - ravioli time!) Thanks again for a great post.

david g said...

I loved this post. It gave me just what I was looking for when trying to select the mixer. Im going with a Kitchen Aid because of the "quality" aspects such as bowl handle, quality attachments - ravioli! yesss.... Thanks Again. Oh I was in Bloomingdales and the sales lady swore by the Cuisinart. She made cakes professionally and loved the higher wattage (more power when needed). While that is interesting (i think its a big difference - 800watts-Cuisinart vs 325 watts-Kitchen Aid Artesian), I imagine my small hobby of breadmaking will work fine wit the Kitchen Aid... What do you think? Thanks again for the great article. -David

Jodie said...

Hi, I came across your blog as I was researching modeling chocolate.

I had a KA Artisan, and then burned up the motor making fondant. I recently purchased a refubished KA Pro 600. So far, so good. But much noisier.

I had considered a Cook's stand mixer from JC Penney. Much cheaper and a much bigger motor, but I heard that the beaters don't get everything in the bottom of the bowl.

Melanie said...

David, I've never made bread in my mixer so I can't help you out there! Sorry! The Bloomingdale employee you mentioned has a point - the Cuisinart is more powerful and the shield is great if you don't mind a little spillage when you lift it.

Jodie, I don't know anything about the Cook's brand of stand mixers. However, when I make marshmallow fondant in my mixers, I always use the paddle attachment and remove the fondant when it becomes too stiff. When the mixers seem like they're struggling, I take the fondant out and hand knead it a bit. :) Good luck with your new mixer!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing! I have the Kitchen Aid mixer at 350w but I am looking to buy the Cuisinart 1000w because it should have a bit more get up and go. My kitchen aid mixer blew up one week after the short one year warranty and Kitchen Aid would not offer me any compensation. Appartenly the newest anniversary model is made with a metal gear housing and mine is plastic which is why it blew apart. The repair man said he sees this all the time. Cuisinart warranty is five years as compared to one. I found your write up very interesting, thank you again!

Anonymous said...

Melanie,
Thank you for the comparisons. I borrowed a friends Kitchen Aid for several months to mix/bake chocolate chip cookies, lot's of chocolate chip cookies where I double each batch and roughly bake for about 4 hours (lot's of cookies). I found that the Kitchen Aid got hot and didn't seem to mix the cookie dough as well as expected. And the machine started bouncing to where I'd hold it down while it was mixing. Did you find that the 800 versus 325 watts made any difference? And did you experience any of the over heating and bouncing?
Thank you...

Tim D said...

I'm wondering if you notice the difference in power? That would be a consideration to me. Still trying to figure out which one I like.

Anonymous said...

I used to use Kenwood cake mixers for the last 20 something years, and then I switched to Kitchen aid, and I hated it, luckily after two years the motor burned and finished with Kitchen aid. I am so happy that the Cuisinart has this model which is very close to my Kenwood. I hope the work of it be close to my Kenwood rather that Kitchen aid

Michelle said...

I have a KitchenAid. Got it about a week ago. Love how easy it is to use. Don't have to hold the handle mixer again. However, I used it two times so far, and my cake came out really flat (I used all the ingredients accordingly). So, I was wondering if it is possible to over beating the batter. I think over all I beated for 7 or 8 minutes. Can you suggest how long I should beat it?

Melanie said...

Thank you all for your comments and opinions! Choosing a stand mixer is a tough decision - and a pricey one!

I do not have any experience with the varying power usage in the different mixer models so I can't help with that question. I have also not seen either of my mixers overheat. However, my KA (because I use it so much) has started to get a little lose and giggles when I mix heavy duty dough. I imagine that a good tune-up would fix that but can't find anyone in my area to do it.

Michelle, I think you could probably get many different answers to your questions depending on who you asked. I, personally, use the paddle attachment to mix cake batters and I only mix until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together.

Anonymous said...

i am looking to purchase a standing cake mixer, a few of you mentioned Kenwood, can you advise which model it was? Was it the KM800 ? I like the Kitchen because of the way it look and since its functionality fits my purpose also. But I do want to own one that can last! Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Hi Folks and thanks for the posts.

I am really new at baking (pizza & bread)

I am having a tough time keeping the bread soft. We have real hard water in our city. Is this the reason the bread is not staying soft?
I used a bit of milk & an egg in the dough mix which didn't help.
After cooling what is the best way to store the bread?

Thanks

Gary

Anonymous said...

Gary- Assuming you are speaking of your bread after it is baked, how are you storing your bread? It should be tightly covered- I use zip-lock bags after it has cooled. I have never had that kind of problem except once when the yeast was no longer active. So make sure you have fresh yeast & you use liquids that are between 105 & 115 degrees. Yeast needs sugars to feed (sugar, honey, molasses) and salt to control the growth. Old yeast, too much salt, or even a sugar substitute may that may not provide the proper amount of "food" for the yeast could all be culprits if it is in the baking and not the storing that is your problem. You also have to make sure you do not over or under knead or add too much flour. You can find helpful tips and even videos online that might help you.
I grew up with a mom that baked bread so much she never had to use a recipe- store bought bread was a oddity to us and as such I have only had a problem once when I had old yeast. I used to bake bread all by hand until accident injuries made that impossible. Now I use a bread machine- even if it is just to do the mixing and kneading. If I use the dough/pasta setting it does all the mmixing and kneading and the first rise and punch down and then I take it out and roll it out or shape into rolls, or whatever I'm going to do with it. I do let it do the whole process if I want a loaf. I have never had it so easy and still have homemade bread. And if you are doing whole wheat and want lighter, not dense bread, use whole wheat pastry flour for a lighter texture and whole wheat taste.

Anonymous said...

Don't buy the Cuisinart! I've had a 7 quart one for 2 years and the hinge gets loose quickly and the top bounces if you do any heavy doughs. Worst of all is that heavy doughs will strip the dough hook threads and it will fall off, and Cuisinart won't cover it under warranty!! I just called them today, and they were, ahem, less than helpful. I've used KitchenAid extensively during my culinary training, and while they have their issues, they are much more reliable!
Alan

Anonymous said...

Well, I am not on either side because I believe both mixers have their faults.. I wish they would just give up and make a kuisinaid already... Basically I work at a Cup Cakes, by Heather and Lori... We have kitchen aids for mixing our butter cream.. we burn through the kitchen aids like they are 2 dollar pieces of equipment.. We have 3 one in the shop, one just in case the one in use breaks and one to use.. I am not kidding you. The one we are using right now only has 2 speeds... stir and kind of fast but not quite fast enough to cream anything. I have a cuisine art at home the same model but in silver that you have. I have had it for about 3 years, I use it and abuse it. I make MM fondant in it all the time its never had any trouble. I have run it all day long making cake batter, icing, fondant, the works and it has never slowed or heat up at all. It is loud in a small apartment though and the stupid bottom of the bowl that lock in place.. if your not paying attention after you wash it water stays in there and splashes you when you flip it right side up... as far as attachments go Ive seen quite a few. I had the blender one but.. my room mate knocked it off the shelf and it broke >:(.. not because of poor quality though,.. anything falling from the top of a fridge that is glass on to tile.. will break...

Anyways Happy shopping all..

Chicago house painter said...

After 3hours research I decided to go with Cuisinart. More power. Almost the same price: Amazon 269 -Cuisinart vs Costco 249 +tax Kitchenaid. I found that more people are satisfied with Cuisinart. And I have their cofemaker, blender .

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