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December/January 2015

Handheld Electric Mixers

We whipped ourselves into a frenzy looking for the best mixer.

How We Tested

While we use stand mixers for heavy-duty tasks like kneading bread, a good handheld mixer helps if you don’t want to lug out the stand mixer every time you need to whip 1/2 cup of cream. Our previous winning model, the Cuisinart Power Advantage 7-Speed, is powerful. But some newer models have innovations like bowl-scraping beaters, timers, or “turbo” and “power boost” options. Others have three simple speeds—low, medium, and high. Still others have a whopping 16 different speeds. So what’s the best handheld mixer on the market?

Assessing Mixing Performance and Efficiency

We chose a lineup of seven mixers priced from roughly $27 to $100, with a range of speeds. We ran them through a series of tests that covered light, medium, and heavy mixing tasks: We timed how long it took them to whip heavy cream, in both 1/2-cup and 1 1/2-cup amounts, and to cream softened butter and sugar. We incorporated flour, oats, and raisins into the creamed mixture to make heavy oatmeal cookie dough. To help assess mixing efficiency, we tinted cooked potatoes with drops of blue and yellow food coloring and timed how long it took the mixers to whir them into a uniform green color.

Are Fancy Features Worth It?

After weeks of testing, we concluded that the new features were a bust. One model's self-scraping beaters are coated in silicone and designed to clear food away from the sides of the bowl, but they didn’t work. Worse, they splattered whipped cream everywhere. Another model's timer sounds like a great idea, but the design was all wrong; it was hard to see the clock and it automatically resets when you switch off the mixer. The power burst or turbo functions didn’t impress either. Testers repeatedly activated these buttons accidentally on two different mixers, and the extra power proved unnecessary.

Hallmarks of Good Design

So what makes a great basic handheld mixer? Testing confirmed our strong preference for open beaters. A classic beater has four metal tines surrounding a center post. This post is problematic because it traps food; when it jams, you have to stop, detach the beaters, and clear them out. Open beaters have no central post, just the outer metal tines (similar to a whisk), so food moves smoothly in and out as it is mixed—a much more efficient system.

After looking at beaters, we turned to weight. We weren’t searching for lighter mixers, but once we had them in hand, we were charmed. Our two favorite mixers each weigh in at about 2 pounds and testers found them agile, quick, and light. Our old winner, the Cuisinart 7-Speed (2 pounds and 6 ounces), and a new model from another manufacturer (at just under 2 pounds and 12 ounces), felt more cumbersome.

Analyzing Mixer Speed and Power

We next examined the array of speed options in our lineup; our mixers offered from three to 16 speeds. Recipes typically reference five speeds: low, medium-low, medium, medium-high, and high. We’ve never found a reason for more; extra speeds only hindered us and left us wondering if medium-high would be a 6 or a 7 on a nine-speed mixer. Furthermore, more speeds don’t equal more power; they simply mean more steps between low and high. The mixer with only three speeds felt sufficiently powerful. When working with the 16-speed mixer, it was hard to tell
 a difference between, say, speed 14 and speed 15, and the result in the bowl was negligible.

We wanted numbers to back up the power levels we could feel, so we tested each mixer’s speeds with a tachometer, which measures revolutions per minute (rpm). The test showed that start
ing power levels varied greatly among machines: The mixer with the slowest speed 1 reached 230 rpm and the mixer with the fastest starting speed hit 757 rpm—a 70 percent difference in power. At their highest speeds the range was smaller, from 1,064 rpm to 1,321 rpm, a 20 percent increase in power.

So how did these differences translate in real world kitchen tests? At the highest setting, all the mixers had sufficient oomph. However, at the lowest speeds, we actually preferred mixers with less power—mixers with too much power at the lowest setting made a mess by throwing ingredients out of the bowl. More power isn’t always better.

Our Favorite Hand Mixers

Our winner was comfortable to use, with five logical, calibrated speeds that covered all our recipe needs. Our Best Buy is a three-speed model.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.